- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Richard Childress predicted at the start of the season one of his drivers would win NASCAR’s championship.

So after falling short for a second consecutive season, Kevin Harvick will have a new crew in 2012.

Richard Childress Racing announced Wednesday that Shane Wilson will replace Gil Martin as crew chief of Harvick’s No. 29 team. Martin, who had been Harvick’s crew chief since May 2009, was moved to director of team operations.

Kevin came to me after the Phoenix race a couple weeks ago and asked for a change in the leadership of his team for the 2012 season,” Childress said in a statement. “The expectations at RCR are to win championships, so the decision was made to move Shane Wilson.”

Wilson spent the last three seasons as crew chief for Clint Bowyer. That team is shutting down with Bowyer’s move to Michael Waltrip Racing, although the No. 33 is expected to run select events with Truck Series champion Austin Dillon, Childress‘ grandson.

Wilson and Harvick worked together in the Nationwide Series in 2006, winning 10 races, scoring 24 top-five finishes and winning the title by a record 824 points.

Shane is a good friend of mine and we had a lot of success together in the NASCAR Nationwide Series,” said Harvick. “He has a lot of experience now in the Sprint Cup Series and I look forward to working with him again.”

Harvick finished third to Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, and Childress was certain at least one of his drivers would make a run at the title this year and dethrone five-time champion Johnson.

Instead, only Harvick qualified for the Chase. Although he opened it tied with Kyle Busch for the top seed, he finished third again in the final standings.

This marks the third crew chief change since the season ended Sunday at Homestead. Steve Addington quit as Kurt Busch’s crew chief this week, and Chip Ganassi Racing lured engineer Chris Heroy away from Hendrick Motorsports to crew chief Juan Pablo Montoya next season.

Also, three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart is in limbo: He told Darian Grubb he was being let go as crew chief before Grubb rallied Stewart to the title.


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