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Sprint Pit Crew Challenge Night May 19, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, Crew Chiefs, Crew Members, Fun Stuff, Pit Crew Challenge.
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The Boys Are Back In Town!!

It’s a highlight, back-home, bragging rights night in Charlotte, North Carolina tonight for the pit crews of NASCAR who are back in town for the All-Star Race activities and who will compete in the Sprint All Star Pit Crew Challenge. Opening ceremonies are at 6:45 p.m. EST at Time Warner Cable Arena.

There are 24 eligible teams who will each be able to bring five sets of tires and their own lug nuts to the event as well as air guns and jacks. Teams can bring four support members in addition to the seven competitors. The teams supply their own “push” car with tech requirements stipulated by NASCAR in the NSPCC Technical Bulletin. This stuff is serious!

All drivers, car owners, crew members and team members must have a valid NASCAR license that has not been suspended or revoked. Participating crew members have to be licensed to the team they are competing for and must be active on the current roster of “over the wall” crew members.

Seeding is done through the 2010 Sprint Cup Series Car owner point standings through Dover, and the top eight teams in points will receive a bye into the second round of competition. In addition to the fastest team in the event receiving the honors of champion, the fastest crew member at each station will be crowned as the individual champion and each of the winning individual crew members will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

The key to the event is the 40-yard push – where after completing their duties as jack man, tire carrier, tire changer, gas man, etc., the team must push their 3,200 pound race car (steered by their driver) across the finish line.

Speeds Coverage of the event begins at 9:00 p.m. (tape delayed) “Dialed In” on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio will begin LIVE coverage as the event begins at 7:00 p.m. EST

Last year, the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet pit crew outpaced the No. 43 US Air Force Dodge team to capture the team title. While doing so, the team set a new event record with a time of 22.115 seconds and earned a $70,675 payout, which equates to $10,096 per crew member or $3,195 earnings per second.

Individual winners in 2009 were:

Dennis Terry, Front Tire Changer No.1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 14.855
Shannon Keys, Front Tire Carrier No.1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 14.855
Jake Seminara Front Tire Changer No. 18 M&M’s Toyota 14.900
Kenny Barber Rear Tire Carrier No. 18 M&M’s Toyota 14.900
Preston Cordell Gas Man No.1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 10.072
Eric Hoyle Catch Can No.1 Bas Pro Shops Chevy 10.072
Jeff Kerr Jack Man No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 5.666

Take a look at the bios of the team guys on the roster for tonight’s event and you’ll see many of them are racers or who knew people who were in racing. These guys first jobs range from commercial fisherman, to golf course manager, log cutter, steel tower construction, air craft refueler, commercial driver and firefighter, to name just a few of the interesting occupations these guys held before their current team role in NASCAR. Trevor Lysne the Front Tire Changer for the No. 42 Target Chevy worked in a treatment center for troubled children before racing. Kenneth Purcell the jack man for the No. 48 Chevy used to work at his dad’s animal hospital before joining the team.

The team guys have nicknames within their teams, like Jeff Patterson the two-time individual champion gas man from the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy whose nickname is “Gooch” and Mike Morneau the rear tire changer for the No. 14 who the guys call “Shrek.”

And their teams have nicknames too. The over-the-wall teams nickname for the No.333 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevy is the “Helping Hands pit crew.” Each crew member has the Hamburger helper hand on their firesuit doing their respective position. The jackman has the Hand holding the jack, the fueler has a gas can, etc.

Some, come from a long line of crew member or racing families. Take, for example Jeremy West from the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet. He and his father worked on David Gilliland’s car in the Winston West series. They won the championship in 1996. Jeremy changed and his dad, John, carried.

These guys have played football and rugby, wrestling, baseball and soccer in college and several have been semi-professional athletes. Shaun Peet the jack man for the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota is a former professional hockey player. Some of them have been carrying or changing tires for a race team for over years. Their pit crew coaches train them hard with everything from weights to yoga, aquatic and heat training.

These guys have seen their share of close calls on pit road and some have been hit in the line of duty. Eric Maycroft the rear tire changer for the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota said, “Yes, (I’ve been hit) by AJ Allmendinger, the wing caught me and flipped me into the next pit stall head over heels.”

The pit road warriors who have their time in the spot light tonight at the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge are an integral part of winning in NASCAR Sprint Cup series that most of their drivers will attend tonight’s event to show support and these guys are scouted, under contract, and in the pressure-cooker that making up time on pit road presents must be at the top of their game physically and mentally to have made it to the level of pit crew member for NASCAR’s elite division teams.

Tonight, is their night. These guys are the best of the best and their families and their team members and their drivers and their fans will be there to cheer them on.

It’s a great event. For more information check http://www.pitcrewchallenge.com.

Media Pit Crew Event!

