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Crew chiefs for all three teams revealed JR Motorsports announced a slew of moves Wednesday, tabbing new crew chiefs for each of its 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series entries. The organization added Dave Elenz and Jason Burdett to the mix, with the pair joining veteran Ernie Cope, who will take over the No. 9 duties and team with reigning champion Chase Elliott . The title-winning Chevrolet was previously helmed by Greg Ives, who will move on to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2015 to team with Dale Earnhardt Jr . on the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team. Elenz will serve as crew chief for Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne on the multi-driver No. 88 JRM team (formerly the No. 5/88 team). Burdett will serve as Regan Smith 's crew chief on the No. 7 Taxslayer.com team, allowing Ryan Pemberton to return to his original post as the company's director of competition. Both Elenz and Burdett come to JR Motorsports by way of Hendrick Motorsports. "This group gives us an exciting mix of proven experience, future potential, and new opportunities for everyone involved," Earnhardt Jr., owner of JR Motorsports, said in a team statement. "Ernie is one of the best crew chiefs in the business, and yet he's rarely had the opportunity to compete for a championship. Now he gets that chance with Chase Elliott ." The upcoming season will be Cope's 13th as a crew chief, but despite his 14 career victories, this will mark only the second time Cope has been paired with a full-time driver to compete for a championship. Previously an engineer on both the No. 88 and No. 48 teams at Hendrick Motorsports, Elenz is a native of Gaylord, Michigan, and graduate of Clemson University. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 as engineer on Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team after stints at Jasper Racing (2001-02), Ginn Racing (2003-07) and Red Bull Racing (2009-11). Elenz spent one year on the No. 88 team before becoming an engineer on Jimmie Johnson 's championship-winning team in 2013. "I'm really excited to have the opportunity to work with JR Motorsports," Elenz said. "They've had a lot of success in recent years. I look forward to learning from those successes. To be able to work with the talented drivers we have in the 88 car next year is pretty unbelievable. I know we'll be competing for wins each and every week with those drivers." Burdett is a native of Arkport, New York. His 17-year NASCAR career includes eight seasons as a car chief at Hendrick Motorsports for Johnson (2002), Jeff Gordon (2008-10) and Earnhardt Jr. (2011-14). He also was on Dale Jarrett's teams at Robert Yates Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing, the latter in which he served as Jarrett's crew chief for a bulk of the 2007 season. Burdett played an integral role in Earnhardt Jr.'s four-win 2014 season, in which the team earned a Daytona 500 victory, a Pocono sweep, and a long-awaited Martinsville win. "There is a lot of excitement surrounding JR Motorsports right now and I'm thankful to be part of it," Burdett said. "I'm grateful to Kelley (Earnhardt Miller), Dale Jr. and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports who I've learned from over the years. Being able to take this next step with JR Motorsports is a privilege. I’m looking forward to working with Regan and the entire group next year." All three JRM teams will compete in the full 33-race XFINITY Series schedule in 2015. Elliott and Smith will vie for the driver's championship, while the No. 88 team will compete for the owners' championship with multiple drivers. A full schedule of drivers for the No. 88 team is still being finalized. "Bringing in Dave Elenz and Jason Burdett gives us the opportunity to call up some of the best talent at Hendrick Motorsports and give them a shot at taking the next step in their careers," Earnhardt said. "That is the sort of foundation on which we built this company, and I'm excited to continue that with two individuals who I feel will have successful careers as crew chiefs in this sport." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
KHI Management gives champion creative venture, link to UFC Editor's note: UFC 181 will be available live on Pay-Per-View at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday. Watch prelims on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The reinvention of Kevin Harvick did not start -- or end -- last year when the driver decided to leave Richard Childress Racing , the only team he'd ever driven for at NASCAR's highest level, and join Stewart-Haas Racing . It did not culminate two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway when he steered his No. 4 Chevrolet into Victory Lane as the race winner and 2014 series champion. There is no beginning and no end to his growth, his ability to evolve. It is fluid and dynamic, the result of a mindset that states if you're not evolving, if you stand still, if you're static, then you're losing ground on whatever it is you are trying to do. And Harvick is trying to do a lot. "You