A significant milestone start is in the making for Mike “Buga” Bugarewicz, crew chief for Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang team in the NASCAR Cup Series. By participating in this weekend’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bugarewicz will call his 200th Cup career race as a crew chief.
A native from Lehighton, Pennsylvania, Bugarewicz earned a B.S. and a M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State before joining Roush Fenway Racing as an engineer in December 2005, which marked the beginning of his racing career. From 2006 to 2013, Bugarewicz worked as an engineer within the Roush organization, where he also worked with names like Danny O’Quinn, David Ragan, Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
In 2014, Bugarewicz became a lead race engineer for veteran driver Kevin Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team. The season was one to remember for Bugarewicz as Harvick, who was in his first season with SHR, captured five victories, eight poles, 14 top-five results, 20 top-10 results and the season’s Cup championship.
Following a productive 2015 season with Harvick, where Harvick won three races before settling in second place in the final standings, Bugarewicz was named a Cup Series crew chief for three-time champion Tony Stewart and the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet team for the 2016 season, which marked Stewart’s final full-time season as a NASCAR competitor. A month prior to the season, however, Stewart suffered a back injury after being involved in a sand buggy accident outside of San Diego. With Stewart hospitalized and forced to miss the early portion of the upcoming season, Bugarewicz spent the first eight Cup events of the season and of his career with Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon. During this span, Vickers, who made five starts, finished as high as seventh at Martinsville Speedway in April while Dillon, who competed in the other three events, finished as high as 15th at Phoenix Raceway in March.
At Richmond Raceway in April, Stewart was medically cleared to return to racing. In his first race with Bugarewicz, Stewart finished 19th. The following race at Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart, with relief help from Ty Dillon, was credited with a sixth-place result before he competed the following six races through the entire distance.
Then at Sonoma Raceway in June, Bugarewicz achieved his first NASCAR victory as a crew chief when Stewart prevailed over a late battle with former teammate Denny Hamlin to snap an 84-race winless drought and collect his 49th Cup career win, a victory that also placed the No. 14 team in a guaranteed spot to make the Playoffs. After winning at Sonoma, Bugarewicz and Stewart earned four top-five results and recorded enough points through the final 10 regular-season events to secure their spot in the 2016 Cup Playoffs. Their run in the Playoffs, however, came to an end following the Playoff’s Round of 16, where Stewart finished 16th, 23rd and 13th in a three-race postseason stretch and missed the cutline to the Round of 12. Bugarewicz and Stewart went on to finish in 15th place in the final standings.
Bugarewicz remained as crew chief for SHR’s No. 14 team in 2017 with the organization swapping manufacturers from Chevrolet to Ford. With Stewart retired, Bugarewicz was paired with veteran Clint Bowyer, who was named Stewart’s successor of the No. 14 car. Participating in all but two of the 36-race schedule, Bugarewicz and Bowyer achieved six top-five results, 13 top-10 results and an average result of 15.0. They, however, did not make the Playoffs as Bowyer settled in 18th place in the final standings.
Following the first five events of the 2018 Cup season, Bugarewicz returned to Victory Lane when Bowyer scored a dominating win at Martinsville Speedway, the sixth event of the schedule, in March and snapped a 190-race winless drought. Ten races later, they won for the second time of the season at Michigan International Speedway in June, which was a rain-shortened event. Making the 2018 Cup Playoffs, Bugarewicz and Bowyer remained in title contention through the Round of 8, where they fell short of making the Championship Round and contending for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. Nonetheless, Bugarewicz and Bowyer achieved two victories, nine top-five results and 16 top-10 results before finishing in 12th place in the final standings.
Remaining as crew chief for Bowyer and SHR’s No. 14 Ford team in 2019, Bugarewicz guided the driver and team to a pole, seven top-five results, 18 top-10 results and through the first two rounds of the Playoffs before finishing in ninth place in the final standings. By then, Bugarewicz had called more than 100 Cup races as a crew chief.
For the 2020 season, Stewart-Haas Racing reshuffled most of its crew chief lineup, placing Bugarewicz as crew chief for Aric Almirola and the No. 10 SHR Ford Mustang team for the upcoming season. Bugarewicz achieved a second consecutive consistent season as he led Almirola to six top-five results, 18 top-10 results and through the first two rounds of the Playoffs before settling in 15th place in the final standings.
Thus far, Bugarewicz and Almirola have recorded a pole, one top-five result and two top-10 results through the first 21 Cup races of the 2021 season. They also achieved a victory in the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel event at Daytona International Speedway in February and the NASCAR All-Star Open at Texas Motor Speedway in June. They are currently ranked in 27th place in the regular-season standings.
Through 199 previous Cup appearances, Bugarewicz has achieved three victories, two poles, 34 top-five results and 76 top-10 results while working with five different competitors.
Bugarewicz is set to call his 200th Cup race as a crew chief at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 18, with the race scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.