Hendrick shuffles crew chiefs for NASCAR's Earnhardt, Gordon and Martin
Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday shuffled crew chiefs for three of its four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin.
While the team's fourth driver, Jimmie Johnson, won an unprecedented fifth consecutive Cup championship on Sunday, the others had varying degrees of problems this season, prompting the changes.
Hendrick made the following crew-chief switches:
-- Steve Letarte moved to Earnhardt from Gordon.
-- Alan Gustafson moved to Gordon from Martin.
-- Lance McGrew moved to Martin from Earnhardt.
In addition, Hendrick said Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolets would now be built in the same shop as Johnson's No. 48 cars, while Gordon's No. 24 Chevys would be built in the same shop as Martin's No. 5 cars. Previously, Gordon and Johnson shared the same building.
Chad Knaus remains Johnson's crew chief.
"We had a championship season but we weren't where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams," owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement from his Concord, N.C., headquarters.
Gordon was the only Hendrick driver besides Johnson to qualify for this year's 12-driver Chase for the Cup title playoff, and Gordon finished ninth in the standings with 11 top-five finishes but no wins. Gordon has gone 65 races without a victory.
Martin, who will go into the last year of his contract with Hendrick next year, finished 13th in points and has gone 45 races without a win.
And Earnhardt, perhaps NASCAR's most popular driver, has struggled for more than two years. He finished 21st in the standings this season, had only three top-five finishes and is on a 93-race winless streak.
-- Jim Peltz
Photo: Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., left, talks with team owner Rick Hendrick before the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., on Sept. 5. Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images