A significant milestone achievement is in the making for Drew Blickensderfer, 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 Cup event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Blickensderfer will call his 400th race as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier series.
A native of Mount Zion, Illinois, Blickensderfer, who grew up interested in racing and had a brief career as a modified racer before relocating to North Carolina and working as a crew member for Dale Earnhardt Inc., Bill Davis Racing and Roush Racing, became a crew chief for the first time during the 2006 Xfinity Series season when he worked atop the pit box of the No. 50 Roush Racing Ford team driven by Danny O’Quinn Jr. He then remained as an Xfinity crew chief for the newly named Roush Fenway Racing in 2007, where he led the No. 17 Ford team to his first two career victories as a crew chief with Matt Kenseth piloting the ride. After commencing the 2008 season as a crew chief for the No. 17 entry, where he went to Victory Lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Kenseth in March, he made a mid-season swap to Roush’s No. 60 Ford team that was being piloted by Carl Edwards. With Edwards behind the wheel, Blickensderfer led the No. 60 team to seven victories and a runner-up result in the 2008 Xfinity drivers’ standings.
In 2009, Blickensderfer graduated to the NASCAR Cup Series to work as a crew chief for the 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion team. In his first appearance as a Cup crew chief, Blickensderfer achieved his first career win in the rain-shortened 51st running of the Daytona 500, which marked the first 500 victory for both Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing. The duo then went two-for-two early in the 2009 season after Kenseth held off Jeff Gordon to win at Auto Club Speedway during the following weekend. Their flawless start to the season, however, came to an end during the following weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when Kenseth retired in 43rd place, dead last, due to an early engine failure. Then for the remaining 23 regular season events, the No. 17 team led by Blickensderfer only achieved seven additional top-10 results as they slipped out of the top-12 postseason cutline during the regular season finale at Richmond Raceway in September and resulted with Kenseth failing to make the Cup Series Playoffs for the first time in his career. Kenseth and Blickensderfer went on to record three top-three results during the final 10 events before finishing in 14th place in the final standings.
Early in the 2010 Cup Series season, Blickensderfer was replaced by veteran Todd Parrott despite guiding Kenseth to an eighth-place result during the 52nd running of the Daytona 500 in February. Seven months later, he returned as a crew chief for David Ragan and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion team, beginning at Kansas Speedway. Blickensderfer served as Ragan’s crew chief for six of the final eight scheduled events as they achieved a season-best result of eighth place at Texas Motor Speedway in November before Ragan finished in 24th place in the final standings.
Blickensderfer remained as Ragan’s crew chief for the 2011 Cup Series season. During the 53rd running of the Daytona 500, Ragan was in position to win until he was penalized for a late restart violation, where he swapped lanes from the top to the bottom prior to reaching the start/finish line to restart the event. The penalty sent him to the rear of the field as he ended up in 14th place in the final running order. Blickensderfer and Ragan then recorded four top-10 results, including a runner-up result in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, during the following 15 scheduled events. They also managed to earn a victory in the non-points All-Star Open at Charlotte in May that allowed Ragan to compete in his first All-Star Race, where he finished eighth. Then when NASCAR returned to Daytona in July, Ragan redeemed himself by claiming the Coke Zero 400 and notching his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series. The victory also snapped Blickensderfer’s 57-race winless drought dating back to February 2009. For the remainder of the season, however, the duo earned only three additional results in the top 10 and did not make the Playoffs as Ragan fell back to 23rd place in the final standings.
For the 2012 Cup season, Blickensderfer transitioned from Roush Fenway Racing to Richard Childress Racing, where he served as a crew chief for veteran Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Chevrolet Impala team. The duo earned a fifth-place result during the 54th running of the Daytona 500 before finishing sixth at Bristol Motor Speedway three races later. Despite achieving a runner-up result at Daytona in July, Burton and Blickensderfer struggled with consistency as they did not make the Playoffs. Then with three races remaining to the season, Blickensderfer moved to Richard Petty Motorsports to serve as crew chief for Australia’s Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Ford Fusion team. During the three-race stint, the new duo managed a season-best result of 13th place during the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November before Ambrose finished in 18th place in the final standings, one spot ahead of Jeff Burton. By then, Blickensderfer surpassed 100 career events as a Cup Series crew chief.
