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Why the Crew Chief Is More Important in the NASCAR Next-Gen Era Than Before

Rahul Ahluwalia
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Why the Crew Chief is more important in the NASCAR Next Gen era than before

Ever since the advent of NASCAR’s Next-Gen Cup Series car, the sport’s focus has been shifted for better or for worse towards how to improve the seventh-generation car’s racing product. Built as a spec machine with homologated parts handed out to the teams by the governing body, the Next Gen car has introduced parity never seen before in American stock car racing.

This is where the role of a modern-day Crew Chief comes in. The same has been necessitated by data-driven analytics and prime leadership qualities required by teams to gain an advantage over their competitors.

As explained by former crew chief turned broadcaster Steve Letarte himself, the role of the person sitting atop the pit box is all the more important in the sport today. “You have to understand, if the goal was X, did you reach it? Analyze, grade, and lead. That’s what the crew chief has to do.  The first thing is to analyze your performance. It’s not just who finished where on the track.”

Letarte further elaborated on what other qualities the role demands and added, How are you truly performing on restarts, on pit road, and then you talk about leadership? Can you lead your team? Do you have a motto, a guiding principle?”

The Next Gen platform which debuted in 2022 has seen American stock car racing finally catch up to the likes of global motorsport vehicles in terms of technology and race-ability while maintaining quintessential stock car DNA.

However, due to its reliance on aerodynamics and ground effects more than ever, the Next-Gen car also suffers from what is dirty air for drivers following others. Thus, a crew chief’s role is even more important in the sport’s current day and age, as the driver and the crew chief remain as two of the most differentiating factors in winning and losing a race in modern-day NASCAR.

Steve Letarte touches on two vastly different yet successful NASCAR teams

Building on his argument of how a crew chief is responsible for a group of people working unanimously towards the same goal, Steve Letarte gave the example of current drivers Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

He touched on the difference in attitude for both drivers, yet complimented their teams for being successful in the sport and said, “When you listen to the #11 of Denny Hamlin talking about his race it’s very analytical and math driven. When you listen to Ryan Blaney it’s very emotionally driven. Yet they are both successful race teams. As a crew chief that’s what you have to do, give your team an identity.”

Denny Hamlin has also been known to dissect his race weekends on his popular podcast Actions Detrimental these days, whereas Ryan Blaney is known to have blown his head off on the radio over anything that takes place on the track.

A crew chief’s role is to harness both these energies and tailor the driving force of a team according to their driver and individuals around them towards a singular goal, which is simple, to win.

Post Edited By:Srijan Mandal

About the author

Rahul Ahluwalia

Rahul Ahluwalia

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An avid car enthusiast turned motorsports afficionado with a knack for delivering in-depth storylines as well as sound technical know-how.

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