FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass provided the news on September 19 ahead of the Round of 12 opening race at Texas Motor Speedway. This means that front changer Thomas Hatcher, tire carrier Lee Cunningham, rear changer CJ Bailey, jackman Kellen Mills, and fueler Matthew Tyrrell will move over to the No. 11 team.
In return, Hamlin’s crew will join Busch for the remaining races. The two-time Cup Series champion will work with front changer Blake Houston, tire carrier Jacob Holmes, rear changer Michael Hicks, jackman Derrell Edwards, and fueler Justin White as he tries to finish out his tenure at JGR on a positive note.
The Change Coincides With a Playoff Elimination
The change comes after the Round of 16 cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch’s engine expired and knocked him out of the race, which ultimately led to him being eliminated from championship contention.
Hamlin, for comparison, dealt with some steering issues of his own while trying to accrue points. He was able to complete the race at Bristol Motor Speedway and turn in a ninth-place finish. Though he had to back up into his pit stall on the final stop due to a loose wheel, which meant he left pit road in the 12th position.
Hamlin and teammate Christopher Bell are still both in contention for a spot in the championship four. They will start the Round of 12 at Texas Motor Speedway while trying to gain an early advantage with either a lot of points or the all-important win. They will then head to wild cards in Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Roval.
Busch’s Crew Has Been Statistically Strong
There will be obvious questions about the reason for the pit crew swap, especially in the wake of Busch announcing that he will join Richard Childress Racing after the 2022 season.
One reason why JGR would make the change is that Busch’s team has been the best in the Cup Series throughout the season. His tire changers, jackman, and tire carrier all sit atop the power rankings from Asphalt Analytics.
Additionally, Busch’s team enters the Texas weekend with the most pit stops under nine seconds (six). The closest crew is the No. 14 team at Stewart-Haas Racing, which has turned in three stops in under nine seconds. The No. 19 and No. 20 teams at Joe Gibbs Racing have each turned in two stops in under nine seconds.
Hamlin’s crew, for comparison, has turned in some strong performances during the 2022 season. They helped the veteran driver get off pit road ahead of Kevin Harvick during the first trip to Richmond Raceway, which played a role in Hamlin’s first win of the year. Rear changer Michael Hicks, in particular, landed second overall on the power rankings (four-race average) entering the month of September.
While there have been some big moments, there have also been some struggles. Hamlin’s crew has derailed some strong performances with some ill-timed mistakes.
This includes the return to Richmond Raceway when the final stop took four or five seconds longer and erased an opportunity to battle Harvick for the win, as well as a trip to Kansas Speedway where an equipment interference penalty sent Hamlin to the rear of the field. Though he recovered and finished second overall.