Vickers' team wins Pit Crew Challenge
The No. 83 Red Bull Toyota pit crew of Brian Vickers entered the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge as the 24th – and final – eligible team, but left on top after dominating the competition and the record book.
The team posted the quickest time in each of the five rounds and edged the No. 11 FedEx Toyota crew of Denny Hamlin in a photo finish in the Finals to take the title. The No. 83 team changed four tires, filled the car with fuel and pushed it 40 yards to the finish line in 22.902 seconds, besting the No. 11 crew by 0.109 seconds.
Each of the five times put up by the No. 83 crew was under 23 seconds, with its top time of 22.572 seconds coming in the second round. The previous record was 23.35 seconds, set last year by the champion No. 12 Alltel Dodge team in the quarterfinals.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” said pit crew coach Greg Miller. “Words can’t describe this group, the effort they put in day-in and day-out. It’s all about them.”
The team was one of three in the event that has not secured a position in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Each of the 21 teams in the all-star race competed in the Pit Crew Challenge, with the three final positions going to the top available teams based on owner’s points. If the No. 83 Toyota makes the all-star race by finishing in the top two in the Sprint Showdown, it will have its choice of pit stalls.
The team includes several former collegiate athletes, a trend that has become commonplace in the sport. Catch can man Mike Metcalf played football at Appalachian State University, while front tire changer Brian Haaland and jackman Shaun Peet are former minor league hockey players. The other members of the championship crew are gas man Doug Newell, front tire carrier Aaron Schields, rear tire changer Danny Kincaid and rear tire changer Jake Brzozowski.
“As the athleticism ramps up on pit road, you’re starting to see a lot of ex-NFLers and a lot of ex-college athletes get into this thing,” said Peet, who doubles as the crew’s recruiting coordinator. “They’re going to get bigger, stronger and faster.”
Athleticism wasn’t the only deciding factor for Miller and Peet while putting together the crew.
“I built this team based on character. Actual talent was the last thing I looked at,” Miller said.
“We don’t want a kid who had the most receptions or stole the most bases,” Peet added. “We want the kid we got – the one who walked on, stayed four years and won the ‘Hard Hat’ award every year. A kid who, when push comes to shove, is going to be there because his character speaks for itself.”
Two new records were also set in the individual skills competition.
No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet gas man Caleb Hurd and catch can man Jamie Frady combined to fill the car with 18 gallons of fuel in 10.031 seconds, shattering the previous record of 14.20 seconds. Eric Wilson, jackman of the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge finished with a time of 5.431 seconds, topping last year’s record of 5.94 seconds.
Other skills competition winners were No. 17 DeWalt Ford rear tire changer Dave Smith and carrier Jason Binger and No. 18 M&M’s Toyota front tire changer Nick O’Dell and carrier Brad Donaghy. O’Dell also won last year’s individual competition while with the No. 9 crew.