constantly have to look at how you're doing things, why you're doing them that way," Harvick says. "There's always a better way. "You have to reinvent yourself every day." • • • In his motorhome at Martinsville Speedway in late October, Harvick sits cross-legged in an easy chair, his television muted behind him. His tablet and the reading glasses he uses to read whatever is on its screen rest on a table beside him. He is sipping coffee. It is approximately three weeks before Harvick would win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. But the topic of talk on this day isn't his performance on the track, which was the best it ever had been in his career, but rather on his second job. Second job, not side job. That second job is KHI Management, an organization that represents athletes and other personalities while also meeting their sports marketing needs. What was once Kevin Harvick Inc. -- a NASCAR team that competed in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series -- is now an agency that boasts as clients NASCAR driver and broadcaster Jeff Burton ; UFC fighters Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, Miesha Tate and most recently Rose Namajunas; country music artists Jake Owen and Matt Stillwell; and golfer Jason Gore. Harvick and wife DeLana sold all assets of their race team to Richard Childress following the 2011 season, shortly before their son Keelan was born. His impending arrival caused the Harvicks to re-evaluate every aspect of their lives. "DeLana and I really enjoyed the race teams, and the challenge of the sponsorship and the people and that mixture of all the moving parts of pieces that it took to make things right," Kevin said. "Once we sold the race team and kind of settled in as parents, we knew we wanted to do something different. We didn't want anything with the magnitude of the race teams and the 24/7 grind that it took to make that stuff successful. If it's not successful, it's not fun. And if it's not fun, it's not worth doing because I do have a real job already. "I am a firm believer that the circle of life includes your job, personal life, finances ... all of that. If that circle is not balanced, you'll have trouble making anything work 100 percent correctly. Moving in this direction has added a great balance to my life." THE BEGINNING The start of KHI Management was due to alcohol. Cowboy Cerrone wanted a beer, and Harvick had one. The ultimate result of that encounter was a handshake agreement nearly nine months later that led to Cerrone being the first client of Harvick's company, which in addition to wife DeLana is led by Director of Business Development Josh Jones and President Fred Leske. "We were really just sitting around drinking beer and talking about money," Cerrone said with a laugh, fresh off a training session in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "I was telling him how we got paid at UFC, how sponsorship works. And eventually he said, 'Man, I think I could help you if you'd be interested.' At the time I was under different management, but we kept talking, and eight months or so later when I was (available to sign), I just kind of decided to try it out, you know? "That's the best move I've ever made." The handshake was more than just binding. It was also a beginning to what is now an impressive, multi-platform sports representation agency. "All of this that's happened, it was 100 percent by accident," Harvick said. "I think Donald was kind of our test as to what we thought we were going to do. When Donald came along and we started doing his stuff, we started to think there might be a niche (in UFC) for us. "It just started to work. He wound up being a good figure, I guess is the word, for us. He's a pretty personable guy, he has a personality that's unique, and he's a good fighter. He's got those things that helps him to be able to promote and sell." THE CONNECTION Cerrone is one of three UFC fighters to sign with KHI Management. Miesha Tate was the second, and Rose Namajunas has been onboard for about a month. It's a natural fit, linking NASCAR and UFC, the athletes all say, because of the similarities between the sports and their respective fan bases. "It's the same kind of demographic for sure, at least in my kind of fan base," Cerrone said. "I'm a blue-collar, cowboy, 9-5 worker kind of guy. That's what turned me into a NASCAR fan." He looks the part, even in the ring. Cerrone has had fights wearing trunks with Budweiser emblazoned across the front. Budweiser is, of course, a primary sponsor to Kevin Harvick 's No. 4 Chevrolet. Tate, too, had a sponsorship deal with Budweiser for a fight earlier this year. That's a perfect example of cross-promotion, in which relationships Harvick already has benefit KHI clients. And in addition to introducing NASCAR sponsors to the UFC athletes it represents, Harvick and his group can ideally meet new UFC-centric sponsors and introduce them to the world of NASCAR. The same goes for the two fan bases. "I think there's a lot of similarities between the fans, and I think that UFC brings that really young demographic that we fight so hard to get in the NASCAR garage," Harvick said. "There are a lot of