The news of Todd Gordon retiring from crew chief duties came as a minor shock, but to be fair I think that the writing was on the wall for a change to be made soon. Given the upcoming roster reshuffle that Keselowski’s departure is causing, there was the potential for team shifts and crew chief swaps. This retirement guarantees that Blaney will have a new crew chief in 2022.
This probably comes at a good time, because Blaney is in dire need of a change. This is a guy that has been on the brink of a championship season for the last couple of years but has been unable to breakthrough. Right now, he sits in an awkward spot in the NASCAR competitive field. He has won a race in the last five years, and has finished in the top ten in the standings the last four seasons, and is consistently competitive on every type of track,
The big question mark is the fact that other drivers around his age like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, and William Byron have started to show that next step. His stats at this stage of his career are significantly less than that of Harvick, Keselowski, Logano, or even someone like Newman. Everybody develops at their own pace, but when you compare stats it can start to be concerning if you’re a Blaney fan.
He still shows the potential to compete at the rate of anyone in the field, but something is missing. Perhaps he’s still looking for the right pairing to help him take that next step. Here are three candidates for his new crew chief in 2022.
#3: Matt Swirdeski
Swirdeski has served as Blaney’s crew chief twice in the Xfinity Series where they combined for a 4th at Watkins Glen along with a pole and 3rd place finish at Darlington, a track Blaney has had struggles on in Cup. So, while there isn’t a long rapport, there is established success.
In 51 Xfinity starts as a crew chief, he has 11 top fives and 30 top tens along with three poles. This season he has made 4 Cup starts for Kaulig Racing where he has scored an impressive 1 top fives and 3 top tens. This season in total he has also served as crew chief for Ty Dillon in Xfinity where he scored a 7th place finish. He has not crew chiefed full-time since 2017, which is why he’s not my first choice, but his resume is impressive.
#2: Jeremy Bullins
I think that the Todd Gordon switch proved that Bullins was not an issue. The switch seems to have caused a small regression. Blaney’s 2020 season was a small regression from his 2019 season with Bullins, and this season he is on pace to once again fall short of his last season with Bullins.
I think that with Brad Keselowski leaving and Gordon leaving, it opens up the opportunity for a reunion, and I think it’d be interesting to see them pick up where they left off. Bullins is showing success with Keselowski, and his 2020 season was one of his best. This season they’ve had some issues, but there is a chance that Keselowski’s upcoming departure could have something to do with that.
#1: Brian Wilson
Wilson is coming off a championship season with Austin Cindric in Xfinity and is looking to repeat if their season continues on this track. In 6 Xfinity starts with Blaney they managed 1 win 5 top fives and 5 top tens. They had a good amount of success together and Wilson seems to be in line for a promotion. In his overall career, he’s started on the box 146 times and had 22 wins, 78 top fives, 112 top tens, and 13 poles. His average race finish with all his drivers combined is 8.5. In Cup, he has had 4 starts with Brad Keselowski and had 3 top fives and 4 top tens with an average finish of 3.5.
More than likely Wilson could be looking to get promoted to Cup along with Cindric next season, especially if Cindric moves straight to Penske. With the firing of Greg Erwin and the replacement of Jonathan Hassler, it seems the Wood Brothers might have something specific in mind for their crew chief situation.