Blickensderfer takes over as crew chief, Bolin returns to familiar role
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Fen. 7, 2009) - Chip Bolin has been with the No. 17 DEWALT team of Roush Fenway Racing since its inception in 1999. In that time as both the head engineer – and later crew chief – he has played a pivotal role in Kenseth winning the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year award in 2001, qualifying for the “Chase” in each of its first five seasons and taking home the biggest prize in NASCAR, the Sprint Cup Championship in 2003.
At the end of the 2007 season, Bolin took over crew chief duties after Robbie Reiser accepted the position of general manager of Roush Fenway. After yet another strong season, in which the team once again qualified for the “Chase for Cup,” Bolin will move back to head engineer, giving over the crew chief reins to Drew Blickensderfer.
Many on the outside would mistakenly view the move as a ‘step backward,’ but Bolin is more interested in results than perception.
“This is a team effort,” said Bolin. “In big business, everyone needs a title. If mine is crew chief or engineer, it isn't going to change the way I approach our race team/cars. Since 1999 when we ran our first five races, our team was built as a just that, a team. My strengths are in understanding our cars, how they work, what they can be made to do and how to make them do what the driver wants them to do.”
The driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford concurs.
“Obviously we made a crew chief change, but Chip stayed in the same role that he has always been in,” echoed Kenseth. “Chip is not really taking on less responsibility. In fact, if anything he has more car responsibility and engineer responsibility. We are getting him back to what he is really good at; which is making these cars go really fast. Chip more or less did the job of two people last year and that’s asking a lot. By giving him the chance to focus on what he really excels at, I think we’ll see results in that.”
“Both my strengths and interests lie in the technical understanding and advancement of our cars, test methods, engineering facilities and simulations,” added Bolin. “The success that we have enjoyed with DEWALT for the last 10 years was based on the fact that Robbie (Reiser) and I worked together to best utilize the tools Jack (Roush) makes available to us. With me as crew chief, I was trying to perform two roles that we all knew took two very dedicated people to do. At the end of the year, that led to overall unsatisfactory results for me, Matt and the whole team.”
And what of the transition for both Bolin and Blickenderfer, as well at the rest of the No. 17 team?
“It has been a great transition,” said Blickensderfer. “I think it starts with the fact that Chip and I had a great relationship when I was crew chief on Matt’s Nationwide car. We worked together very well and I knew all the guys, so it made the transition pretty easy. When I started, he could go and work with the cars and crunch numbers and stuff like that. He really didn’t have to hold my hand or introduce me to everyone, because I already was familiar with Matt and the team.
“As for his role, there are a lot of things that Chip did before with the car that most people didn’t always know about. Chip had a lot more to do with chassis setups and things before when Robbie was the crew chief. This sport is so engineer driven, that the engineers on the team really have the strong hand in set up and what the cars do.
“They wanted me involved in the program to lead the ship in the same direction. To make sure that everybody is pulling the same way, to call the race and be a buffer between engineering and set up. I work really well with Chip. The transition has been seamless and it’s a great situation for all of us.”
Bolin welcomes the addition of Blickensderfer - who previously worked with Bolin and Kenseth as the crew chief of Matt’s Nationwide entry – and he sees the move as a way to better utilize the team’s strengths.
“My hope is that bringing Drew over to help manage the team will allow for a much stronger and well developed machine,” said Bolin. “Drew can focus on the day to day operation of the team, including pit crew performance and evaluation. He can work with our training staff to get our pit crew back to the elite form we all expect. He can work with me to both utilize and advance the tools/equipment we have to compete with. His help will allow me to pay more attention to our cars. With time to work more closely with our technical staff, I will better understand how to manipulate our cars so they behave like Matt wants them to.
“Overall, the job of ‘crew chief’ in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing today is not a one-man job, even though tradition dictates that one person has ‘the title.’ I believe, from working with Drew in the past, that he understands this fact just as much as both Matt and I do.”
“Drew adds some energy and really a spark to the team,” added Kenseth. “I think it will really help with team morale. He can really rally around the guys and help with team morale, and stay on top of the pit stops, and be in the shop all the time working with them. He can be on top of a lot of the things that really aren’t Chip’s strong point and Chip can spend more time making these cars go faster. It’s a great mix. They get along really well and it’s like we added another person really and I think it’s going to make our team stronger.”
As for Bolin, he is looking forward to moving forward with the season; a season where he will be able to focus on what he loves the most.
“I look forward to having time to focus on our cars,” said Bolin. “We expect to win multiple races. I feel I understand these cars better than our competition, and I hope to end the year knowing we at least were a serious threat to have the first ‘rookie’ championship crew chief. That would make for a really good season for all of us on this DEWALT team.”
The new lineup will make its debut tonight in the Budweiser Shootout, with Kenseth starting 25th in the 28-car field. Starting lineups for the Bud Shootout were determined by a random drawing on Thursday.