Borland accepts tech job, then leaves Waltrip Racing
Matt Borland leaves Michael Waltrip Racing, then Dale Jarrett fails to qualify for a Nextel Cup race for the first time since 1994.
RICHMOND, Va. -- Dale Jarrett has been through arguably more crew chiefs the past five years than anybody in the Nextel Cup Series, but the 1999 champion doesn't believe the most recent should count against him.
Jarrett said Matt Borland was asked to step down this past week because he was needed to help coordinate all three teams at Michael Waltrip Racing, not because he couldn't work with him as a crew chief.
A look at the crew chiefs 1999 champion Dale Jarrett has gone through since the 2002 Nextel Cup season:
|2002||Todd Parrott, Jimmy Elledge|
|2003||Shawn Parker, Brad Parrott, Garth Finley|
|2004||Shawn Parker, Mike Ford|
|2005||Mike Ford, Bill Wilburn, Todd Parrott|
|2006||Richard "Slugger" Labbe, Butch Hylton|
|2007||Matt Borland, Jason Burdett|
"This wasn't originated just to be a crew chief change because Matt Borland couldn't get it done," Jarrett said before failing to qualify for Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway, the first time since Oct. 2, 1994 that he didn't make the field.
"We were looking to strengthen our entire organization."
Ty Norris, the general manager for MWR, wouldn't get into specifics about Borland's change of heart.
"Matt has a difficult time with the entire industry right now," he said "Other than that, I don't need to put words in his mouth."
Borland left Penske Racing after the 2006 season after being replaced late in the year as Ryan Newman's crew chief. Penske officials said Borland stepped aside because he wanted to spend more time at home with his family.
But when offered that opportunity at MWR Borland opted to leave.
"Go back and find out what Matt said about that situation," said Norris, referring to comments by Borland that being a technical director at Penske wasn't an option.
"That's why I won't put words in his mouth, because someone else did, and I don't think it was fair to him."
Borland has not returned phone calls since it became public that he would be replaced by Jason Burdett, who left Robert Yates Racing on Wednesday to join Jarrett.
Burdett will take over the team for next weekend's race at Darlington,
Not counting Derrick Finley, who came to Richmond as the interim crew chief, Jarrett has had 11 crew chiefs since the 2002 season and has had at least two crew chiefs every year during that time, including three in 2003 and 2005.
Nine of those were with RYR the past four seasons.
Jarrett isn't concerned, saying if it takes 42 crew chiefs to turn things around he'll continue to look for answers.
"It's about getting all the people put into position," said Jarrett, who has to qualify on time until he gets back in the top 35 in owner's points because he has used all six of his past champion's provisionals. "This is about building an organization.
"I know y'all have written it before and you can write it again that I'm hard to get along with. I'm not that hard to get along with, I will assure you. But I am demanding in the fact you work your tail off. ... It's about getting the whole package. It's not about one person."
Norris said finding the right person to become technical director will be key, reminding the people in that position at other top organizations are what make the top crew chiefs look good.
"As I told [Matt], crew chiefs are only as good as the products delivered to them to go to the racetrack," Norris said. "He's been working a hundred hours for us. He's about as first-class and smart of a guy as I've ever met."
Norris said Borland's contract actually called for him to become a technical director after two years.
"When this came up three weeks ago, Matt's comment was, 'I don't want to leave the team now when it's just starting to get sea legs,' " Norris said. "So we decided to wait two or three more weeks.
"When we got to Talladega there were issues that happened from preparation, not at the track. So we went to Matt about doing that."
Norris said Borland accepted the position Monday night.
"After eight hours of discussions over two days, on Wednesday afternoon he decided he did not want to accept that role," he said.
This was another setback in a season of setbacks for Toyota's marquee organization.
The year began with Waltrip having his crew chief, David Hyder, and director of competition, Bobby Kennedy, suspended indefinitely by NASCAR after an unidentified substance was found in Waltrip's engine before qualifying for the Daytona 500.
Hyder has since been released from the organization.
Waltrip has now failed to qualify for nine consecutive races. He also was charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident after a late-night crash during an off weekend.
Those events led to speculation that Waltrip would step down as the driver and that NAPA was wavering on its commitment as a primary sponsor.
Norris said NAPA officials recently said they were committed to Waltrip for the two years on the contract and that Waltrip isn't about to quit.
Jarrett, 50, also isn't ready to quit even though the season has led to a lot of sleepless nights.
"I just don't have it in my makeup to quit or say I don't want to do this anymore," Jarrett said. "That's not going to happen. When I do retire and I'm old -- older -- I'll have plenty of time to sleep then."
Norris has had his share of sleepless nights, as well. He recently woke up on his couch at 4 a.m. and e-mailed one of his vice presidents.
"And he responded immediately, because that son of a [gun] was sitting there at 4 o'clock in the morning, too, scratching his head," Norris said. "You're damn right this is tough."
Norris is confident things eventually will turn around. He said the company has hired a "brilliant" engineer in Carl Goodman, who eventually could fill the role Borland turned down.
"But it takes a while to become the person like a Matt, who is obviously very well-educated, very engrained with what happens," Norris said. "He can do it if he has this type of application period.
"But we have to find somebody for that technical director role, and it is a very, very difficult role to fill."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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