McSwain joins Labonte's team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael "Fatback" McSwain was released
Wednesday from his contract at Robert Yates Racing, then
immediately hired as Bobby Labonte's new crew chief.

McSwain was crew chief for Ricky Rudd at RYR for the past three
seasons, and was supposed to remain in that role next year with
Elliott Sadler as the driver.

Instead, he'll take over for Jimmy Makar at Joe Gibbs Racing and
try to return Labonte to championship form. Since winning the
Winston Cup title two years ago, Labonte has been on a slow

"I know what I am being brought into to accomplish and I am
looking forward to working with everyone to get Bobby and the No.
18 car back to the head table in New York," McSwain said.

McSwain's release from RYR marks the official dismantling of the
No. 28 Ford and the team that returned it to prominence.

After several lean years, Rudd brought McSwain with him when
Yates hired Rudd and they teamed to bring the car back into
contention on a weekly basis. They won three races together, came
close a handful of other times, were the closest challengers to
Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon last season and finished in the
top five in points their first two years.

But Rudd's contract was not renewed and he's leaving for
Sadler's old ride with The Wood Brothers. Havoline, Yates' sponsor
since 1989, is moving to Chip Ganassi Racing next year and taking
the No. 28 with it.

And now McSwain, the only expected holdover, is also leaving.

Raymond Fox III, the current car chief, will be Rudd's crew
chief this weekend at North Carolina Speedway. Yates did not say
who would take over McSwain's job on a permanent basis.

"I especially need to thank Ricky for giving me an opportunity
back in 1999 and then bringing me with him over to Robert Yates
Racing," McSwain said. "I also need to thank Robert and Carolyn
Yates for everything they did for me. Without those people, I would
not have the opportunity I do today."

At Gibbs, McSwain will take over the role Makar is vacating
after 12 seasons. Makar, the longest tenured crew chief in NASCAR,
is moving to team manager and giving up one of the most prestigious
crew chief jobs in the garage.

"We are all very excited that we are able to announce Michael
joining our organization," Gibbs said. "We feel as though he will
be a good fit with everyone else we already have in place here. And
most importantly, we all think he will be able to work very well
with Jimmy in his new role, along with Bobby."