NASCAR: Vickers’ team wins Pit Crew Challenge
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Brian Vickers’ team kicked off NASCAR’s All-Star week activities by winning the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday night, beating Denny Hamlin’s team in a battle of Toyotas in the final round.
Vickers’ crew, which includes a former college football player and two former college hockey players, changed four tires, filled the car with fuel and pushed it 40 yards in 22.902 seconds to collect the $70,000 first prize.
Vickers’ team just edged Hamlin’s team, which crossed the line in 23.011 seconds, giving Vickers’ team its choice of pit boxes for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
In keeping with the trend to recruit athletes for its pit teams, Vickers’ crew includes Mike Metcalf, a former fullback at Appalachian State. Front tire changer Brian Haaland and jackman Shaun Peet played college hockey. The rest of the team includes gas man Doug Newell, front tire carrier Aaron Schields, rear tire changer Danny Kincaid and rear tire carrier Jake Brzozowski.
The event also included individual prizes of $10,000 each to crew members for completing their tasks the fastest in the early rounds.
Caleb Hurd, Jeff Gordon’s gas man and a former holder on the Virginia Tech football team, combined with catch-can man Jamie Frady to shatter the competition record by filling 18 gallons in 10.031 seconds.
Kasey Kahne’s jackman, Eric Wilson, set a record by lifting both sides of the car in 5.431 seconds. Other winners included Nick Odell and Brad Donaghy, front tire changer and carrier for points leader Kyle Busch, and Dave Smith and Jason Binger, rear tire changer and carrier for Matt Kenseth.
The team competition included 24 crews, with the top eight in the Sprint Cup standings getting a bye into the second round. Teams faced each other in head-to-head, single-elimination stops.
It was far from what you see during a race.
There were eight unmarked cars on each side of the arena floor. Teams changed tires on two cars, filled the gas tank on another and a jackman lifted the fourth car.
The jackman then ran to the team’s regular car, which was lined up next to their competitor’s car. He pushed the car ó often with team’s driver inside ó to the finish line in a simulated pit lane. The rest of the crew joined in as they finished their tasks, and the first car to reach the finish line 40 yards away was the winner.
Teams received time penalties for infractions ranging from loose lug nuts to spilled gas. A 5-second penalty on Kahne’s team for spilling gas knocked the crew out in the first round. Kahne’s crew won the inaugural event in 2005 and finished second a year later.
Ryan Newman’s crew, the 2007 champion, was knocked out in the second round by Carl Edwards’ team.
Busch, the resident villain of the sport for his success and his wreck that ended popular Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s chances at Richmond earlier this month, reached the semifinals before his team lost to Hamlin’s crew.
Hamlin’s solid showing came a year to the day after three crew members were replaced and two other were given new jobs in response to Hamlin’s criticism following a mistake during a late pit stop.
Hendrick Motorsports, the dominant team on the track in the past several years, continued its poor showing in this event. Crews for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were eliminated in the quarterfinals, leaving Hendrick without a semifinal berth in three years.
The event, the first of three days of activities leading up to Saturday’s All-Star race, included a band and dancers performing steps away from the cars inside Time Warner Cable Arena.
By Sarah Hall Salisbury Post Time is running out to see “I Am My Own Wife” now playing at Charlotte’s... read more