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Kyle Larson pit stop
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Chip Ganassi Racing makes changes to pit-crew lineup before Richmond race

RICHMOND, Va. — Chip Ganassi Racing made changes to the pit-crew lineup for its two-car operation ahead of this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway.

“In the whole offseason, we built around trying to build what we thought was our best group,” said Matt McCall, crew chief of the Ganassi No. 1 Chevrolet for Kurt Busch. “Everybody’s still new that everybody had a chance to be different players, so that’s where we’re at right now. Just moving a couple different people around and see how it works out.”

Bryan Jacobsen moves to front tire-changing duties for the Ganassi No. 42 Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson. He served last week in that role for the No. 00 Chevrolet of StarCom Racing, which has a developmental pit-crew partnership with Ganassi. Jacobsen replaces Steve Price, who takes Jacobsen’s place on the StarCom No. 00 driven by Landon Cassill.

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On the No. 1 Ganassi Chevy driven by Kurt Busch, Daniel Kincaid replaces Ken Pozega as front tire changer. Cory Baldwin, who was with the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 pit crew last week at Bristol, will change rear tires for the No. 1 this weekend. Pozega is on this weekend’s roster for Front Row’s No. 34, listed as the rear-tire changer. He is also listed as a member for the backup pit crew for both Ganassi entries.

“I don’t know for how long, if it’ll be permanent or whatever,” Larson said after qualifying 14th Friday. “I think it’s good to spice things up and try something different. I feel like our pit stops have lacked the last couple years, so just searching to try to get our stops better and hopefully it’ll help our races out a little bit.”

McCall indicated that Chip Ganassi Racing was fortunate to have the luxury of a deep bench for its pit crew personnel, but that the changes put in place this weekend were by no means permanent. He also told that no single issue stood out as the impetus for the pit crew shake-up.

“No, and the guys we’ve changed, I would say the odds of them getting back on the team are still there,” McCall said. “I think it’s going to be a moving target for a while if we can find the right combination. Some of it is purely related to overall averages. It’s not been one thing or the other, like, ‘oh, we’ve left this lug loose five times.’ It’s none of that. It’s just more or less trying to find some consistency.”

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Consistency is also the quest for the No. 1 team in Busch Pole Qualifying. Busch has found solid results in his first year with the Ganassi organization, with six top-10 finishes in the first eight races this season. But he’s had to achieve those results coming from far back in the starting grid. Busch’s average finish of 8.6 is third-best in the series, but his average start of 20.1 equals the largest disparity between the two numbers among Cup Series regulars.

McCall says there’s no single factor there, either.

“For the most part, we’ve come off the truck close, we’ve practiced OK, but when qualifying rolls around, we’ve not been anywhere close to where anyone can drive it,” McCall said. “So it’s not been good. … It’s building a notebook, for sure. That’s the biggest thing. Then there’s things that he’s looking for that are different for qualifying than what we’re accustomed to giving him, so once we get that built up, I think it’ll be a little more straightforward hopefully.”

In addition to building a wealth of notes and information, McCall has also been finding chemistry in his first season paired with Busch, whose fiery personality often comes through on the team communications.

“It’s been fun, man,” McCall said. “The intensity level is high, which is good. I think that’s what it takes to have a chance to win races. His mentality is the same as mine. I like the edge side, that he gets really pissed off at me because I think there’s a little bit of drive there that makes you try to make sure you’re not missing some details.”