On Tuesday national and local media members competed in the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner arena. The event, just for fun, pitted media members from various national and local broadcast and television entities against each other in the media pit crew competition. For the second year in a row as the driver of the car for the winning team, after surviving two heat races and the final face off against a team from the Carolina Panthers (pushing the car like it was Super Bowl Sunday) I felt just a slight sensation of what these guys will feel like tonight. Just as the final heat race was about to begin while filing a report, it was a rush to get into the race car in the nick of time, secure the steering wheel and be pushed to the line. The key to driving the car in this event (a role a number of driver’s wives will handle tonight) is to not brake while you are pushed towards a brick wall, and then just in the nick of time slam on the break. Ah, sweet victory!

See the photo of the winning crew, including my team mates Ray Dunlap, Phil Parsons and Jeff Hammond from Speed and Fox.

Hope you can make the event or catch it on Speed or SIRIUS NASCAR Radio tonight. It’s well worth it and one of the fun events of All-Star week in the heart of racing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Claire B Lang
CBL PIT CREW CHALLENGE PHOTO

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Victory Lane at Darlington May 10, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, claire blang, Trackside, Transcripts.
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What a wild Saturday night – Sunday morning at Darlington. Victory Lane is the size of a living room at Darlington Raceway, fitting for the kind of down home atmosphere that makes that track special. Everyone is packed in for a really fun, tight-knit celebration. After interviewing Denny Hamlin’s Mother, his crew chief, his team president and team owner – I took a golf cart ride to the media center (hitched a kind ride with the folks rushing crew chief Mike Ford to the media center) and appreciate the lift greatly. We’re all squeezed on the golf cart and there was a Victory Lane Champagne bottle on board which became the topic of discussion during the ride. It was totally empty but going on the shelf at Mike Ford’s house and Ford talked about perhaps having to build a new shelf for more hardware and souvenirs of wins.

Finally, Denny Hamlin, stepped out of the media center and well into the early morning hours of Sunday I interviewed him live. I noticed something that I had not noticed before about him. For some reason Denny reminded me of Jeff Gordon. After all that had transpired, Hamlin was calm and focused during the interview as if he was devoting that several minutes entirely and with complete attention to what I was asking, even after a long day and on a night into early morning where all kinds of things were now being thrown at him. It struck me that this characteristic is something I have always noticed in Gordon. When you have those few minutes with Jeff either behind his hauler or after qualifying or racing – he pays complete attention to the moment and is not distracted. He is remarkably able to isolate each of the moments he dedicates entirely to what he is doing at that moment and he doesn’t give standard answers but truly answers what you are asking giving completely of himself to the moment. I have always notice this in Jeff Gordon and it struck me that this is why I like interviewing Hamlin, because from the interviews of him after his first pole to his firt win to now, he is the same way and it is a characteristic I see in the champion drivers.

Honestly, I am not sure if it is coincidence or the mark of great talent, but I have to believe that inner calm and stress free focus into the moment, allows a driver to enjoy what he’s doing more and excel in focus on the track. Interesting.

In interviewing the team after the race for the “teardown” to be broadcast on “Dialed In” this week – it was easy to pick up on the teams support of Hamlin, even in the tough times, certainly after a win. In the media center Hamlin said he has to believe his faith in his team demonstrated by staying in the car when he injured his knee has paid off with the team. “We have those good pit stops at the end. Is it coincidence?,” He asked. Talking with the team, their confidence and admiration of him was through the roof. This is a team that will not gloat but they feel they are championship level – without a doubt in their being.

Struggles – Dancing with the Lady in Black:

Interaction between driver and crew chief who appear on the same page – even after a frustrating run. it was a long night.

DALE EARNHARDT JR., AND CREW CHIEF LANCE MCGREW, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY /NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – Finished 18th:
SO YOU’RE NOT FRUSTRATED?

JUNIOR: “We ran really good at the beginning. Lance will go home and work on what he can.”
MCGREW: “I think the best thing is that now we have a notebook. We didn’t have that. And now we can go back and we can look and we see.”
JUNIOR: “We ran better this time than we did last time here. I think this has been one of the worst races I had last year.”
MCGREW: “Yeah, it was horrible.”
JUNIOR: “We see that we can do it. We’ve just got to be able to finish.”
MCGREW: “We overcame a cut right rear tire and that was good. You have nights like this.”
JUNIOR: “I enjoy working with Lance every week.”

Tony Stewart finished 23rd – on a frustrating evening for the #14.

From the start of the 367-lap race, Stewart had a racecar that was loose back to the gas each time he came off the track’s corners. Track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments were used throughout the race to alleviate the car’s ill-handling ways, but adding to the team’s headaches was a slew of problems that only compounded their original difficulty in navigating the track’s tight confines. There was a chain-reaction crash that saw Stewart get into the back of Paul Menard’s Ford on lap 63, when traffic stacked up in between turns one and two. While Menard spun to the apron, Stewart received some cosmetic damage to the nose of his Old Spice/Office Depot machine. Then, on what was supposed to be the team’s third pit stop on lap 85, Stewart missed his stall when traffic clogged pit road and prevented him from angling into his box. The non-stop did have one benefit as it put Stewart into the lead when the race restarted on lap 89 – Stewart and team kept fighting. On lap 336, Stewart lost a lap to eventual race-winner Denny Hamlin, and it was a deficit he could not overcome. When the checkered flag mercifully dropped, Stewart was 23rd.

