Tony Gibson, crew chief for Ryan Newman and the MOOG chassis parts-equipped No. 39 U.S. Army Veterans Day Tribute Chevrolet, won his first MOOG “Problem Solver of the Race” Award of 2011 in Sunday’s NASCAR Kobalt Tools 500 Sprint Cup contest at Phoenix International Raceway.
Gibson’s win helped Jeff Gordon crew chief Alan Gustafson maintain his slim lead over five competitors in the battle for the prestigious, season-ending MOOG “Problem Solver of the Year” Award. The winner will be determined during next week’s Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
Gibson’s MOOG Problem Solver of the Race Award came after Newman and the No. 39 Chevrolet posted a race-best 0.259-second improvement in average lap speed over the final 166 laps on the newly repaved PIR oval. That boost – driven in large part by Gibson’s ability to maximize the performance of the Impala’s MOOG-equipped chassis – helped Newman pick up 25 positions to finish fifth.
“It was great to see Ryan and Tony return to form with their first top five since MIS in August,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “That was an impressive comeback for the No. 39 – the car was handling beautifully in the second half of the race. Tony had a great feel for this track, which is amazing given all of the changes that have been made since we last raced here.”
Although a winner has not yet been determined for season-ending MOOG Problem Solver honors, what had been an eight-way battle has been pared down to six crew chiefs – Gustafson, Darian Grubb (No. 14 Chevrolet), Steve Letarte (No. 88 Chevrolet), Gil Martin (No. 29 Chevrolet), Bob Osborne (No. 99 Ford), and Paul Wolfe (No. 2 Dodge). Gustafson stands alone with four MOOG Problem Solver weekly wins, while the rest have three apiece. In the case of a tie, the season-ending award goes to the crew chief whose driver has the most Sprint Cup points.
“Next week is going to be an amazing battle – we have three points separating the top two drivers in the Chase and one weekly MOOG win separating six of racing’s finest crew chiefs,” Nelson said. “This time next week there’s going to be a whole lot of celebrating going on, and for good reason.”
MOOG steering and suspension components are the leading choice of NASCAR crew chiefs and automotive repair professionals and have helped drive an unprecedented 45 consecutive NASCAR Cup champions to victory.