Kyle Busch Motorsports has finalized their 2016 driver – crew chief lineups, which includes the returns of Ryan ‘Rudy’ Fugle and Jerry Baxter. Their newest crew chief addition of Kevin ‘Bono’ Manion, however, may just take the powerhouse Truck Series team to new heights in 2016.
Manion brings a wealth of experience, including stints on the box in the XFINITY Series, as well as the Sprint Cup Series. He was most successful in the XFINITY Series, where he crew chiefed for both @ and @ from 2004 to 2007. In 74 races with those drivers combined, Manion took 15 trips to Victory Lane, finished in the top-five 36 times, top-10 53 times, and scored nine poles.
Manion most recently called the shots in the Cup Series, with drivers from John Andretti in 2003, Truex Jr. from 2004 to 2009, Jamie McMurray from 2010 to 2013, Michael Annett in 2014, and both Alex Bowman and Sam Hornish Jr. in 2015.
In Manion’s twelve years in the series, he scored five wins, 27 top-fives, 65 top-10s, and 10 poles. He also won two of the most prestigious races, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, with McMurray in 2010.
Just like his team owner, @, Manion is a racer at heart. He was born in Boylston, Massachusetts and cut his teeth in the NASCAR Winston Modified Series. His first job was at the age of fourteen, making sure the racecar was clean, in addition to doing some basic mechanical work.
Manion then was promoted to the role of tire changer and worked his way up to being a crew chief in the late 1990s for Chris Woods, who was running late models at the time.
In 1993, Manion became the crew chief for Sheba Racing and worked on a Modified car for Jeff Fuller and Steve Park. That year, Park just missed the championship by a mere three points.
While Manion has many years of experience under his belt, in his new role at @ he will be shepherding two talented drivers, Daniel Suarez and Cody Coughlin.
Manion will also be working with two seasoned KBM crew chiefs. One of them is Fugle, who has crew chiefed for KBM for three years. Fugle will be on the box for William Byron, who is the reigning 2015 K&N Pro Series East champion.
Like Manion, Fugle has had success in his own right with driver Erik Jones. @ made a name for himself last year with three victories, five poles, 11 top-five finishes and 20 top-10 finishes. The pair of Fugle and Jones helped KBM claim its fourth Truck Series Owner’s Championship in 2015, which was a record breaking achievement.
Fugle’s accomplishments also include guiding Jones to the Truck Series championship as the youngest ever in the series. He also helped Jones be the first driver ever to score Rookie of the Year honors and the title in the same year.
Fugle grew up in New York and prior to coming to KBM, held crew chief positions both in the Truck and XFINITY Series with Germain Racing.
The other crew chief with whom Manion and Fugle will work is Jerry Baxter, who is returning for his fourth season. This veteran crew chief will be paired with driver Christopher Bell.
Baxter is also accomplished and proven, having worked with multiple drivers in 2015 including Daniel Suarez, Matt Tifft, Kyle Busch, and Bell. This one crew chief amidst the team of four drivers scored two wins, 10 top-fives, and 14 top-10 finishes.
Baxter, a California native, came to KBM in 2013 and crew chiefed for Darrell Wallace Jr. That driver and crew chief combination finished third in the Truck Series point standings in 2014. In their two years together, they posted five wins, three poles, 14 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes.
Last year, Baxter was recognized for his excellence with induction into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
With two solid crew chiefs re-upping with the team, as well as the addition of Manion with his years of experience in the two highest series, there is no doubt KBM will again be a formidable force. And with this trio, there is even greater pressure to have the team soar to new heights.
Team owner Kyle Busch acknowledged his expectations that his new crew chief lineup will move the company even further ahead of the competition.
“The goal at KBM is to have all three of our teams competing for wins and top fives every race and consistently be among the battle for the Owner’s Championship,” Busch said. “Rudy, Jerry and the group of crew members that they have assembled on their respective teams, and everyone in the shop have accomplished those goals the past few seasons and the third team made strides through all of last season.
“With the addition of Bono — a guy who is a true racer and a proven winner at NASCAR’s highest level — as the leader of that group of guys, I’m confident that their performance level will be much improved this season.”
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