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NASCAR Update: After Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Shuffles Grandson’s Pit Crew Following Richmond Altercation

Published 04/02/2024, 8:27 PM EDT

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Richard Childress Racing is having a hard time trying to fix their two drivers’ hands. Ahead of the race at Phoenix, Kyle Busch had a new pit crew for the third time in four races this season. But the same troubles have now overtaken the No. 3 team with RCR making key personnel changes for Austin Dillon’s Chevrolet.

The result at Richmond Raceway was the boiling point for Richard Childress, and he forced his hand into making serious changes to his grandson’s team. Going into the race at Martinsville, Austin Dillon will have two new crew members as he looks to turn around his season, which is yet to see him finish in the top 10.

Austin Dillon reunited with his winning crew chief

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Austin will be partnered with Justin Alexander, who replaces Keith Rodden as his crew chief. Rodden took on the role of crew chief for the #3 RCR team last season, and after little to no progress, Dillon will now look to rebuild with Alexander. But the name does sound familiar, doesn’t it?

Given the streak of disappointing results (wherein Dillon has finished six out of the 8 races outside of P20), it was only logical for Richard Childress to allow Justin Alexander to intervene midway through the season. Although Alexander has been contributing as the team’s competition director of late, interestingly, in all four of the driver’s wins in the Cup Series, Dillon had Alexander as his crew chief.

    • Alexander joined the #3 team for the first time during the 2017 season. The duo blazed through the 600-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway with a win.
    • Dillon’s 2018 Daytona 500 win came with Alexander as his crew chief.
    • Dillon’s third Cup win came after 88 races at Texas in 2020. Interesting fact: The win there was owed to a smart strategy at the pit stop. With only 23 laps left, the #3 team decided to only change the left tires instead of all four.
    •  2022 win at the Daytona International Speedway: Dillon was able to avert a melee of cars sliding due to wet asphalt after what was a summer shower.

The decision didn’t happen out of the ordinary. Apparently, the driver of the #3 RCR car was frustrated with his most recent run at Richmond. During the race, Dillon vented, “We have dumba** strategy every f*cking week! We’re indecisive, we don’t know what to do!” This prompted a response from the team owner who urged Dillon to focus: “Settle down, drive the car and focus here. It ain’t doing no good talking. Just focus.” But there was a lot to consider and act on for Childress. For instance,

Last season Dillon finished in the 29th place, his worst-ever finish in the Cup Series, and the problems continued going into the 2024 season. His best finish this season has been a P16 finish at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Speaking about the decision, RCR’s executive vice president Andy Petree said,

“Justin Alexander and Austin Dillon share a unique chemistry that has proven effective in the past. We want to thank Keith Rodden for his leadership of the No. 3 team and know that the contributions he will continue to make to RCR in his new role will be valuable across the organization.”

Apart from a change to his crew chief, Austin Dillon will also have Joel Keller as the lead engineer for the team. “Theorganizational changes were made to help Richard Childress Racing’s overall NASCAR Cup Series program as we prepare for the rest of the season and locking two teams into the NASCAR Playoffs,” Petree added in his statement.

These changes come after Kyle Busch’s pit crew has gone through multiple changes already this season. Busch started the season with Josh Sobecki as the jackman in the Daytona 500. But after a chaotic situation on the pit road denied Busch his first ever Daytona 500 win, a new jackman was brought in for the race at Atlanta. Garrett Crall was brought in and it led to a P3 finish at Ambetter Health 400. But come Las Vegas, Busch finished at P26 and more worryingly the pit stop ranked the slowest at the 2024 Pennzoil 400. Cue, more changes ahead of Phoenix.

Michael Johnson, Shiloh Windsor, and Jack-Doug Warrick joined in as the new rear changer, front changer, and jackman respectively. But the wait for a first Cup Series win this term is not over. RCR will hope Dillon will have better luck with a change in team personnel.

While Austin Dillon isn’t expected to rake in multiple wins throughout the campaign given the woeful start to his season, but his new partnership with Justin Alexander could salvage his campaign.

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Austin Dillon’s NASCAR Cup Series season so far

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Not everyone is a fan of Austin Dillon driving a race car, but one cannot negate the fact that he has delivered the goods when he is presented with the right tools and resources. Unfortunately, his pairing with Keith Rodden did not materialize, and it is evident that he has struggled to adjust to his tactics since the start of the season.

The start of the 2024 Cup Series season is the worst one Austin Dillon has had in the NextGen era. Back in 2022, at this stage, he had already bagged three top-10 finishes, and despite his struggles in 2023, he managed a top-10 finish after seven races in the season. The only time he’s come close to finishing inside the top 10 was in Las Vegas, where he finished at #16. In seven starts, he hasn’t been on the lead lap once, and surprisingly, he has completed all the races he has started.

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Martinsville Speedway has been kind to Austin Dillon in the past, and he will look to turn a corner with the new changes made to his team personnel and hopefully register his first top-10 finish of the season.

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Written by:

Chintan Devgania

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Chintan Mahesh Devgania is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As someone who likes to dive deep into the sport, he often takes up less explored topics to eventually see them make their way into top stories. His report on Toyota’s young recruit, Jade Avedisian, sharing her thoughts on Late Model Racing, was an example of that.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta