Sprint Cup Pit Crew Challenge Preview

Thursday, May 17 at 8pm ET, SPEED delivers coverage of the popular NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge from Time Warner Cable Arena in uptown Charlotte

If there is one place in NASCAR that you’ll see teamwork, it’s in the pits with all the crew members working proficiently together.   

On the eve of the 8th annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Pit Crew Challenge, I’m particularly excited to make the trip to Charlotte and watch the unsung heroes of NASCAR settle the 2012 ‘best on pit road’ contest with team and individual awards. 

This will be my third year attending the event and I find myself looking forward to it more than any other NASCAR event during the season. Why?  Because I enjoy watching really talented people put forth 100% effort to get results. I enjoy seeing the camaraderie of a ‘team’ and I take pleasure in watching people who don’t normally get openly praised for doing a good job, get the celebration they deserve. Not to mention, as a female fan, the testosterone that fills the air during the event is hypnotizing. The male fans will love seeing the competition of the teams in action. 

If you haven’t been to a pit crew challenge, I suggest you reschedule your evening plans and get tickets for this Thursday’s May 17th event. It will open your eyes to things that happen on pit road during the race that you would never have picked up on before. You’ll get addicted to the personalities coming out in these men during the competition. And for the rest of the year you’ll hear the whirl of the air-gun ringing in your ears. Ok, well that last part isn’t that exciting, but you’ll still be glad you went anyway. 

The Pit Crew competition doesn’t mirror an actual race. Think of it more as a ‘skills competition’ type of setup. The arena is split horizontally for a head-to-head, two-team competition throughout the rounds.  There are three Sprint-sponsored stationary cars on both sides, in addition to each team having a team-sponsored car in the middle. The stationary cars allow each team to break out into a “Gas Man” station, a “Jack Man” station, and a “Tire carrier/changer” station.  

As the time clock starts, each member finishes their individual skill, jumps over a low pit road wall, and collectively push their team sponsored car across a finish line. The time is scored and any penalties are taken for any gas spills, if the car is not raised off the ground to a specific height, or if there are any loose lug nuts on the car.  Any penalty, just like in the weekly races, can lose the competition for a team. 

Some interesting tidbits you’ll learn about during the competition: 
For this competition, the drivers are normally not inside the car. There is a small ‘pit box’ available for the pit crew coaches, drivers, and/or crew chiefs to cheer on the drivers. Sometimes I get frustrated when I don’t see a driver come out and support their team, but as the years have continued more and more drivers are there to pump them up and celebrate with them. The fans are not use to seeing drivers outside of their fire suits and in a casual setting, so having them in jeans and t-shirts is an unusual experience. 

Sitting inside the team sponsored car that is rolled over the finish line is normally the wife or girlfriend of a driver. Since the car is being pushed across the finish line by the crew – normally the difference between the teams finish times are in tenths or hundreds of a second – every pound matters. So you might see Mark Martin in the car, but don’t expect Tony Stewart to be hanging out in there.

Another item to keep an eye out for, is the special tape put on the car.  It reminds me of black sand paper. These strips are strategically placed on areas outside of the car so crew members can get traction as they pull/push the car from a stationary position through to the finish line. 

When you pay attention to all the details going on during the competition, you realize the remarkable strategies these teams put into place to get every tenth of a second. 

One of the neatest things I see throughout the night is the ‘high fives’ and ‘fist bumps’ between competitors. These guys are out there to win but to also have fellowship with their peers. 

You can see the family atmosphere as you look around the crowd and you know this is one of the places these pit crews take pride in bringing their wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and other relatives to get an inside scoop of what they do on ‘workdays,’ away from home.

The returning champions are the #11 Denny Hamlin FedEx team.  They have won both times that I’ve been to the pit crew challenge which leads me to believe, Denny’s team should be paying my way into the competition as their #LuckyCharm. The 2012 #11 team will not change from the 2011 roster. Over the past two years there have been few changes in their lineup: 

Scott Wood -Gas man

Justin White/2011 – Catch man

John Eicher/2010 – Catch man 

Nate Bolling – Jack man  

Heath Cherry – RT Carrier 

Brandon Pegram – FT Carrier 

Mike Hicks – RT 2011/FT 2010 Carrier  

Nick Krizmanich – 2011 FT Changer 

Jon Serman – 2010 RT Changer

The #11 team have made it at least to the quarter finals in the past four years so momentum is on their side. Over the past seven years the #11 team is the only repeat winner. Other winning teams include 

2005 #9 Dodge – Kasey Kahne team 

2006, #1 Bass Pro Chevrolet – Jamie McMurray team 

2007 #12 Alltel Dodge – Ryan Newman team 

2008 #83 Red Bull Toyota – Brian Vickers team 

2009 #31 CAT Chevrolet – Jeff Burton team

In looking at the individual competitions it would be hard not to put Nick O’Dell from the #18 M&M Toyota at the top of the list. He’s won three individual competitions as front tire changer in 2007, 2008, and 2010.  

There are a few other individuals who can tie Nick for most individual wins this year. 

Jason Pulver – FT Changer #29 Kevin Harvick team – has two wins in 2006 and 2011. 

Jeff Kerr – Jackman for #5 Kasey Kahne team – has two in 2006 and 2009.  

Dustin Necaise – RT Changer for #29 Kevin Harvick team, has back to back wins and momentum from 2010 and 2011.  

Matt Kreuter would have a unique claim if he won a third individual competition.  Matt recently switched to position of Gas man for the #27 Paul Menard’s team after winning back to back individual competitions as #33 Clint Bowyer team RT Carrier in 2010 and 2011. So his win would not only mean back-to-back-to-back wins, but with two separate teams and in two different positions as a crewman.

So pick your team, pick your man, pick your competition, but I suggest you go out and watch the teamwork these guys exhibit throughout the competition.  

See you there!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up. But how will it be with just the one who falls when there is not another to raise him up? – Ecclesiastes 4:9,10

By Contributing Blogger Susanne Bowyer


2 thoughts on “Sprint Cup Pit Crew Challenge Preview

  1. Totally agree if you haven't been to a Pit Crew Challenge yet, this is a must see event! Thanks for sharing your Pit Crew Challenge Preview with us Susanne. And Congratulations and Welcome to Fan4Racing as a Contributing Blogger! 🙂

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