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Borland returns as Newman's crew chief

October 27, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Matt Borland will step back into the pit box for the first time in nearly six years this weekend at Martinsville (Getty Images).

Stewart-Haas Racing's vice president of competition heading back to the pit box

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Matt Borland was the best man at Ryan Newman's wedding. Now it turns out he's the best man for the job as Newman's crew chief.

After six years away from being a full-time crew chief, Borland's back at the track and ready to climb back onto the pit box as Newman's chief strategist this weekend at Martinsville.

When the decision was made to move current crew chief Tony Gibson and the rest of the No. 39 Chevrolet crew over to Danica Patrick when she comes on board full-time in 2013, Borland was the perfect choice to be reunited with Newman.

After all, the two combined for 12 wins and 37 poles in 187 races between 2000 and 2006.

Getting back together


For the first time since late 2006 Ryan Newman and Matt Borland will be teaming up together in a Cup Series start.

"It's just a situation with our company where it made sense right now," Borland said Saturday. "We needed to get a good, strong team under Danica for next year, with her coming on board full-time. Tony Gibson and that No. 39 team have done an awesome job the last four years, so it's a good, solid group to work with her."

As vice president for competition, Borland had kept busy in Stewart-Haas Racing's research and development department. Now he has to switch gears and think about race setups and pit strategy.

"We're getting there," Borland said. "It'll take a little while. [Ryan's] obviously been doing this every weekend for the last 15 years and I've been not doing it for the last six. So it's just a matter of me getting back onto the same page, but things are going pretty good."

Asked to explain why he and Newman seem to work well together, Borland came up with two attributes.

"Attitude and work ethic," Borland said. "Everything was about racing. Everything was about winning. Everything was about that particular moment in time, being the best we could be. And everybody on that team was in that mindset. The program was able to run very strongly.

"Obviously, that's the goal. We're going to try everything we can to get back to that. But every team is looking for that. It's a challenge."

Borland and Newman have something else in common: their engineering backgrounds. While Newman has a degree from Purdue, Borland is a graduate of GMI Engineering and Management Institute.

But education aside, it helps the relationship between driver and crew chief to be more than a casual conversation. And since the two are close friends, they can feel free to get into deeper discussions.

"You don't have data acquisition on the car, so you've got to be able to trust what that driver is saying and you've got to be able to know what that driver is saying is right," Borland said. "So you spend a lot of time talking about what's going on with the car, what is he feeling. And sometimes you might not get that answer in the first 30 seconds of a conversation. It might be four hours down the road."

"If the relationship's not good, you might not have those two-, three-, four-hour conversations. You end up with those 30-second conversations. So then when you're making decisions, you don't really have all the information that you need."

Newman's only win in 2012 came here in the spring, when he took advantage of a multi-car accident on a green-white-checkered restart to grab the lead for good. Other than that, the highlights have been few and far between -- particularly after crashes at Bristol and Atlanta knocked him out of consecutive races, and Chase contention.

Borland said the team's problem is a simple one. How to fix it? That's a lot more complex.

"The biggest thing is that we've just been lacking a little bit of speed," Borland said. "The other teams have done some things to get faster and we're just that little step off each week. I think we're still searching."

While Borland would like to finish off 2012 on a strong note, he's already planning for next season -- and the new body styles. While teams continue to test what they've built -- and NASCAR continues to try and finalize the rules package -- Borland is hoping his team will hit on something that could give them an advantage early on.

"We've got a couple of cars built," Borland said. "We just tested at Phoenix last week. We're testing at Charlotte with Ryan in a week and a half. So the program's going along pretty good. Obviously, it's a tough situation with all of the teams: everybody's trying to get sheet metal, trying to get parts, trying to go test at the same time. So that part's tough.

"I think it's still going to be the teams that are the strongest will be able to figure out things quickly. Everybody's definitely going to go back to Ground Zero, and then it's just going to be who can find that package that works."