2018 NASCAR stability rankings: Driver-crew chief pairings with staying power

Jimmie Johnson, right, and crew chief Chad Knaus have won seven Cup titles together. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Is everyone in NASCAR on the move?

No. It just might seem that way as Silly Season talk heats up.

There is some stability in NASCAR. And by some, we mean little.

In that spirit, here is what we will call "stability rankings" for the 30 drivers who have run all the Cup series races this year -- 24 after Saturday's Bristol race.

The factors include longevity -- and the projected longevity -- with the team and the years working with -- and the projected longevity of working with -- the same crew chief.

In reality, stability is not a very "stable" term in NASCAR. Maybe this should be reversed and be called an "instability" index. Never mind. Too confusing.

On to the rankings:

1. Jimmie Johnson (crew chief Chad Knaus): The most amazing stat in all of NASCAR these days: They have worked together for 17 years as driver and crew chief. Only one other combination has worked together for at least seven years. They both are signed at Hendrick Motorsports through 2020.

2. Kevin Harvick (Rodney Childers): The fourth-longest-tenured among all driver-crew chief combinations, as they have worked together since they both arrived at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, their seven wins already this year show they have no reason to change. The change will come when Harvick decides to retire, whether that's two, three, four or five years from now.

3. Brad Keselowski (Paul Wolfe): Second only behind Johnson-Knaus as far as longevity, Keselowski and Wolfe are in their eighth year working together. They have had ups and some downs this season for Team Penske, but there doesn't appear to be any lack of confidence in the crew chief by the driver and vice versa.

4. Joey Logano (Todd Gordon): Third among all pairings, as they have been together since 2013, the only chance of a change is if Gordon for some reason wanted a change of pace.

5. Kyle Busch (Adam Stevens): In their fourth year together, Busch has found a crew chief he is totally comfortable with. The only reason they're not at No. 2 is because Busch's contract is up after 2019.

6. Kyle Larson (Chad Johnston): Chip Ganassi occasionally makes a bold move, but he'd be crazy to break up the best Chevrolet team in the business. Three years in, expect at least another two or three years of these guys working together.

7. Chase Elliott (Alan Gustafson): While Elliott fans might want a change at crew chief, the past few weeks have shown this pairing works well together. A change now might be too far a step back for Elliott.

8. Ryan Blaney (Jeremy Bullins): Their first year together at Penske, after spending a couple with the Wood Brothers, has been solid. No reason to change now.

9. Denny Hamlin (Mike Wheeler): Hamlin wanted Wheeler as his crew chief and likely would not want any changes. But if he continues to go winless, it might make some people antsy. Hamlin isn't going anywhere despite the talk that he could be the one shoved out for Christopher Bell over the next couple of years.

10. Clint Bowyer (Mike Bugarewicz): With two victories this year, this is a pretty solid pairing. The only question of how long it lasts could come down to sponsorship for this car beyond 2019.

11. Alex Bowman (Greg Ives): Bowman and Ives are both signed for next year. Sitting 15th in the standings and right now on the good side of the playoff bubble, they both have earned the right to grow together.

12. Erik Jones (Chris Gayle): Jones isn't going anywhere next season, and he seems comfortable with Gayle. A skid to end 2018, though, could entice JGR to consider changes atop the box.

13. Martin Truex Jr. (Cole Pearn): Truex should be third on the list but the uncertainty at Furniture Row has him this far down. There is no reason for Truex and Pearn not to stay together, except for two things called sponsorship and money.

14. Aric Almirola (John Klausmeier): Almirola is enjoying a career season, but that is still 12th in the standings. If he doesn't win soon or struggles, there might be a push for a new combination. But like most elite teams, more than likely they get to at least start together for a second year before any changes are made.

15. William Byron (Darian Grubb): Byron is 21st in the standings as a rookie, and Rick Hendrick is known for letting his drivers and crew chiefs work their way out of jams and slumps. This new-school driver and old-school crew chief have been intriguing to watch, and Hendrick should at least give it one more year.

16. Bubba Wallace (Drew Blickensderfer): With Wallace signed through 2020 and Blickensderfer having respect in the garage and with the Pettys, the only reason this could change is if Blickensderfer opts for a new opportunity.

17. Daniel Suarez (Scott Graves): All the talk swirling on how Bell gets to Cup -- and if he does, the No. 19 car could be his ride -- makes this the least stable pairing in the Gibbs camp. But expect them to remain together for at least one more year in this car.

18. Paul Menard (Greg Erwin): At 20th in the standings, that is good enough to keep this combination together into next year. Menard is signed and Erwin is solid.

19. Austin Dillon (Justin Alexander): Recent strong showings by Dillon might make this combination stick around longer, as they have been working together only since May 2017.

20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Brain Pattie): If they fail to make the playoffs -- and that looks likely -- it would seem that a change in crew chief could come, especially if Roush Fenway opts to change more of its competition staff. The argument to keep them together? They consistently perform better than the other Roush Fenway car -- and that's a pretty strong argument.

21. David Ragan (Seth Barbour): Ragan is 25th in the standings and it would be a surprise if he gets pushed out. The only question would be whether Front Row opts to make a crew chief change as it evaluates how it uses people.

22. Michael McDowell (Derrick Finley): In his first year at Front Row, McDowell is 28th in the standings. He ranks slightly below Ragan since he is a little further back in the points.

23. Ty Dillon (Matt Borland): Dillon's name keeps popping up as going to Richard Childress Racing, but those close to the situation swear he's not moving. He is 29th in the standings, which isn't exactly acceptable, and that means Borland might have to find another role.

24. Chris Buescher (Trent Owens): At 23rd in the standings, Buescher isn't exactly where many expected he would be. This is one of the situations that you could see staying exactly the same next year but wouldn't be surprised at all if there are changes. Especially if Buescher has a new teammate, JTG Daugherty Racing might want to shuffle crew chiefs.

25. Matt DiBenedetto (Randy Cox): DiBenedetto probably feels he's done enough to make a step up in the food chain next year. Whether he gets it, or even gets pushed out by someone with sponsorship, is still to be determined.

26. Jamie McMurray (Matt McCall): McMurray is already the subject of the rumor mill and he would like to continue racing. But there quite possibly won't be room at the inn for him at Ganassi.

27. AJ Allmendinger (Tristan Smith): This team can't catch a break and it wouldn't be a surprise if Allmendinger's contract (he's signed through 2020) is bought out.

28. Kurt Busch (Billy Scott): Busch says nothing is signed for next year, but he obviously is testing the same waters he did a year ago. He won at Bristol during the weekend, but it appears he might be more successful finding a new ride.

29. Ryan Newman (Luke Lambert): Newman and Lambert have been together since 2014, one of the five longest relationships in the garage. But RCR hasn't announced that Newman will return, and it appears a change behind the wheel is more likely than not. If Newman stays, their struggles pretty much dictate something changes.

30 Kasey Kahne (Jon Leonard): Easy to put this one at the bottom of the list. Kahne already has announced he is retiring from full-time Cup racing after this season.