Stewart-Haas Racing has made changes to Kevin Harvick’s pit crew ahead of Sunday’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway (5 pm ET on NBC), the team confirmed.
The move comes following critical comments by Harvick about the pit crew in two of the last three races. The former Cup champion trails teammate Aric Almirola by seven points for what would be the final playoff spot. Ten races remain in the regular season.
“We need to win a race,” crew chief Rodney Childers told NBC Sports. “We kind of feel like if you don’t win a race, you might not get in (the playoffs). You can’t really give up a lot of spots on pit road and still try to win races.”
Daniel Coffey becomes the front tire changer for Harvick’s team. Brandon Banks is the team’s new jackman. Daniel Smith (rear tire changer), Jeremy Howard (tire carrier) and Evan Marchal (fueler) remain on the team.
Coffey and Banks both come from teammate Chase Briscoe’s pit crew. Briscoe has a win that puts him in a playoff spot.
Shayne Pipala, who had been the front tire changer on Harvick’s team, moves to Briscoe’s team. Stan Doolittle, who had been the jackman for Harvick’s team, moves to the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing team of Cody Ware. Stewart-Haas Racing supplies pit crew members for RWR.
One other change is that Matthew Schlytter takes over as jackman for Briscoe’s team. He had most recently been on the crew servicing Ware’s car.
Harvick’s frustration with his pit crew’s performance has been building in recent weeks.
After placing fourth at Sonoma two weeks ago, Harvick called out the pit crew’s struggles, saying: “We had our minimum of once-a-week catastrophic failure on pit road and got back as far forward as we could, as usual. It is what it is, I guess.”
Asked what he needed for a better finish, Harvick said: “Something that wasn’t a 20-second pit stop.”
His final pit stop at Sonoma was 22 seconds, according to Racing Insights. He had been running third before the final pit stop. After the pit cycle ended, he was seventh.
He also expressed his frustration with the crew after finishing third in the Coca-Cola 600: “We went to the back five times for bad pit stops. … after I hit the wall I got a lot tighter and then every time we’d make it up, we’d just fall on our face on pit road and go to the back again.”