CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR Wire Service official release — Bob Leverone/NASCAR via Getty Images photo —
In contemplating his future at Joe Gibbs Racing, driver Carl Edwards draws inspiration from an unlikely source — Kevin Harvick.
With a new team, a new crew chief and a new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format in 2014, Kevin Harvick drove his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to the series championship.
With a new team (Joe Gibbs Racing), a new crew chief (Darian Grubb), a new manufacturer (Toyota) and a new sponsor (Arris), Edwards is both encouraged by Harvick’s success last year and hopeful he can follow the same blueprint.
“I believe the Chase format favors guys that have made changes,” Edwards said on Monday, the first day of the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour presented by Technocom. “If you look across the board, people are probably more likely to make crew driver/chief changes, team changes, all that stuff with this format because, really, you can go 15 races or 20 races and figure things out and then still be in the Chase and win the championship.
“That 4 team (Harvick) proved it last year. Brand new team, and they worked out all the bugs all year, and they went and did it. The championship really doesn’t happen till a long time from now, with this format.”
More than anything else in racing, Edwards craves a championship in NASCAR’s foremost series. In 2011 he came close, losing the title to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker. But Edwards wants to be a contender every season, something he wasn’t able to achieve during his 11-year tenure with Roush Fenway Racing.
“I can tell you this,” Edwards said with conviction during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Charlotte Convention Center. “I had more fun—you can ask the people closest to me—the happiest I’ve ever been and the most excited about racing I’ve ever been was in 2011, the last three or four weeks.
“It was so exciting. It just felt like I was in the middle of exactly what I wanted to be doing, and I want that every year. I want to go to Homestead with all that pressure and win.”
If Edwards’ arrival is the most obvious change at Joe Gibbs Racing, it certainly isn’t the only one. For the first time since its inception in 1992, JGR will field four full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup cars. And the season will begin with old faces in new places.
Crew chief Darian Grubb will move from Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota to Edwards’ No. 19. Dave Rogers will move from Kyle Busch’s No. 18 to Hamlin’s car. Busch’s new crew chief is Adam Stevens, who is making the jump to the Cup series after a highly successful pairing with Busch in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
The only driver / crew chief pairing unaffected is the Matt Kenseth / Jason Ratcliff combination on the No. 20 Camry.
Team owner Joe Gibbs said the addition of Edwards and a fourth car allowed the organization to weigh a number of personnel options.
“When Carl came on board, it meant that we were going to take a look at our crew chiefs, and what are we going to do,” Gibbs told the NASCAR Wire Service. “We loved Adam, so we felt like he and Kyle had worked together a bunch. We let them talk it over, and they decided, ‘Let’s do this.’
“And that meant that Dave could go to Denny, and Darian could go to Carl. We all talked about it. It was not just us making a decision, me and (team president) J.D. (Gibbs). It was all of us talking over every single part of it. And everybody seemed to agree in the end that this is where we should wind up.”
CREDIT: Reid Spencer/NASCAR Wire Service