Note: I got a kick out of the writing of Stewart’s PR guy Mike Arning who gets full credit for noting that the checkered flag “mercifully dropped,” for Stewart. Touche Mike.

Bad night for AJ (and Jimmie Johnson)

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet – At the infield care center after being caught up in AJ’s Brake rotor mess (see below) Johnson wasn’t sure what happened. He was wacked out of nowhere and calm as could be. I was surprised how a guy could be so laid back after being what he called “drilled” with no notice. When I asked him about it he said that they were running good times, and called it an “adventurous” night. He told me he felt like they were “doing their best,” and was positive that they were fast before being taken out. Not a good night for the 48 – but situation out of their control. He’s a master of not wasting time worrying about what is out of control and moving on.

So what did happen?

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion (Finished 37th) – “The brake rotor exploded. The last 40 or 50 laps we were struggling with brake problems and just no brakes. We took all the brake cooling off and thought maybe we were gonna fix it, and when that yellow came out I went to hit the brakes to slow down and the brake rotors exploded. I’m not sure which one, but I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody. I’m sorry to Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.”

Looking ahead to Dover:

Hang on to your clothes –

Grammy-nominated country music artist Joe Nichols will sing the national anthem prior to the start of the “Autism Speaks 400 presented by HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on May 16, 2010 at Dover International Speedway. Nichols’ hit song “Gimmie That Girl” currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart. The singer of country hits “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” ooh boy did you catch that race fans –it should be a wild weekend. LOL.

Jeff Gordon – #24 Dupont Chevrolet -“It’s high speed, really high banked — Dover is just one of those white knuckle experiences that you really feel the sensation of the speeds that our cars are capable of probably more there than any other track that we go to. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I love Dover because it’s got those big, fast high banked corners, but it’s great racing as well. The groove has really widened out. You can run high, you can run the middle and you can run low. We’ve seen a lot of different lanes there to race on. It’s challenging. Every lap, you’re on the edge.”

DOVER 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – (SIRIUS NASCAR Radio) 5:00 p.m. EST Friday

Interesting Note: Elliott Sadler returns to Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) to pilot the No. 2 Best Buy/Insignia Silverado for the second time this season. Despite the fact that Sadler has been competing in NASCAR’s top-3 series for over 15 years, he has NEVER made a Truck Series start at Dover International Speedway. Sadler has, however, made a total of 27 combined starts in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series at the one-mile concrete track. Sadler has led a combined total of 189 laps at the track, and has earned a best finish of sixth in both series (Fall of 2005 in Cup, Fall of 1997 in Nationwide). Is there any added pressure in returning to the truck that currently sits first in the owner’s points? “No pressure at all. I know it’s a great truck and I’m really looking forward to being behind the wheel of the Best Buy/Insignia truck at Dover. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Did you know?

According to NASCAR’s Loop Data statistics, over the past four Truck Series races at Dover International Speedway – Ron Hornaday has gained more points than any other Truck Series driver. Hornaday has picked up a total of 771 points at the Monster Mile over the last four race events. Hornaday also holds the title of driver fastest early in a run at Dover.

Catch the Heluva Good! 200 NASCAR NASCAR Nationwide Series -(SIRIUS NASCAR Radio) 2:00 p.m. Saturday

Thanks for your Crown Royal #17 Pit Crew Name Suggestions!!– The #17 team is looking for a name for their pit crew, a creative challenge that is fun – especially with the new sponsor. I opened up the phone lines and email and got a ton of suggestions including, Royal Knights, Kings of the Road, Gold Diggers, Crown Over-The-Wall Bangers, The Barneys, The Royal Wrenches, The Purple Reign, Purple Predators, Purple People Eaters and more. Some of them were a bit royal and snobby in nature for a down and dirty pit crew, one that is not included to step out on pit road acting like they are more regal than everyone else. There lies the challenge of naming the crew with a name that matches a “Crown Royal” type hook. Hmmm. Send an email at insidercbl@aol.com if you have a suggestion. I interviewed Robbie Reiser, the GM of Roush Racing who reminded the listeners that the “Killer Bees” earned their nickname – and that the #17 pit crew earned that initial name they didn’t create it. Reiser is tough. I like that.

Newly Posted Photo: The Stewart Haas team guys with the ARMY Team at Fort Benning, with driver Ryan Newman. The trip to Fort Benning last week was beyond worthwhile – and we all had great pride over the pit stop that the team busted off before being thrown into the training course with the US ARMY Rangers. The Stewart Haas guys held up their end of the deal, they may have been pushed to the limit by the Rangers but they didn’t buckle. To the Army guys – thanks for all you do! Meeting some of America’s finest and chatting with them at Fort Benning – filled all of us with pride in what America represents.
Claire B.

US Army Racing Team at Fort Benning