AVONDALE, ARIZ. — After 24 seasons and over 70 NASCAR wins, Jason Ratcliff stepped off the pit box as a full-time crew chief for the final time Saturday at Phoenix Raceway.
Ratcliff ended his NASCAR career with 15 Cup Series wins, 57 Xfinity Series wins and an Xfinity title in 2009. Between the statistics are a who’s who of drivers he led to victory, including Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
On Saturday, his driver, Myatt Snider, had a good top-10 car but wrecked on lap 138 and finished 22nd. Despite that, being at Phoenix was fun enough for Ratcliff.
Part of the fun came with another “who’s who” driver — Christopher Bell.
Jason Ratcliff led Bell to 15 wins in 65 Xfinity Series races and Championship Four appearances in both 2018 and 2019.
Bell and his current crew chief, Adam Stevens, each learned extensively from Ratcliff. 2023 now marks Bell’s second Championship Four appearance and Stevens’ seventh (all-time best)
Adam Stevens won two of those six – 2015 and 2019 with Kyle Busch. Before that, working with Joey Logano and others one year in the 2010s, Stevens learned from Ratcliff taking the helm of Stevens’ team.
“They [Joey and Jason] were good. Just watching him communicate with Joey and the questions he asked him, how he pulled information out of him, had a big effect on me just watching him take my driver and cars so that I know how they’re prepared and do a better job than what I was doing,” Stevens said.
Jason Ratcliff built up strong relationships in his career – something he cherishes the most about his career.
“The all-star drivers I’ve been able to work with. I mean, the names I’ve been able to work with, whether for a race or a full season, they’re just all-star hall of fame guys,” Ratcliff recalled. “After getting that call from J.D. Gibbs in 2004, I couldn’t have even imagined everything I was going to accomplish.”
Before joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005, Ratcliff worked with Brewco Motorsports dating back to the 2000 Xfinity Series season.
Ratcliff led Jamie McMurray to two wins before he moved to Cup in 2003. Then, he worked with David Green and won three times with him in 2003.
After developing several young guns in 2005-07, like J.J. Yeley and Aric Almirola, he found his match in Kyle Busch. They earned four wins, seven top-5 finishes and 775 laps led in 1606 laps/10 races in 2008.
In between then and a 2009 Xfinity title was an indefinite suspension after Michigan that August. Inspectors found a magnet on the gas pedal of his car when it was sent to the chassis dyno for examination. They believed it hid the true horsepower of the car.
Ratcliff and Kyle Busch’s 2009 title year featured eight wins and 2541 of 6187 laps led.
Then, after earning 21 wins in the next two seasons, JGR called Ratcliff to Cup where the success continued.
He helped Joey Logano break a nearly 3-year winless streak at Pocono in June 2012. With Matt Kenseth, he earned seven wins and almost a title in 2013 before getting eight more wins and playoff appearances in the next four seasons.
Ratcliff went back to the Xfinity Series in 2018. Around that time, he said he started planning on stepping away from being a full-time crew chief but didn’t know when that would be.
In the meantime, he had his tenure with Bell and worked with a variety of drivers, including Ty Gibbs, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Truex just this year alone.
“I’ve been fortunate to not have to rush into this. JGR has worked with me to see what role I can fit to bring some value to the team. We’ve been talking about it for months and it’s finally coming together,” Ratcliff said.
After 15 NASCAR Cup Series wins, 57 Xfinity Series wins and an Xfinity title, the time for victory lane as a full-time crew chief is done.
Now, Ratcliff said he’s excited to spend more time with the grandkids and maybe a couple more vacations.