Jeff Burton will have a new face leading his No. 31 team this weekend. Drew Blickensderfer has led Burton’s team since Daytona, but hasn’t gotten the job done well enough to satisfy Richard Childress Racing standards.
It is well known that Burton has struggled mightily since 2010 where he had six top five finishes with 15 top ten’s. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, the South Boston, Virginia native has only four top five’s and 11 top ten’s.
Burton’s struggles have caused him to fall to 19th in points, making the past two seasons his worst two combined since 2004 and 2005 where he finished 18th in points in each of those seasons.
For the remaining three races of this season, the No. 31 car will be led by veteran crew chief, Shane Wilson. Wilson has been with RCR since 2006 and has won 16 races in his experience between the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series.
When Paul Menard’s crew chief, Richard “Slugger” Labbe was suspended for five races earlier this year, Wilson replaced him on the pit box, but only led Menard to have an average finish of just 22.4.
Wilson’s largest experience as a crew chief in NASCAR’s elite series came when he led Clint Bowyer from 2009-2011 and Kevin Harvick earlier this season until Childress decided to switch his role with the company.
“”He’s a great crew chief and I can’t say enough about his dedication to RCR. Making the move now, before the season is over, gives Drew some additional time to pursue other opportunities,” owner of Richard Childress Racing, Richard Childress said.
Blickensderfer’s release from the team enables him to move back to the Ford Racing camp as he will now be the crew chief for Marcos Ambrose.
Luke Lambert, who was Burton’s interim crew chief for 16 races last season, will take over full-time beginning at Daytona in 2013. Lambert is currently serving the role as Elliott Sadler’s crew chief in the Nationwide Series. He has led Sadler to have the best season he has ever had in his NASCAR career as the two have teamed up to lead the standings with just three races left in the season.
The switch in crew chief’s should help Burton who needs to have a good year next year. It’s likely that if Burton’s struggles continue, he’ll end up retiring as he continues to age.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.