Good chemistry – Newman, former crew chief Borland reunited
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
In Sprint Cup racing, or any team sport for that matter, chemistry between driver and crew, or coach and players, is often cited as one of the keys to success.
Team chemistry is difficult to explain and almost impossible to intentionally create. It just seems to happen. When it does, the results are often phenomenal. But the chemistry also can be lost, and the results soon show it.
In NASCAR racing, some of the sport’s all-time win leaders had their best years while working with the same crew chief. Richard Petty, the sport’s all-time win leader with 200 race victories, had most of his success with his cousin Dale Inman as crew chief. David Pearson, second on the all-time list with 105 wins, got the biggest chunk of them with Leonard Wood as his crew chief. Jeff Gordon had his best years with Ray Evernham as his crew chief, and Bobby Labonte was at his best with Jimmy Makar calling the shots. Together they won 19 races, but Labonte has only won two since they parted.
Ryan Newman won 12 races and 37 poles while working with crew chief Matt Borland at Penske Racing from 2002-2006. Since then, Newman has won four races and 11 poles. But beginning this week at Martinsville Speedway, Newman and Borland will be reunited.
The change is part of a personnel shuffle at Stewart-Haas Racing that will see Newman’s current crew chief, Tony Gibson, move to Danica Patrick’s team beginning at her home track, Phoenix International Raceway.
Now the NASCAR world will see if Newman and Borland can recreate their winning chemistry.
Greg Zipadelli, the former crew chief for Tony Stewart who now serves as competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing, believes they can.
“Matt Borland has had great success as a crew chief, and much of it came when he and Ryan Newman worked together,” Zipadelli said in a team release. “Matt and Ryan both have engineering backgrounds, and they have similar mindsets. It’s a pairing that produced some very good results and there’s no reason why it can’t produce similar results now that they’re back together. Their four races together this year will position them very well for 2013.”
Zipadelli isn’t alone in the Sprint Cup garage when it comes to seeking the right chemistry among key members of a race team.
Eddie Wood, part of the second generation of the Wood Brothers racing team, said when a team hits on the right combination of personnel, it should do everything it can to keep them together.
“I used to make fun of people who talked about chemistry, but I’m pretty much a believer in it now, because I’ve lived it,” he said. “There have been combinations that have been magic and shouldn’t have gotten messed up and changed, but they did.
“And it was usually outside interference.”