In the six year history of the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge, no team had ever been a repeat champion. But on Thursday night, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing crew was able to do just that, becoming back-to-back champions by edging out the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports pit crew in the final round.
The No. 11 crew pushed the car across the line in 22.298 seconds, beating the No. 48 team’s time of 22.714 seconds.
Making its way through the bracket from the first round, the No. 11 team beat Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 9 crew, narrowly edged the Richard Childress Racing No. 29 team, cruised past the No. 22 Penske Racing team and came from behind to edge out the crowd favorite No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team to advance in the finals.
“There’s a lot of time and effort in terms of training,” rear tire changer Mike Hicks said. “It’s about repetition. If you do something for so long, over and over and over again, it becomes natural. That’s just something this team, this group has succeeded with.”
By taking the win, the No. 11 team will now have the first pit stall for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, something driver Denny Hamlin is happy about.
“Winning this last year was actually what got us the lead with 10 laps to go last year in the All-Star Race,” he said. “The critical point of all this is that pit stall.”
The pit crew members were more pleased with the fact they beat their biggest rivals, the No. 48 team. Losing out to them in the 2010 Sprint Cup championship, Thursday night’s victory was a small win in the season-long battle.
“We know what the weakest link is,” Hamlin joked, praising his pit crew.
“It was definitely gratifying,” gas man Scott Wood said. “Anytime we can beat the 48 and to line up against anybody, it’s especially gratifying about them. Going back-to-back is especially gratifying too, but we would trade this in a heartbeat to beat (the No. 48 team) at the end of the year when it counts.”
Aside from the night’s big winners, individual winners were also crowned for each position – each of which posted record times. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Mike Casto won the jack man competition with a time of 5.071 seconds, while No. 14 teammates Rick Pigeon and Jeff “Gooch” Patterson had the fastest time for the gas men at 8.652 seconds. The tire changer/carrier awards went to the No. 33 team with Jason Pulver and Austin Craven scoring the best time on the front tires with 13.901 seconds and Dustin Necaise and Matt Kreuter taking the honor on the rear tires with a time of 13.846 seconds.
In addition, the No. 14 Stewart-Haas pit crew had the overall fastest time of the competition, with a time of 21.472 seconds. That set a new record for the competition, breaking the old record held by the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing of 22.115 seconds set in 2009.