Drew Blickensderfer will crew chief for Aric Almirola in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, as Mike Bugarewicz transitions into a performance director role at Stewart-Haas Racing after two years with Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team.
Stewart-Haas Racing announced the personnel switch Tuesday. All other Cup Series driver-crew chief pairings will remain the same – Kevin Harvick with Rodney Childers, Cole Custer with Mike Shiplett and Chase Briscoe with Johnny Klausmeier. Crew chief Richard Boswell will also return to the organization’s Xfinity Series program, continuing his work with driver Riley Herbst.
Blickensderfer was most recently crew chief for Michael McDowell from 2019-21, and that span included the 2021 Daytona 500 victory. Overall, Blickensderfer has four career wins at NASCAR’s top level from his time with McDowell, David Ragan and Matt Kenseth.
Blickensderfer has been working in the Cup Series since 2009. His departure from Front Row Motorsports became public on Dec. 17, 2021.
This pairing is more of a reunion. Blickensderfer and Almirola worked together for 35 races between 2016-17 at Richard Petty Motorsports. They produced three top-five and seven top-10 finishes between the two seasons.
“Drew has been in the sport a long time and knows how to get the best out of the people around him, and that’s really what the job of crew chief has become,” Stewart-Haas Racing vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a news release. “We have the same parts and pieces, but what we do with those parts and pieces will make the difference. Drew has worked with a lot of drivers and managed a lot of people. He already has a rapport with Aric, and that will make the learning curve in a season full of learning a little less steep.”
Bugarewicz’s move comes after six years as a Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series. He won a race with every full-time driver he worked with – Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart – for four career victories. Bugarewicz and Almirola won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last season to qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs and ultimately finished 15th in the overall final standings.
Veteran hands-on experience as a crew chief and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State University sparked Bugarewicz’s promotion.
“With the Next Gen car being brand new, there will be continuous development on it every time it turns a wheel. Going into it, we knew we needed to shore up our resources and really bolster our competitive approach. Buga is the right guy to tackle all the newness that’s coming at us pretty fast,” Zipadelli said. “He’s an engineer and he’s also a racer. He will be that glue between simulation, at-track reality, engineering and our race teams, and his laser-like focus in this new role of performance director will be a huge asset to our team.”
The Next Gen car makes its competitive debut Feb. 6 in Los Angeles with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition event (6 p.m. ET). The official 2022 season will kick off two weeks later with the points-paying Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET). Both races will air live on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.