I like Steve a lot and was pretty excited when he was named Tony's crew chief, but the results just haven't been there once it came time for his notebook to lead the way. After they won two of the first five last year and looked like world beaters, they just haven't been as good as they need to be. I don't put all the blame on Steve, I think it's stupid how folks are so fired up to change the crew chief every time things aren't going well for their particular driver, as though plugging a new person atop the box is going to be the magic remedy. It seldom is. I didn't see the 39 lighting the world on fire, either. The equipment has got to be there for the crew chief to be able to do his job. The days of having a genius on the box and making chicken salad out of chicken crap are long gone.
That being said, I'm gonna trust Tony and the braintrust's judgement. If Tony didn't feel like they were communicating well enough or that Steve was adept enough at giving him what he needs to be competitive, then there has to be a change. Whoever it is, whether it's Chad Johnston or somebody else, hopefully he and Tony can get on the same page quickly.
Being realistic, the early weeks of 2014 have the potential to be just as rough as this year, if the team hasn't got things where they need it and Tony and a new crew chief go through strong growing pains. On top of that, he's the best race driver on the planet but he hasn't driven since August, who knows what if any amount of time it will take Tony to re-acclimate himself. The Gen 6 car, being so new, is constantly evolving so what he drove at Pocono the day before the accident is liable to be a bit different than what he runs once they get past Daytona. I do believe firmly that he can still win the Daytona 500, though. And I think that eventually they will get it to where they need it. They seemed right on the edge before he got hurt.
"This one's for every one of those fans in the stands that pull for me every week and take all the bull**** from everybody else." - Tony Stewart, July 29, 2007