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NASCAR's Tony Stewart hires former crew chief Zipadelli

December 16, 2011 | 10:23 am

Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli are back together.

StewartStewart, the newly crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, on Friday named Zipadelli, 44, competition director for his Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Zipadelli, nicknamed Zippy, was Stewart's crew chief from 1999 through 2008 when Stewart drove for Joe Gibbs Racing and won his first two Cup championships in 2002 and 2005.

When Stewart left to form Stewart-Haas in 2009, Zipadelli stayed behind as crew chief for Gibbs' No. 20 Home Depot car, now driven by Joey Logano.

It's been a struggle for the 21-year-old Logano, who has won only one Cup victory and finished 24th in the Cup standings this season with four top-five finishes.

"It was a sad day when [Stewart] left," Zipadelli said in a statement, adding that "to become a part of what he's already built, but to do it in a new role with a new set of responsibilities, was a challenge I wanted."

Stewart drives the No. 14 Chevrolet and his teammate, Ryan Newman, the No. 39 car. Stewart-Haas also plans to have Danica Patrick drive in 10 Cup races next year as she migrates to NASCAR from IndyCar racing.

Separately, Gibbs said Jason Ratcliff would become crew chief for Logano's car to replace Zipadelli. Ratcliff spent the prior seven years as crew chief for Gibbs' No. 18 car in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR driver Tony Stewart gets into his car during a practice session at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 5. Credit: Larry Papke/Associated Press