If you look at the crew chiefs around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage very few are on the hot seat as the 2013 season approaches. Dave Rogers is one man to keep an eye on during the season. Kyle Busch missed the Chase in 2012 and it is unlikely Joe Gibbs Racing will put up with a slow start from Busch. Chris Heroy, crew chief of Juan Pablo Montoya's #42 car, may be on the hot seat as well. Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing switched engine suppliers for the 2013 season, moving to Hendrick Motorsports, and they expect a better season than they had in 2012.
Tony Stewart's 2012 season was one to forget. He was the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion and a lot of people expected Stewart to put up a big fight to defend his title. That didn't happen.
Stewart's 2012 got off to an amazing start, winning two of the season's first five races. It looked like the pairing of Steve Addington and Tony Stewart had paid off. Stewart and his team were decent through the middle of the season and he would notch one more win at the July Coke Zero 400. Stewart was sixth in the standings coming into the second half of the season and looking like a real contender to put up a fight for the championship just like he did in the 2011 season.
From that point forward though Stewart's season took an unexpected turn for the worst. In the eight races leading up to the Chase Stewart posted just two top ten finishes. Included in those eight races was a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in which Stewart finished 27th, three laps off the pace. Atlanta is one of Tony's better racetracks because it fits his style. Stewart is better when the track is slick and the cars start to slip and slide. Atlanta's abrasive surface makes the cars do that and Stewart usually excels at those types of race tracks.
The ship appeared to be righted though when the Chase started. He posted two top ten finishes in the first two Chase races. Then the Series entered the Dover Downs International Speedway. It was one of Stewart's worst races of the season. He finished three laps off the pace in the 20th position, putting a big dent in his title hopes.
From that point forward Stewart's Chase was a struggle. He was a lap down in five of the last seven Chase races. It was almost hard to believe after what Stewart had done in the Chase in the 2011 season. Overall, he finished ninth in the point standings, never having a really great race in the Chase. It left many people thinking there was an issue with the #14 Chevrolet.
When Stewart had won the Championship in 2011 Darian Grubb was the crew chief of his car throughout the season. He made the Chase but it wasn't the type of regular season Stewart and company were looking for. That led Stewart to make the surprising move to fire Grubb, at the end of the season. It was a decision that was made before the Chase started. After Stewart won five of the ten Chase races and his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, it was announced Grubb would not be back and he would be replaced by Steve Addington, who came over from Penske Racing.
Addington's resume in the regular season is impressive. Addington became a full-time crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series in 2005 and entering the 2012 season, Addington had 16 wins to his resume with drivers Kyle and Kurt Busch. His most impressive season was in the 2008 season when he and Kyle Busch won eight races and were favorites to win the Championship coming into the Chase. That didn't happen. They struggled immensely in the Chase and finished a disappointing tenth in the standings. Addington received a lot of flack for the lack of production of the team in 2008 Chase.
The 2012 Chase was probably the worst Chase run for Tony Stewart in his career. He did not win a race and didn't even come close to winning one. He led only one lap in the final eight races of the Chase. Some of Stewart's best race tracks came during the Chase and he still couldn't compete for wins at those tracks.
If Stewart and his #14 Chevrolet get off to a slow start in the 2013 season you can bet the finger pointing will start early. It's important Stewart gets off to a good start in 2013, Steve Addington's job may depend on it.
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