Zipadelli to Crew Chief for Patrick in 500
Greg Zipadelli, who won two Cup Series championship and 34 races in 13 years at Joe Gibbs Racing, in the last 48 hours negotiated a release from his JGR contract that allows him to join Stewart-Haas Racing as its competition director, a role that will include working as Danica Patrick's crew chief in her Sprint Cup debut, the 2012 Daytona 500.
Zipadelli comes to SHR from Joe Gibbs Racing where he served as crew chief for the No. 20 team since 1999. It's where the 44-year-old from Berlin, Conn., began a 10-year tenure with Tony Stewart, the co-owner of SHR along with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation.
From 1999 through 2008, Zipadelli was Stewart's crew chief, with the duo winning Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 while claiming 33 victories and 10 poles. When Stewart left JGR following the 2008 season to form SHR, Zipadelli stayed and spent three years as crew chief for Joey Logano, where he helped deliver Logano's first career Cup Series victory in 2009 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"We're very proud to have Greg Zipadelli join Stewart-Haas Racing," said Stewart, the three-time and reigning Cup Series champion. "Greg and I have a long and successful history together. I know him and he knows me, and we both know what it takes to build race teams.
"We took our time in searching for a competition director because it's an important role with a lot of responsibility. Greg knows all that goes into the job, understands the importance of teamwork and communication across all levels of the organization, and is ultimately someone I have a great deal of trust in."
The addition of Zipadelli to the SHR family is a reunion on two fronts -- Stewart, of course, but also with Steve Addington, who spent 2004-2008 at JGR and is now Stewart's crew chief.
"Joe Gibbs always says that you win with people, and Tony Stewart is a winner," Zipadelli said. "We won a lot together at Joe Gibbs Racing, and it was a sad day when he left. But Tony had an unbelievable opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing, and he's obviously made the most of it. To become a part of what he's already built, but to do it in a new role with a new set of responsibilities, was a challenge I wanted. I really appreciate Joe and J.D. Gibbs for all that that they've given me over the years and for allowing me to seize this opportunity."
Zipadelli's career began humbly. His first job in racing was working on a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car owned by his uncle at age seven, and by age 14, he was preparing race cars for his family-owned Sherwood Racing Team.
By the time he was 20, Zipadelli was a championship-winning crew chief, leading Modified Tour driver Mike McLaughlin to the series title on the heels of five wins and 15 top-five finishes. When McLaughlin moved up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with prominent New England car owner Mike Greci, Zipadelli followed and the tandem recorded five wins between 1990 and 1993.
McLaughlin departed Greci's operation at the end of the 1993 season, but Zipadelli stayed with the team and worked with a handful of drivers in 1994 and 1995. Zipadelli's perseverance paid off in 1996 when driver Mike Stefanik joined the team. While no wins were recorded that year, eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes made way for a championship season in 1997. Stefanik marched to the series title that year riding a wave of consistency with two wins, 14 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes, giving Zipadelli his second NASCAR touring series championship in less than a decade.
With two championship rings before age 30, Zipadelli headed south in January 1998 to join Roush Fenway Racing's Sprint Cup operation as the chassis specialist for the No. 99 team of then driver Jeff Burton. As Burton won two races, earned 18 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes and finished fifth in points, Zipadelli's talent was noticed.
In late 1998 when team owner Joe Gibbs began laying the groundwork for a second team with Stewart behind the wheel, he tabbed Zipadelli to be the No. 20 team's crew chief. Now, after 13 highly successful years at JGR, Zipadelli's career ascension continues with his new role as competition director at SHR.