NASCAR makes changes to competition team for 2023

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Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

With the 2023 season looming, NASCAR has made various changes to its competition department. Most notably, former driver Elton Sawyer will assume the role of Senior Vice President of Competition, which entails overseeing all on-track activities, inspection, and officiating across the Cup, Xfinity, and Craftsman Truck Series.

Sawyer was a longtime veteran of the Xfinity Series, racing from 1983 to 2002 with two wins and multiple top-five points finishes. After ending his driving career, he remained involved in racing as the competition director of Team Red Bull and Evernham Motorsports. He was hired by NASCAR in 2015 as the Truck Series’ managing director before taking over as the head of technical inspection.

“I have been a proud member of this extraordinary team for eight years, and I look forward to continuing to help grow the outstanding competition we’ve seen over the last several seasons,” Sawyer stated. “NASCAR racing has been my life for decades. I have a deep passion for the sport, and am honored to be in a position to help shepherd the competition team during these exciting times.”

Sawyer replaces Scott Miller, who has worked for NASCAR since 2015. Miller will remain involved as Competition Strategist, focusing on developing major events.

NASCAR also promoted John Probst to Chief Racing Development Officer and a trio of Eric Jacuzzi, John Patalak, and Brandon Thomas to Vice President roles within the competition team. Jacuzzi will be the Vice President of Vehicle Performance, while Patalak and Thomas are the VP of Safety Engineering and VP of Vehicle Design, respectively.

Probst was most recently the Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, who helped to develop the Cup Series’ Next Gen car. He worked alongside Sawyer at Team Red Bull followed by a stint at Chip Ganassi Racing as Technical Director before joining NASCAR.

Jacuzzi was an aerodynamic engineer for NASCAR and Richard Childress Racing. He has overseen the aerodynamic development of the Next Gen car and will also do the same for the modified Next Gen vehicle set to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Patalak is the longest employed member of those with new jobs, having worked for NASCAR’s Research & Development Center since 2005. He is involved with the safety team and investigates wrecks and safety concerns.

“Elton Sawyer has shown incredible versatility throughout his four-plus decades in motorsports,” said NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell. “Following his lengthy driving career, Elton held key leadership positions for several race teams and here at NASCAR for the last eight seasons. He will excel in this role, and we look forward to watching him continue to grow the competition team during this crucial era in our sport’s history.

“We are thrilled that Scott Miller has chosen to remain a key part of the NASCAR Competition team. When he joined NASCAR in 2016, Scott lent immediate credibility to the position. A trusted voice in the garage, Scott used his decades of experience to lead our competition team to new heights during a time that saw a new race format, a new playoff format and a new race car. The mark he leaves on the organization is significant.

“John Probst’s leadership and tireless devotion in the development of the Next Gen car over the last three years has been extraordinary. This project was among the most challenging and important endeavors in NASCAR history, and leaders like Probst, Dr. Eric Jacuzzi, Dr. John Patalak, Brandon Thomas and many others worked incredibly hard to not only put this car on the race track, but to make it a success for our industry and our fans.”

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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