The relationship between a driver and a crew chief is an important one. Some drivers and crew chiefs have fought their way up to the top together. Which of these combinations found success both in the lower divisions and at the highest level?
Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham
In 1991, Jeff Gordon was okay in the Xfinity Series. He failed to qualify at Daytona, but he did record 10 top-10 finishes. Car owner Bill Davis elected to replace crew chief Keith Simmons with Ray Evernham, and Gordon and Evernham found success right away.
They won 11 poles and three races in the Xfinity Series in 1992, and the two made the jump up to Cup with Rick Hendrick for the last race of the 1992 season before running full-time in 1993. The rest, as they say, is history.
The two won 47 Cup Series races between 1994 and 1999 (7.8 per season) and three Cup Series Championships in 1995, 1997, and 1998. They also set the modern era record for Cup Series wins in a season with 13 in 1998. Simply put, they were seemingly invincible.
Robbie Reiser and Matt Kenseth
Once they were rivals, then they were partners. In 1997, when Robbie Reiser needed a driver to replace the injured Tim Bender in the Xfinity Series, he called up his rival, Matt Kenseth. The two were solid in their first year, but they broke out in 1998 winning three races, finishing second in the standings to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After another solid year in Xfinity and select Cup Series races, Kenseth and Reiser moved up to Cup full-time in 2000. They won their first Cup Series race at the Coca-Cola 600 that year, and beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Rookie of the Year race. In 2003, they teamed up to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship, which was the last one under the season-long format.
They continued to win races beyond their championship season before Reiser was promoted to General Manager of Roush-Fenway Racing near the end of the 2007 season. The two went out with a bang, leading 214 of 267 laps in their final race together at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Rudy Fugle and William Byron
In 2016, a relatively little-known college student named William Byron took the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series by storm. Byron won seven races, and only a blown engine at Phoenix, the second to last race of the season, could keep him from the championship. Rudy Fugle was atop the pit box for that magical season.
As Byron moved up, Fugle stayed at Kyle Busch Motorsports for the next four seasons. In 2021, Fugle moved up to the Cup Series to become Byron’s crew chief once again. Since then, the two have won six races together in three seasons.
Byron is now in the midst of his best season in the Cup Series, and his partnership with Fugle is a large part of that. A Championship may be in the cards for this duo if everything plays out right.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Eury Sr.
For Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first full-time seasons in the Xfinity Series in 1998 and 1999, Tony Eury Sr. was the crew chief. The two were nothing short of dominant, winning 13 races and two consecutive Xfinity Series Championships.
In 2000, they moved up to the Cup Series winning two races, and that was just the beginning. The year after, in the wake of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death, the two combined for one of the most iconic moments in NASCAR history. Earnhardt Jr.’s car was untouchable, and he went from 6th to 1st in a final laps to win the first race at Daytona after his dad’s death.
Following that, the two would win 12 more races over the next three and a half seasons, but they would split after 2004. Earnhardt Jr. never won as many races in a season or finished as high in the standings in a season as he did during his time with Eury Sr.
Todd Berrier and Kevin Harvick
Todd Berrier and Kevin Harvick first partnered up in 2000 in the Xfinity Series and won three races. They were planning on running the full season again in 2001 while Harvick ran six Cup Series races. Everyone knows the story from there as Harvick was called upon to replace the late Dale Earnhardt for the final 35 races of the season.
Despite pulling double duty for a full-season, Harvick and Berrier would win the 2001 Xfinity Series Championship. In 2003, Berrier moved up to Cup to work with Harvick once again. Harvick would have the best seasons of his career up to that point.
During their six seasons together, Harvick won eight races including the 2007 Daytona 500. He would also finish in the top-5 in the points three times with a fifth place finish in 2003 and fourth place finished in 2006 and 2008.
Many drivers seem to find success when reunited with their crew chiefs from lower series. Some of them go on to win championships and many go on to win races.