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Poor season prompts Roush shakeup
By BRANT JAMES
Published November 11, 2006
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Matt Kenseth called Roush Racing a "mess," and that's from a guy who has things pretty good right now. He's 17 points out of the Nextel Cup lead with two races left, and he gets to keep his crew chief. That's better than his other four teammates.
At the end of a tumultuous season for the once-dominant team, Roush Racing announced Friday morning it had changed four crew chiefs' responsibilities before Nextel Cup practice at Phoenix International Raceway.
Pat Tryson, the crew chief of Mark Martin's No. 6 Ford for three seasons, will take over for Doug Richert, who oversaw Greg Biffle's emergence as a title contender on the No. 16. They won six times and finished second in the Nextel Cup standings last season. They're currently 13th with one victory.
Richert's new role has not been determined, but he is under contract for 2007.
Bob Osborne returns to Carl Edwards' No. 99 Ford after being moved earlier this season in an unsuccessful attempt to revive Jamie McMurray's No. 26 program. Edwards tied Biffle for second in the standings last season but also missed the Chase and is 12th in points. He's winless after winning four times last season. Wally Brown, formerly Edwards' crew chief, will not return to Roush next season.
Roush Racing won championships in 2003 with Kenseth, in 2004 with Busch and qualified all five Cup drivers for the Chase for the Championship last year, but just two this season.
Owner Jack Roush said putting five cars in the Chase last year "certainly wasn't reflective of the way we had run" and may have led to complacency.
"If you're on top, which we were, the conservative nature and the conventional wisdom here is that you want to be slow to make changes because if you fix something that's not broke, it may not work as well as it was before you fixed it," he said.
DONE DEAL: Ryan Newman said Matt Borland, his crew chief his entire Nextel Cup career and the best man at his wedding, "won't be back next year" in the same capacity. He could return in another role, Newman speculated.
Borland was allowed to miss the final two races of the season to attend to personal matters and was replaced on an interim basis by engineer Mike Nelson.
"He's in a position with his two children and wife that they need him to spend more time at home, and that's way more important than what we do at the racetrack," Newman said.
Newman and Borland have won 12 races together - eight in 2003 - but are winless in their past 43 races and missed the Chase for the Championship for the first time this season.
INCIDENT: Daytona Beach police have opened an internal investigation into whether police called to the scene of a traffic accident involving NASCAR chairman Brian France on Monday showed preferential treatment to the 44-year-old, even after a witness stated on a 911 call that he was driving erratically and struck a parked car before running into a tree near his condominium complex.
Police responded nearly an hour after the 911 call and did not conduct a field sobriety test, according to police reports, because France did not arouse their suspicion. France claimed he had hit a bump and spilled a drink, causing the accident.
NASCAR issued a statement saying France was cooperating with police.
CHANGES: Tampa native Aric Almirola, 22, will run a partial Busch Series schedule in 2007 after his Joe Gibbs Racing team decided to dissolve its relationship with Spears Racing, which was to field a truck for him again next season.
The decision was made after a meeting between Wayne and Connie Spears, Almirola and JGR president J.D. Gibbs.
"We didn't have any chemistry," Almirola said. "I'm not pointing any fingers. I'm the first one to blame.
"It wasn't benefiting us to run around 15th or 16th every week, or them either."
Almirola will share the No. 20 Chevrolet in the Busch Series with Denny Hamlin, a Nextel Cup regular who was born in Tampa.