Hamlin’s team win NASCAR pit crew title again
Denny Hamlin and his crew finished 39 points shy of ending
Jimmie Johnson’s dominance last year in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup title
Hamlin’s team exacted a little revenge Thursday night – without
Hamlin behind the wheel.
”We know where the weakest link is, obviously,” Hamlin said,
Hamlin’s No. 11 team successfully defended its title in NASCAR’s
Pit Crew Challenge by edging Johnson’s No. 48 crew in the final
round, producing smiles, champagne soaked firesuits and confidence
of a potential repeat win come November that would end Johnson’s
five-year dominance as Cup champion.
Hamlin’s seven-member team changed four tires, put in gas and
pushed the car 40 yards in 22.298 seconds without collecting a
penalty to earn $70,675. The crew gets to pick its pit stall – it
chose No. 1 – for Saturday’s All-Star race.
”This is their main stage. This is not my main stage,” Hamlin
said. ”Obviously, we had a great shot and a great year last year.
This was kind of the spot we really started hitting our stride last
year. So hopefully that momentum keeps going.”
Hamlin’s experienced team was quicker pushing the car down the
simulated pit road all night. It paid dividends in the final round
to deny Johnson’s team, which was seeking its first victory in this
”It’s especially gratifying to beat them,” jack man Nate
Bolling said about Johnson’s crew. ”Going back-to-back is
especially gratifying, too. But we’d trade this in a heartbeat to
beat them at the end of the year.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing team, which became the first repeat
champion in the competition’s seven years, included gas man Scott
Wood; catch-can man Justin White; front tire changer Nick
Krizmanich and carrier Brandon Pegram; rear tire changer Mike Hicks
and carrier Heath Cherry.
Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 team and Tony Stewart’s No. 14 crew
combined to split all the individual awards – and rewrite the
record book. They set event records based on their times in the
seeding and opening rounds to collect $10,000 each.
But the No. 14 crew had 10 seconds worth of penalties for
spilled gas in the semifinals to wipe out a victory and give
Johnson’s team its first spot in the final. Hamlin’s team edged
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 crew in the semifinals, silencing much
of the pro-Earnhardt crowd as the driver watched from the arena
The event at Time Warner Cable Arena included the top 24 crews
in the Sprint Cup standings, with the top eight getting a bye into
the second round. Teams faced each other in head-to-head,
single-elimination stops that looked much different from pit stops
There were eight identically marked cars, four on each side of
the arena floor. Teams simultaneously changed tires on two cars,
filled the gas tank with water on another and a jack man lifted
both sides of the fourth car.
The jack men then ran to the teams’ regular cars, lined up
side-by-side at the corner of the arena floor, and pushed them to
the finish as teammates joined to help after their tasks.
No. 33’s rear tire changer Dustin Necaise – who said he’ll use
the money to help pay for his wedding later this summer – and Matt
Kreuter defended their title from last year in 13.846 seconds.
”Guys maybe practicing a little more because now there’s more
emphasis on it,” Necaise said in explaining the record times.
”Every year you try to go out and do one step better than last
The No. 33’s front tire changers Jason Pulver and Austin Craven
won in 13.901 seconds. The No. 14’s gas men Rick Pigeon and Ryan
Flores (8.652 seconds) and jack man Mike Casto (5.071 seconds) were
The two teams then faced off in the second round, with Stewart’s
team cruising to a win. Another intriguing matchup had Kurt Busch’s
team knocking off brother and top-seed Kyle Busch’s crew in the
NASCAR’s only sanctioned, indoor pit crew competition kicked off
a busy 11-day stretch in the Charlotte area that includes
Saturday’s All-Star race, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Monday and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29.
This night belonged to the often overlooked – yet athletic and
competitive – over-the-wall crews.
”It’s a huge deal for these guys,” Gibbs said. ”There’s a lot
of pressure on them and to do it two years in a row, that’s hard to