CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hendrick Motorsports made sweeping changes to its organization Tuesday, shuffling its lineup for every team except five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
Although the three-team crew chief swap likely was spurred by the ongoing struggles of Dale Earnhardt Jr., team owner Rick Hendrick was not pleased with the performance of three of his four race teams this season.
It opened the door for the stunning swap that sends crew chief Steve Letarte to Earnhardt’s team and moves Earnhardt into the same building with Johnson, who won his fifth NASCAR championship on Sunday.
Lance McGrew now will be paired with Mark Martin, and Alan Gustafson will work with four-time champion Jeff Gordon.
Johnson won six races this season and earned his fifth title in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The other three drivers were winless, and only Gordon made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, finishing ninth in the final standings.
The slump comes a year after Johnson, Martin and Gordon swept the top three spots in the final series standings.
“This will improve us as an organization, across the board,” Hendrick said in a statement. “We had a championship season, but we weren’t where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams. We’ve made the right adjustments, and I’m excited to go racing with this lineup.”
Hendrick scheduled a Wednesday teleconference to discuss the changes in detail.
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