Chief can give driver the edge

One of the most challenging duties in NASCAR is setting atop the pit box. A pit boss, crew chief or head honcho calls the shots for a race team. He is responsible for keeping his driver and team calm over a 500-mile race.

It is his knack for finding a loophole in the rules that provides his car an advantage, or developing a strategy that provides an edge for his driver. He motivates everyone to perform at the highest level every day at their team facility and every race day at the track.

It is a complex combination of duties that makes a NASCAR crew chief “King of the Box.”

Some of these chiefs are household names and others can walk the streets of their hometown without being noticed. The first name that stands out is Chad Knaus, the head man for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports. Knaus and Johnson were put together as a formidable duo in 2002. Since then, the two have combined for one of the most successful tenures in the Sprint Cup series. Johnson is the only Cup driver to win five straight championships. He is the current leader in the Chase for the Championship with a four-point lead over Matt Kenseth.

Another high-ranking chief is Darian Grubb. Grubb was on top of the box for Tony Stewart during his championship run in 2011. Grubb and Stewart won five of the Chase races that year to secure Stewart’s fourth Cup title. Grubb is now heading up the team for Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Grubb was let go as Stewart’s crew chief and moved to Hamlin’s team in 2012. Grubb is one of the most technical chiefs in the pits due to his engineering background.

An ex-driver turned pit boss, Paul Wolfe heads the No. 2 team for driver Brad Keselowski. Wolfe led Keselowski to a Nationwide title in 2010, scoring six wins and 26 top-fives in 35 starts. He was given the reins to guide the driver in the Cup series at Penske Racing. Since the move up to the Cup, the duo has eight victories, a fifth-place finish in the 2011 points standings and the 2012 Sprint Cup championship, outdueling Johnson and Knaus. Wolfe and Keselowski have struggled with the new Gen6 car this year, but recorded their first win at Charlotte a couple of weeks ago.

These men are not all of the top crew chiefs in NASCAR’s three series, but they have set the bar high for their challengers.

A crew chief may be partnered with an established high-profile driver or a young gun learning the ropes. Both scenarios call for him to be “King of the Box.”

Kyle Busch Motorsports: Due to a lack of sponsorship, the team has been forced to downsize. In the last week, KBM was forced to release 10 employees. Busch is waiting on the word from sponsors before he can settle on a lineup for 2014. The truck seres is a year-to-year business and KBM is trying to stay afloat for its current racing teams and drivers.

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