"It's not all that easy," says Borland, who compares it to a marriage. "You would think that after four years together, things would be a lot easier than at the beginning. They aren't. If anything, it gets harder."

Losing HeadwaySometimes that's the curse of a relationship. Take the case of Greg Biffle and Randy Goss. For five years the duo laid waste to the Craftsman Truck Series and the Busch Series.

Biffle was the Truck Series rookie of the year in 1998. The following year he won a record nine times, scored more points than any other truck racer, but lost the title by eight points when NASCAR penalized the team for an unapproved intake manifold. Biffle returned to the Grainger Ford in 2000, won five races, and locked up the championship over teammate Kurt Busch with three races to go

Jack Roush sent Biffle and Goss into the Busch Series in 2001. Again, Biffle was the rookie standout and took the Busch championship in 2002.

But when the pair got to Winston Cup in 2003, the fire fizzled. Neither was fully prepared for the level of competition, and as results failed to meet their expectations, their confidence suffered. By midseason, rumors of a new crewchief were rampant, and Goss was reassigned shortly after he and Biffle won their first Winston Cup race at Daytona.

Goss later left the Roush organization

"Letting Randy go was the toughest thing I've ever had to do in racing," says Biffle, "but we got to the point that we simply weren't making headway as a team anymore. We had to get someone in there to show us what to do."

"When things go wrong, no matter whose fault it is, the first one to go is the crewchief," says Reiser. "It's like when a football team loses. When players remain, the coach takes a walk."

Reiser knows it could happen to him, but he also knows that as long as he and Kenseth work together and put the No. 17 car in the winner's circle from time to time, the chances of him being asked to clean out his locker are slim.

Reiser and Kenseth go back even before they began racing in NASCAR. They got to know each other by banging doors on Wisconsin's short tracks.

"We raced one another for years," Reiser says. "I think during those years we developed a great deal of respect for one another's abilities."When Kenseth was tapped to drive for Roush, Kenseth asked for Reiser to come along as his crewchief.

In 2002 the team won more races than anyone else in the Winston Cup Series. In 2003 they won only one race, but their dogged consistency to score every point they could during every race earned them the NASCAR championship.

Last year they were among the 10 teams that qualified for the "Chase for the Championship" and finished the season in Eighth place.

"We come from the same experience," says Reiser, "so we think the same when it comes to preparing the car."

"We don't always agree on what we want to do," he says. "And a lot of times we'll want to try different things with the car. If we have the time, we'll try both ideas."

But if there's time for only one change before the car has to be in final shape for Sunday's race, Kenseth always gets preference.

"He's the only guy who knows what it is doing on the track, how it is feeling through the corners," says Reiser. "It should be Matt's decision, because he is the one who has to drive it. I'm not going to second guess what he feels in the car.

"It's my job to give him what he needs."

The perfect crewchiefA shopping list to combine the best of the crewchiefs in the Nextel Cup garage might include the following:

1. The engineering expertise and analytical abilities of Matt Borland (12 Alltel Dodge)

2. Old school knowledge and decades of experience of Tony Eury Sr. (8 Budweiser Chevrolet)

3. Confident "hand on the tiller" personality of Chad Knaus (48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

4. Driver-calming ability of Greg Zipadelli (20 Home Depot Chevrolet)