Blickensderfer remained as Ambrose’s crew chief for the following two seasons. During the two seasons, the duo earned a pole, three top-five results and 13 top-10 results with Ambrose’s best points result being 22nd in 2013. Their best on-track moment during the two-year stretch was at Watkins Glen International in August 2014, where Ambrose settled in second place following a late battle with eventual winner AJ Allmendinger.
Ten races into the 2015 Cup Series season, Blickensderfer was a crew chief for Sam Hornish Jr., who replaced Ambrose in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion but finished no higher than sixth place at Talladega Superspeedway in early May. After being replaced by veteran crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion in May, Blickensderfer did not return as a Cup Series crew chief until late into the 2016 season, where he worked atop the No. 43 RPM Ford Fusion pit box piloted by Aric Almirola. Appearing in seven of the final eight scheduled events, Almirola and Blickensderfer finished no higher than eighth place, which occurred at Talladega in October, before Almirola finished in 26th place in the final standings for a second consecutive season. By then, Blickensderfer surpassed 200 Cup career events as a crew chief.
Remaining as Almirola’s crew chief, Blickensderfer commenced the 2017 Cup season with a fourth-place result in the 59th running of the Daytona 500. Nine races later at Talladega in May, however, Blickensderfer was hit with a three-race suspension and a $65,000 fine due to Almirola’s fourth-place car failing post-race inspection. By the time Blickensderfer returned atop the No. 43 paddock, Almirola was absent and recovering from injuries sustained from a harrowing wreck at Kansas Speedway in May. At Pocono Raceway in June, Blickensderfer worked with Bubba Wallace, who finished 26th in his Cup debut. After spending the following four scheduled events working with Wallace and road-ringer Billy Johnson, Blickensderfer reunited with Almirola at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. The duo, however, could not generate on-track consistency for the remainder of the regular season stretch as they missed the Playoffs. They went on to finish in the top 10 three times during the final 10 events before Almirola settled in 29th place in the final standings.
For the 2018 Cup Series season, Blickensderfer was paired with Bubba Wallace, who took over the No. 43 RPM Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and contended for the Rookie-of-the-Year title. During the 60th running of the Daytona 500, Wallace rubbed fenders with Denny Hamlin to earn a strong runner-up result by a nose. Blickensderfer and Wallace would proceed to finish in the top 10 on two additional occasions for the remainder of the season as Wallace settled in 28th place in the final standings and a runner-up to the Rookie-of-the-Year title behind William Byron.
In 2019, Blickensderfer departed Richard Petty Motorsports and joined Front Row Motorsports to serve as a crew chief for Michael McDowell and the No. 34 Ford Mustang team. The new duo earned a strong fifth-place result during the 61st running of the Daytona 500 before earning one additional top-five result at Talladega in October and finishing in 27th place in the final standings. By then, Blickensderfer surpassed 300 Cup career events as a crew chief.
Despite finishing in 16th place during the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 in 2020, Blickensderfer and McDowell doubled their top-10 results from the previous season to four and boosted their final standings result by four places to 23rd.
Then in 2021, Blickensderfer etched his name as a two-time Daytona 500 winning crew chief and returned to Victory Lane after McDowell dodged a multi-car melee on the final lap to take the lead at the moment of caution and claim his first victory in his 358th career start in NASCAR’s premier series. The Daytona 500 victory along with four additional results in the top 10 during the 26-race regular season stretch were enough for McDowell to claim a spot for the 2021 Cup Playoffs, which marked Blickensderfer’s first postseason appearance as a Cup Series crew chief. The duo’s run for the title, however, came to an early end during the Round of 16 after McDowell finished 37th, 28th and 24th respectively. Finishing no higher than 16th place twice during the final seven events, McDowell settled in a career-best 16th place in the final standings.
Following a three-year stint at Front Row Motorsports, Blickensderfer announced his departure from the team in December 2021. A month later, he was announced as a crew chief for Almirola, who was set to retire as a full-time competitor following the 2022 season, and the No. 10 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing. The move marked a reunion for both the crew chief and the driver since 2017. Through the first half of the 2022 Cup season, Blickensderfer and Almirola have achieved two top-five results and five top-10 results. Despite being ranked in 12th place in the regular season standings, they trail the cutline to qualify for the 2022 Cup Playoffs by 47 points with eight regular season events remaining to the schedule.
Through 399 previous appearances, Blickensderfer has achieved four victories, four poles, 26 top-five results and 68 top-10 results while working with nine different competitors.
Blickensderfer is scheduled to call his 400th Cup Series career event at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 10, at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.