UFC fans in the NASCAR garage. And with UFC, FOX is heavily involved, and there are a lot of ways to cross-promote that we've already done." There are also NASCAR fans in the UFC locker rooms. Cerrone, with his trademark cowboy hat, was whooping it up in Victory Lane following Harvick's must-win victory at Phoenix, then again in Miami when the veteran clinched the championship. It's not just Cerrone crossing boundaries to support Harvick, either. On Jan. 3, when Cowboy fights Myles Jury in Las Vegas as part of the co-main event for UFC 182, Harvick's entire pit crew will be cheering from the crowd. That's the sort of atmosphere that attracted Tate, who watched from afar as the sponsorship opportunities and support Cerrone began accumulating. Tate is No. 2 in the UFC women's bantamweight rankings and has a 15-5 mixed martial arts record. She's thought to be the biggest threat to unseat undefeated champion Ronda Rousey, she of the famous -- or perhaps it's infamous -- armbar submission. "I can't say enough good things about KHI," said Tate, who was also at Martinsville to drop the green flag as the honorary starter. "They've treated me very well and have given me a lot of opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise. They've helped me grow my network, and that's what I'm here to do." More than just providing support for fights -- which is certainly important -- KHI has a group of people that can help manage images, messaging and also work toward planning for what these UFC fighters might do once they retire. Just as Harvick cannot dive into a corner going 170 mph forever, neither can Cerrone, Tate and Namajunas be willing to get punched in the face forever. But being marketable when they retire is a process that starts while they are still active. Tate, already interested in what her life might look like post-UFC, revealed to NASCAR.com that she has signed a movie deal (but couldn't release the details) and is interested in being an MMA broadcaster when her fighting career ends. "I really want to grow my brand, and I wanted the company I sign with to be as motivated as I am," Tate said. "I want to do a lot of things. I have a lot of big goals and ambitions, and I want to sign with someone who's going to believe in me." THE FUTURE When you're in the representation business, you are in the business of acquiring talent. You are always looking for the next figure to bring in. The next KHI Management acquisition might just be a young NASCAR driver. Kyle Larson had an incredible rookie season, and Austin Dillon in his first Sprint Cup season resurrected the No. 3 -- the last man to drive it in the premier series was Dale Earnhardt, whose death in the 2001 Daytona 500 vaulted a young Harvick into the spotlight sooner than expected. Chase Elliott won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship at age 18 and seems poised for eventual Sprint Cup superstardom. Those are just three young drivers who populate the NASCAR landscape. The sport's bright future means the choosy Harvick has plenty of options when it comes to selecting and negotiating. "We need another NASCAR driver, a full-time NASCAR driver, because that's what we do," Harvick said. "We've done that for years. But it has to be the right person that fits the mold of what we're doing. An up-and-coming young NASCAR driver is definitely on the radar." As is Harvick himself and, by proxy, his management group. Winning a Sprint Cup Series championship in the first year of a brand-new postseason format will do that to a man. Doing the media tour, being whisked around the country where his name and face are saturating media outlets, can only help his business. After all in NASCAR, it's all about winning, and winning the Sprint Cup trophy, as it related to Harvick's second job, isn't all that different from the old "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday," mantra manufacturers use. "I guess if you look at Kevin as the flagship, KHI having a title is huge," Cerrone said. "It's like me as a UFC champion under KHI, that's huge. It's super big to have Kevin as a champion with this group under him. That's awesome." The next big change for Harvick is relocating to Charlotte. His family has already moved to the metropolis that serves as the hub for many NASCAR teams. Harvick is now closer to Stewart-Haas Racing shops, and his entire business will relocate to Charlotte by Jan. 1. Their offices will be right off one of the state's major interstates, and close to a major airport. It's yet another far-reaching move for a guy who continues to see the big picture. "I'm a firm believer in constantly pushing buttons," said Harvick who, three weeks later, would spend a large portion of his week publicly needling fellow championship contender Joey Logano . "We have to see what we can do different, how we can change things, how can we push forward, ask 'Why aren't we doing this?' I'm the guy who asks a million questions and tries to keep things progressing." "You have to keep up in this sport, or you'll get left behind." The same goes for life. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Take a moving look back at the NASCAR career of Jason Leffler.