News & Media

Truex is without regular crew chief at Pocono

June 08, 2012, David Caraviello,

LONG POND, Pa. -- When Martin Truex Jr. sent Chad Johnston a message Thursday night asking if his crew chief would make it to Pocono Raceway in time for Sunday's Sprint Cup event, the response he received was brief and direct: No.

"I think he's just playing it by ear," Truex said. "It could happen at any moment."

"He's really been kind of the heart and soul of this team for close to the past year, so it's been a little bit different."


That would be the birth of Johnston's first child, which has kept the crew chief of the No. 56 car back home with wife Stacey as teams have worked through days of testing and practice at the resurfaced Pocono track. Scott Miller, the executive vice president of competition at Michael Waltrip Racing, is calling the shots this weekend for Truex's team, and said Friday it was unlikely that Johnston would be on site for the race.

"It's been a little bit different not having Chad around," said Truex, sixth in the Sprint Cup standings. "He's really been kind of the heart and soul of this team for close to the past year, so it's been a little bit different, but we did get some practice at the end of last year not having him around when he was suspended. We're kind of playing it out the same way we did then. Everything has gone good. The guys have done a nice job of stepping up and getting the job done the past few days."

Johnson, a former engineer who became crew chief on the No. 56 team midway through last season, gets a lot of credit from his driver for helping to turn the program around. He was suspended by NASCAR for four races last fall after officials discovered illegal modifications to the car's windshield during initial inspection at Talladega. Truex gets the feeling his crew chief wants to be in Pocono, but also doesn't want to parachute in after others have done the work all week.

"I guess after everybody did the work all weekend, I guess what I'm saying is, he wouldn't want to come in on Sunday and say, 'OK, it's my turn again.' I think he kind of put a plan in place, and he's going to let it play out and let everybody do the job that he assigned them to," Truex said. "Like I said, everything so far has went smooth. These guys have had experience doing this before ... and Chad's got a great bunch of guys together, and he's a great leader, and he's really done a nice job of keeping everybody in the loop, getting them all prepared for this, and they've all done a really good job with it."

Into the gap steps Miller, who was an accomplished crew chief before he became competition director at Richard Childress Racing, the post he held before joining the Waltrip organization last year. Miller has seven Sprint Cup victories to his credit, the most recent with Clint Bowyer -- now Truex's teammate at MWR -- at Talladega in 2010.

"I just helped these guys a little bit in the practice and the test, but the biggest deal is just calling the race on Sunday," Miller said. "I always enjoy that. I miss doing that, so whenever the opportunity arises, I like doing it."

Miller actually has a pretty good track record as a pinch-hit crew chief. His 2010 victory with Bowyer came in a fill-in role while regular crew chief Shane Wilson was serving a NASCAR-mandated suspension. And he also won a race with Kevin Harvick at Bristol in 2005, working on an interim basis while regular crew chief Todd Berrier served a NASCAR suspension.

Reminded of that history, Miller laughed. "Hopefully we can keep that up," he said, "and get a good finish on Sunday."