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Job Security? Not if you're a NASCAR crew chief. Just ask Mike Ford, the latest man shuffled out

  Denny Hamlin (L) and crew chief Mike Ford, in happier times (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   In the latest chapter of the NASCAR world's What Have You Done For Me Lately, team owner Joe Gibbs announced Tuesday evening that he was releasing Denny Hamlin's crew chief, Mike Ford. 
   One year ago Ford and Hamlin were on the verge of dethroning Jimmie Johnson as Sprint Cup champion, with just two races to go, when they misgauged the fuel mileage finish at Phoenix.

   How much that mistake played on the team this past season is unclear, but Hamlin and Ford never really caught fire. They did win at Michigan in June, and they did make the playoffs. But they were far off their game most weeks.
   However the rest of the Gibbs operation wasn't 100 percent in 2011 either. Teammate Kyle Busch did win four times, but his season began to fall apart in September, and then he was suspended from the Texas race.
   And Toyota, Gibbs' manufacturing partner, had issues too, particularly in the engine department.
   Gibbs offered no specific reasons for dropping Ford: "Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing appreciates what Mike has done for our organization over the past six seasons as crew chief. We've decided it was best to make a change with the team now to allow Mike the opportunity to pursue other opportunities."
   And Gibbs said he would have "no immediate announcement regarding a replacement crew chief."
   Ford joins a long list of top crew chiefs leaving the box: Gil Martin has been shuffled out at Richard Childress'; Todd Berrier was earlier shuffled out at Childress'; Steve Addington has left Kurt Busch and Roger Penske to take over Tony Stewart's team, after Stewart decided to drop Darian Grubb; Drew Blickensderfer has left the Jack Roush camp to join Childress and Jeff Burton; Brian Pattie has moved from the Chip Ganassi-Juan Pablo Montoya camp to the Michael Waltrip-Clint Bowyer team.
   And among other crew chiefs still with an unsettled future is Red Bull's Ryan Pemberton. And there has been speculation that crew chief Greg Zipadelli might be leaving the Gibbs-Joey Logano team to join Stewart's team as competition director.
   There are no indications where Ford might go.

   Mike Ford: Next? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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