Following wins in their first two races together Matt Kenseth and Drew Blickensderfer appeared to be on the top of the sport. Roughly a year later the two have parted ways after Kenseth said that Blickensderfer and the team didn’t have good chemistry.
Todd Parrott will take over the top spot on the pit box this weekend in California. Parrott has guided drivers to 29 wins including Dale Jarrett’s 1999 Cup Championship.
Under Blickensderfer, Kenseth missed the “Chase” last year for the time time in his career. The two went to Daytona this year still together but following an eighth place finish in the event a change was made.
“The timing of the change is probably 100 percent my fault,” Kenseth said. “I know that I’ve been asked by Jack several times if there’s anything we needed to change on the team. … Jack talked to me in November and asked if I thought we were OK with everything we had going on, and I really did.
“I really felt like we needed to give Drew a full year and a full offseason. He was working on some things, trying to make it better. It’s really hard to explain the timing of the change. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not any good for anybody, really. It’s just kind of the way it went down.”
After the 2008 season, Blickensderfer was promoted from Nationwide Series crew chief to replace Chad Bolin, who remained with the No. 17 car as the team engineer. Bolin had replaced Robbie Reiser, the only Cup crew chief Kenseth had ever had and who is the organization’s competition director. According to insiders the two considered returning Reiser to the pit box but were afraid to take him out of his current managerial position.
Jack Roush has termed Parrott’s role as crew chief as “interim” because Parrott did such a good job overseeing the building of the organization’s restrictor-plate cars. He said Parrott’s experience as a championship crew chief with Robert Yates Racing and Dale Jarrett in 1999 was one of the reasons he is taking over the No. 17 team.
“I hope that I can just continue on, get the 17 car back to where it belongs in victory lane,” Parrott said.
Parrott was crew chief last year for part of the season with Bobby Labonte, whose car was operated by Yates Racing.
It’s been interesting. Knowing that Blickensderfer was removed from his spot created the why now factor. Ha
d he been removed at the end of last year everyone would have understood but you have to give kudos to Kenseth and Roush for stepping up and saying that the decisions was the drivers and that it was because the team seemed to be going through the motions.
It’s weird in a way. Kenseth entered this year with a pretty good chance to make the Chase if you asked me but now I feel he’s pretty much guaranteed himself a spot in it. It’s weird because “the Blick” wasn’t a bad crew chief, it’s just that the two seemed so alike that there weren’t many options for different ideas to get the car running better.
Without doubt Kenseth fans would have preferred to see Robbie Reiser back, but Todd Parrott is a pretty darn good pick too.