Meendering shifts gears, named Labonte's crew chief

Updated: November 26, 2007, 6:26 PM ET
Associated Press

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Jeff Gordon lost his car chief on Monday when Jeff Meendering joined Petty Enterprises as crew chief for Bobby Labonte.

Meendering began his career at Hendrick Motorsports 13 years ago sweeping floors, and worked his way up to a pivotal role on Gordon's crew. He was the interim crew chief during a six-race stretch this season when Steve Letarte was suspended.

His new job with Petty starts immediately, and he'll accompany Labonte to a tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway next month.

"The opportunity to lead a team with the winning tradition of the 43 car, and work for a legend in Richard Petty, felt like the perfect fit," said Meendering. "Bobby Labonte is a champion and a driver of the highest caliber. I have been fortunate to visit Victory Lane several times with the 24 team, and I fully expect to be a part of getting Bobby and the 43 car there again."

The 30 year old Meendering held a variety of jobs at Hendrick until former crew chief Robbie Loomis tabbed him to work on Gordon's crew.

Now vice president of race operations at Petty, Loomis reached out to Meendering to lead Labonte's team.

"I've known Jeff for many years and I realize how truly lucky we are to have someone of his caliber join our organization," Loomis said. "With the knowledge, experience and leadership he brings to our team I am confident he will be a cornerstone of our organization for years to come."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press