Richard Childress Racing: Crew chief change for Kevin Harvick again! Shane Wilson will now try his hand at working with “Happy” Harvick. Jeff Burton finds himself with a new crew chief in Drew Blickensdefer, who comes over from Roush racing. Paul Menard remains with Slugger Labbe going into his second year with RCR. I’m not a fan of constant changes at the crew chief position on racing teams from year to year as chemistry is key to a success of any race team. However, having said that, the most pressure on this team this year is on the driver who didn’t have a crew chief swap and that’s the Paul Menard team. Without Clint Bowyer back this year, Menard will have to step his game up to justify Bowyer leaving to go to Michael Waltrip racing. I think it’s reasonable to set a goal of two of the three drivers to be in the top 15 at the end of the season.
Roush Racing: Only major thing to happen this off season was the #6 car going from a fulltime ride with David Ragan to a part time ride with Ricky Stenhouse. Will the loss of that full time ride help or hurt Roush racing? This is the first time they’ve been a three car team, my money is on that it will make them stronger. I believe all three guys will be in the chase, with Carl Edwards winning the championship.
Joe Gibbs Racing: Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are locks to be championship contenders each and every year regardless of what’s happening with the other teams. Thankfully, JD Gibbs didn’t overreact and let Kyle Busch go this off season after his off track incident. Joey Logano is in a must win situation this year and unfortunately for him he has to do it with a new crew chief as Zippy left to go help out at Stewart-Haas racing. Nationwide crew chief Jason Ratcliff is the new man in charge and is good enough to help Joey take his game to the next level, now let’s see if Logano can do it. His contract is up after this year and it would be a huge step back for Logano if JGR lets him go. I don’t think he makes the chase but he better win a couple of race in 2012 to secure his ride for the future.
Hendrick Racing: Welcome Kasey Kahne! This will be a HUGE upgrade in my opinion, Kahne can drive anything given to him and get the most out of the equipment given to him. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is the worst driver of the four guys racing for Rick Hendrick now and it’s not even debatable. The one thing Junior has going for him is his last name which will ensure sponsorship and a full time ride with whichever team he chooses to race for. Jeff Gordon isn’t getting any younger, but until he shows some signs of father time affecting his driving abilities, you pencil him into the chase. Jimmy “Five Time” Johnson finally had his championship string stopped in 2011 and I’ll go out on a limb and predict that after 2012 you will see a change at crew chief for the 48.