NATIONWIDE 43 CREW CHIEF
Born in Verdun, France, to a native French mother and an American Army officer father, Philippe Lopez spent the first three years of his life overseas before his father retired from the Army and moved the family to San Antonio, Texas.
Growing up in the Lone Star State, Lopez attended Alamo Heights High School where he was first introduced to the sport of auto racing by a classmate who ran late models at San Antonio Speedway. Lopez began working at his friend’s race shop and eventually as a race official for local race tracks. Submersing himself in racing, Lopez’s knowledge of the sport and passion for making motorsports his lifelong career began to grow.
Lopez continued to work at his friend’s garage until he left for college at Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering. After spending three years at Texas A&M, Lopez received a phone call that would change his life from Alabama racer Stanley Smith. Smith offered Lopez a job as crew chief for his team in the NASCAR All-American Challenge Series.
Moving to the Alabama-based race shop, Lopez had instant success, winning in just his fourth race as a crew chief for Smith. The following season, the duo went on to win the championship.
While working in Alabama, Lopez was introduced to NASCAR legend Donnie Allison, who would visit Smith’s race shop on occasion. Allison taught Lopez about the dynamics of a driver and crew chief relationship and how best to communicate with each other. Lopez credits Allison for being his greatest mentor in motorsports.
Following a successful season in the All-American Challenge Series in 1989, Lopez and Smith caught the attention of sponsor Interstate Batteries and decided it was time to make the move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1990.
After spending several part-time seasons with Smith in the Cup Series, Lopez moved to Virginia in 1994 to take on the role of crew chief for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie driver, Ward Burton. In his first season with Burton, the two earned one pole award and collected five top-fives and two top-10 finishes.
From there, Lopez went to work for a variety of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, including Dave Blaney, Joe Nemecheck, Steve Park and Darrell Waltrip. Lopez has collected five top-fives, 14 top-10s and one pole in his 19-year career.
In 2012 Lopez was tapped to serve as crew chief for Richard Petty Motorsports’ newly formed NASCAR Nationwide Series team. Lopez joined forces with the driver of the No. 43 Ford Mustang, Michael Annett and the pair instantly clicked. With Lopez atop the pit box and Annett behind the wheel, the duo scored six top-five, 17 top-10 and 28 top-15 finishes en route to a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standing.
Lopez is married to Angela and they have two twin daughters: Ashley and Sidney. The family resides in Mooresville, North Carolina.