Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gil Martin takes back the reins of Kevin Harvick's No. 29

Photo Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
I can't say I didn't see it coming.

Gil Martin joined Shane Wilson atop Kevin Harvick's pit box Sunday at Michigan. To me, it seemed like the proverbial handwriting was on the wall.

Wilson, who replaced Martin as crew chief of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Budweiser Chevrolet after Martin led the team to consecutive third-place finishes in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, never quite seemed to click with Harvick on track, so when Lee Spencer of FOXSports.com reported Monday that Martin would replace Wilson this week at Bristol, it wasn't much of a shock.

At the end of last season, Kevin Harvick closed the doors of his truck team and scaled back his participation in other series so that he could focus on starting a family and winning the Sprint Cup Championship. He also asked Richard Childress to bring over Shane Wilson from the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper ride, hoping to recapture the chemistry the two had together in the Nationwide series when the duo combined for 10 wins, 24 top-five and 31 top-10 finishes as they won the Nationwide championship by a record margin.

With a seventh place in the season-opener at Daytona and a second place at Phoenix, 2012 held promise. But since then Harvick has managed only two top fives and seven top tens since then. He's only led 40 laps. And every week seems to be a repeat of the previous week's litany of handling woes. Harvick's been vocal about his displeasure. Obviously something had to change and when Harvick seemed to be happier with the handling of his car in the Pure Michigan 400, I fully expected that Martin would be back at the helm.

However, after having followed the RCR organization through the season, I'm not convinced that a crew chief change is enough to get Harvick that #onegoal he and wife DeLana mention in their tweets. If the No. 29 was the only team not performing well, then perhaps bringing back Martin would be sufficient but all of the teams have floundered. Each week the No. 27 of Paul Menard and Jeff Burton's No. 31 struggle with handling issues, leading me to believe the problem goes beyond the garage.

Perhaps Gil Martin can help Harvick get back his reputation as "The Closer." Maybe he can get the team back to the front and maybe Harvick will grab a win or so before the end of the season. But he's facing intense competition from teams that are at the top of their games, so I'm not going to order my No. 29 Sprint Cup Championship gear just yet.


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