Chad Johnston, crew chief for driver Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, became the 10th crew chief to win the prestigious Moog Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Race” Award in 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts this year following Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Johnston received his award after the 56 team survived an early accident, a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay and near darkness in the closing laps to finish seventh on Talladega’s 2.66-mile track.
Sponsored by Moog steering and suspension components manufacturer Federal-Mogul Corporation, the Moog “Problem Solver” award is presented after each Sprint Cup event to the crew chief whose car posts the greatest improvement in average lap time over the second half while finishing on the lead lap. The 56 Toyota was one of the few cars to improve its performance – by 0.010-second per lap – in the rapidly cooling temperatures brought on by a string of thunderstorms moving through the region throughout the day.
“We had everything – rain, hail, lightning and a couple of ‘Big Ones,’ but Chad and Martin just held on and waited for the race to come to them,” said Federal-Mogul motorsports director Tim Nelson. “This was the sort of day where you just throw out the playbook, yet Chad somehow kept finding the right setup for his Moog-equipped steering and suspension following each delay.”
Johnston was challenged early when the 56 Toyota was collected in a multi-car accident on Lap 43, but the car’s MOoog steering and suspension components withstood the punishment and the Michael Waltrip Racing crew quickly addressed other damage to avoid falling a lap down. From there it was up to Truex and Johnston – now in their third season together – to identify necessary adjustments in the highly variable weather conditions.
“A lot of credit goes to Chad for having the car handling so well at the end when the field was running three wide in near darkness. That helped Martin avoid the final pileup and come out of Talladega with a hard-earned top 10,” Nelson said.
With the seventh-place finish, the 56 team moved up two spots, to 13th, in Sprint Cup points.