Crew chief changes for Stewart’s final season

Tribune staff reports

Even at the end, it’s still going to feel a little bit new for Tony Stewart.

With his final season on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series approaching, Stewart announced the appointment of a new crew chief Monday. Michael Bugarewicz, who previously served as the race engineer for Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, was promoted to replace Chad Johnston.

Johnston departed last week to become Kyle Larson’s crew chief for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Bugarewicz helped Harvick win the Sprint Cup title in 2014.

“We have great people at Stewart-Haas Racing, and these changes prove that,” Stewart said in a statement. “We were able to promote from within while also adding new talent.”

A native of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, the 33-year-old Bugarewicz earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State in 2005. He joined the Roush-Fenway Racing team as an engineer after graduation.

While welcoming his new crew chief, Stewart also noted that he has no ill will toward Johnston.

“Change isn’t easy, and that’s particularly true when it comes to my relationship with Chad Johnston,” Stewart said. “He served as my crew chief during two very difficult seasons. He was always supportive, and he’s become like a brother to me. I think very highly of Chad and wish him nothing but the best in his new opportunity.”

Stewart, 44, who is retiring after the 2016 season, last won the Sprint Cup title in 2011. He also won championships in 2002 and 2005 and was named the Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1999.

He enters his final campaign with 48 career Sprint Cup victories, 300 top-10 finishes and 15 poles. Prior to becoming a full-time Sprint Cup driver, Stewart also won the 1997 Indy Racing League championship, making him the only driver in history to win IndyCar and NASCAR titles.

Stewart-Haas Racing also announced Monday that Billy Scott would take over as the crew chief for Danica Patrick. He had worked as a crew chief with Michael Waltrip Racing last season.