Addington turns page from SHR to Phoenix
November 21, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
For Steve Addington, the move to Phoenix Racing is like shifting over to a different branch of the same family tree.
The veteran crew chief will still work with chassis and engines built by Hendrick Motorsports, the same organization that provided equipment to the Stewart-Haas Racing team where he worked the previous two seasons. And Addington knows that whenever his No. 51 car tests, that information is likely to make its way through the Hendrick pipeline back to his old mates at SHR.
"For us to be successful is to work things under the Hendrick mentality of, the more information you have, the better off you'll be," Addington said Thursday, when he was named Phoenix Racing competition director and crew chief of the team's No. 51 car. "There are going to be times where (Phoenix and SHR) probably are leaning on each other, and that's something I'm fine with."
It would be understandable if he felt differently, given that Addington on Tuesday was replaced as crew chief of Tony Stewart's No. 14 car by Chad Johnston, who most recently oversaw Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 56 at Michael Waltrip Racing. Addington and Stewart won four races together, the last coming this past spring in Dover before the three-time NASCAR champion suffered a broken leg in a sprint car accident that sidelined him for the final 15 events of the year.
"I'm kind of scratching my head, and I told Stewart the same thing," Addington said. "He knows that, and he knows I'm a little frustrated on that end of it. If they make a decision to make a change, if they feel like that's what they need to do, I've just got to move on. I don't want to dwell on that. I know everybody wants a lot of answers, and there are some answers where I would still like to have the full story, but it is what it is. I've got friends there who will remain friends, and that's just part of this business. When you win (12) races in 18 months or whatever it was with the 18 (car) and lose your job, nothing ever surprises you anymore."
That's a reference to the end of Addington's stint at Joe Gibbs Racing, where he and Kyle Busch won 12 races together over a two-year span that included the eight-victory campaign of 2008. This past season, he worked primarily with Mark Martin after Stewart suffered his injury, but nothing seemed to click. It's easy to wonder what might have been, given that Stewart had reeled off seven top-10s in 10 weeks, and at 11th in points had moved into Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contention at the time of his injury.
"It is, and that's the frustrating part," Addington said. "I think, in the back of my mind -- where we were sitting in points, the Charlotte race, the runs that we had, the win at Dover … there's like a gap there you wish you could fill in. But I felt like we were on the right track. I felt like we were in great position to make the Chase. We were running well enough to make the Chase. It makes you scratch your head a little bit. It is what it is. To me, things happen for a reason, and this brought me and Harry together to build something, and that's exciting to me."
That would be Harry Scott Jr., who in August completed the purchase of Spartanburg, S.C.-based Phoenix from longtime former owner James Finch, and then began the process of remaking an organization that's won just once at the Sprint Cup level -- with Brad Keselowski at Talladega in 2009. Addington has 20 career Sprint Cup victories, and now with the additional role of competition director will be able to shape the organization as well as the team he brings to the track each weekend.
Addington sees some parallels between Phoenix and Furniture Row Racing, another single-car entity located outside of Charlotte, N.C. -- in this case, Denver -- but has an alliance with a more established organization and this past season made the Chase for the first time. Addington is familiar with Hendrick personnel and equipment from his time at SHR, something he believes can strengthen the relationship between the two entities.
"I've had a lot of conversations with Harry, and met with him a lot at the race track at night and things like that, and asking questions of his goals and everything," Addington said. "Both of us want to look at this in two or three years and be able to sit back and look at what we've built. He's in it to be successful, aligning himself with Hendrick Motorsports, and Rick (Hendrick) is excited I'm coming here to be able to feed this race team like it should be. … They want to see Harry succeed at the Cup level, and we've got a lot of great things going working hand-in-hand with Hendrick Motorsports, and potentially with Stewart-Haas."
Although Phoenix has not yet named a driver for next year, Addington said the team is in talks with Justin Allgaier, one of 12 different drivers the organization used this past season. For the past three years Allgaier has driven in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Turner Scott Motorsports, a team that fields entries on the Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck circuits which Scott co-owns with partner Steve Turner.
"In the back of our minds, we all hope that everything works out and we'll bring Justin into the fold, but that stuff can change at any time," Addington said. "They're working on that end of. If it is Justin, I'm excited about that, to try and help him further his career at this level and help him be successful. We've had conversations, and there are concerns in Justin's mind about the direction, and I've tried to give him all the confidence that if he comes here, we're going to work out butts off to make sure he has good race cars at the race track week in and week out to be successful. Whoever gets in the car, we're going to give them 100 percent effort, and I think Harry is working hard to give us the resources to do that."
Although Addington will continue to live in the Charlotte area, the move to Phoenix is something of a homecoming for the native of Boiling Springs, S.C. His first job at NASCAR's national level was working for Jason Keller's family-owned Nationwide team in nearby Greenville, S.C., and Addington says his mother lives about five minutes from the Phoenix shop in Spartanburg.
And the daily commute shouldn't be too much of a problem for the team's new crew chief, who is well familiar with the area. "I know all the back roads," Addington said with a laugh.