Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon Part of Hendrick Crew Chief Swap
"This will improve us as an organization, across the board," team owner Rick Hendrick (right) said Tuesday.
Save for champion Jimmie Johnson, each of the three other drivers in the Hendrick stable will have new crew chiefs for the 2011 season.
Steve Letarte, the crew chief on Jeff Gordon's No. 24 since the end of the 2005 season, will now oversee Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team. Meanwhile, Gordon will now have Alan Gustafson managing his team in Daytona.
Gustafson leaves the No. 5 team and driver Mark Martin, who will now have Lance McGrew in his ear for the 2011 season. McGrew has spent part of 2009 and all of 2010 as Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief.
Also changed, according to the team announcement, will be the how each team is positioned at the team headquarters north of Charlotte, N.C.
"We had a championship season (in 2010), but we weren't where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams," Hendrick said in a team release. "We've made the right adjustments, and I'm excited to go racing with this lineup."
In the past, the teams have operated out of two buildings. Johnson and Gordon operated out of one shop with Earnhardt Jr. and Martin in the other.
Now, Johnson's team will be paired with Earnhardt Jr.'s while Gordon's car preparation area will move in to Martin's shop. By doing so, the team's crew chiefs remain in their original buildings.
Johnson, now the winner of an unprecedented five consecutive Sprint Cup titles, has naturally been the most successful of the group. He'll now be paired with Earnhardt Jr., who has struggled at Hendrick since his arrival at the team in 2007.
Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st in points standings this season.
Gordon, on the other hand, has had the most consistent opportunities to top Johnson as of late. The No. 24 made the Chase for the Sprint Cup again this season but wound up just 9th in the standings.
Gordon, after just his second winless season ever, is now riding a 64-race streak without a checkered flag.
Martin, 51, enters 2011 knowing it will be his last full-time season with the Hendrick organization. 2009 was a year of resurrection for a longtime veteran as he finished runner-up to Johnson in the points standings.
He couldn't pull off the same feat in 2010 and struggled to a 13th-place finish, outside the Chase.
Martin will be replaced in 2012 by Kasey Kahne, though Martin hasn't clarified his exact plans for that season and beyond.