Crew chiefs always get too much blame and never enough credit. Whenever a team struggles, instead of looking at a driver, the crew chief is always the one who seems to get the blame. When a team wins the race it's always the driver that gets interviewed.
However sometimes there is a legit reason to look at the crew chief and Drew Blickensderfer has a lot to prove in the 2013 season.
Blickensderfer's crew chief career started in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the 2006 season with driver Danny O'Quinn Jr at Roush Fenway Racing. He would crew chief in the Nationwide Series through 2008 when he and Carl Edwards won seven races of the 18 races together that season. 2008's success led to a full-time gig with Matt Kenseth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Together Kenseth and Blickensderfer won two races, the first two races of the 2009 season, including the 2009 Daytona 500. He spent a year with Kenseth and was replaced only one race into the 2010 season. Rumor had it Kenseth was unhappy with the way the team performed. They finished 14th in the 2009 point standings, the worst season Kenseth has ever had.
Blickensderfer would move to the Nationwide Series again and be paired with Carl Edwards. The duo would win two races together in 27 starts, before Blickensderfer moved back to the Cup series with driver David Ragan. They would run the final six races of 2010 together and the entire 2011 season. They won one race together in July at Daytona and finished 23rd in the point standings in the 2011 season. The #6 team would close down prior to the 2012 season due to lack of funding.
Blickensderfer's career seemed to not be as good as Jack Roush had originally thought it was going to be. Roush had touted him as one of the sports next best crew chiefs. He had good success in the Nationwide Series but the Cup series seemed to be a struggle for him.
Before the 2012 season he was hand selected by Jeff Burton to be the crew chief of Burton's #31 Chevrolet at Richard Childress Racing. Burton's career had seemed to come to a quick halt as back to back tough years had the team scrambling for answers.The move seemed to make a lot of sense. Burton's old school style mixed in with a fresh young crew chief who could help take the team to the next level.
It didn't happen. Burton and Blickensderfer struggled together. In 33 races Burton and Blickensderfer finished in the top ten just six times, the worst percentage at Richard Childress Racing. Burton and Blickensderfer never seemed to hit the on the same page and it showed. Sure the team had horsepower problems but there was a bigger problem with that team and Blickensderfer never had quite the impact everyone thought he was going to have.
For the final three races of the 2012 season Blickensderfer moved back to the Ford camp and took over the #9 team with driver Marcos Ambrose. Ambrose and Blickensderfer will be paired for the 2013 season.
2013 will be a big year for Blickensderfer. He has been with three different teams in the Cup Series and has struggled in all three of them. His reputation given to him by Jack Roush has followed Blickensderfer around for several seasons. Another bad season in the Cup series may end that reputation. Ambrose had a decent year in the 2012 season. He and crew chief Todd Parrott seemed to click really well and the two won at Watkins Glen together and nearly made the Chase. Ambrose finished the year with Mike Ford and Drew Blickensderfer for the final ten races of 2012. He finished 18th in the final point standings. Anything less than that in 2013 will be a disappointment.
A lot of people give Blickensderfer a break for his struggles in Cup. A lot of people think the driver lineup he was given wasn't exactly the most talented drivers in the sport. While the point is well taken eventually that excuse has to run out.
If Ambrose struggles in 2013, maybe in that case, the crew chief deserves some blame.
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