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Championship spirit: No. 48 crew earns coveted Mechanix Wear award

Editor's note: All images courtesy of Mechanix Wear.

 

Personnel changes? Yes. Mega-pressure? Seven-times yes.

 

Continued excellence in the face of the above? Absolutely.

 

It was a banner year for the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson, and it went beyond just the driver. The pit crew team underwent two rare personnel changes, including the loss of a front tire changer just one month before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup started, but didn't miss a beat.

 

In fact, the team improved with time, saving its best performance for Homestead-Miami Speedway in which a flawless day in the pits saw Johnson gain spots late … putting the driver in prime position to pull away for his record-tying seventh championship.

 

The showing in Miami was the most important work day of the year given the stakes, but certainly it wasn't the only instance of execution under the most trying of circumstances.

Martinsville Speedway, known for its small pit boxes and tricky configuration, didn't trip up the No. 48 team -- a strong day in the pits during the October race helped lead to a victory and clinched a berth in the championship race.

 

For all of the above reasons, the No. 48 is winner of the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award, the longest-running and most prestigious pit crew award in the sport. This is the 15th annual award and ends Stewart-Haas Racing's two-year pit crew reign.

 

Crew chief Chad Knaus manages the over-the-wall crew with Chris Burkey serving as the pit coach. Burkey is widely lauded for his recruitment of collegiate athletes to pit road.

 

Along with Mechanix Wear's prestigious MVPC award, the team has landed a check for $100,000 for its outstanding performance on pit road.

 

The MVPC award serves as a testament to consistent performance on pit road. Each quarter of the Sprint Cup season, NASCAR crew chiefs vote for the pit crew contributing the most to the success of their team on race day. Each quarter of the season a semi-finalist is awarded a check for $5,000 and an opportunity to win Mechanix Wear's Most Valuable Pit Crew award. Learn more about the History and past winners of Mechanix Wear’s Most Valuable Pit Crew award here.

Kevin Michael Novak

Age: 30

Height:  6'0"

Weight: 190 lbs

Pit Crew Role/Position: Front Changer

Mechanix Wear Glove of Choice: FR Original Glove

Did you play a sport in college? If yes, what sport? Went to a tech school for college. No college sports, but I played high school football.

What's your most memorable team victory on pit road? 2016 Martinsville-2. My first short-track win and this win meant we were in the champion round.
Do you have any pre-race rituals? If yes, what are they? Not so much as a ritual, but I do the same stretches and sit on the wall the same every time. Everyone said it looks like I'm freezing cold.

What separates the No. 48 pit crew from the rest of the field this year? We overcame two personnel changes without skipping a beat. This even helped build our great team camaraderie. I've been on a lot of different teams throughout my racing career and this crew is by far the best.

Brandon Harder

Age: 33

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 230 lbs.

Pit Crew Role/Position: Fuel Man

Mechanix Wear Glove of Choice: CarbonX Level 5

Did you play a sport in college? If yes, what sport? Just high school

What’s your most memorable team victory on pit road? Every win, who knows if/when it will happen again.

Do you have any pre-race rituals? If yes, what are they? Not really, just my normal race-day prep.

What separates the No. 48 pit crew from the rest of the field this year? The relationships that make our team, very close group and willing to do whatever it takes.

RJ Barnette

Age: 30

Height: 5'10"

Weight: 180 lbs.

Pit Crew Role/Position: Front Tire Carrier

Mechanix Wear Glove of Choice: FR Original

Did you play a sport in college? If yes, what sport? Football

What’s your most memorable team victory on pit road? 2014 Coca-Cola 600

Do you have any pre-race rituals? If yes, what are they? I always eat a frozen Twix during our team meeting.

What separates the No. 48 pit crew from the rest of the field this year? Our level of preparation and ability to overcome adversity.

Kyle Tudor

Age: 25

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 240 lbs.

Pit Crew Role/Position: Jackman

Mechanix Wear Glove of Choice: FR Original

Did you play a sport in college? If yes, what sport? Football

What’s your most memorable team victory on pit road? Fall 2016 Martinsville -- to advance to the Championship 4.

Do you have any pre-race rituals? If yes, what are they? N/A

What separates the No. 48 pit crew from the rest of the field this year? Ability to overcome adversity -- two pit crew member changes and still demonstrated resiliency.

Calvin Teague

Age: 30

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 205 lbs.

Pit Crew Role/Position: Rear Tire Changer

Mechanix Wear Glove of Choice: FR Original

Did you play a sport in college? If yes, what sport? Baseball

What’s your most memorable team victory on pit road? Winning Darlington for Mr. Hendrick's 200th win, and my dad was also at the race so that was pretty special.

Do you have any pre-race rituals? If yes, what are they? Pre-race prayer with the team.

What separates the No. 48 pit crew from the rest of the field this year? Ability to overcome some adversity throughout the year and our dedication to each other and the rest of the teammates.

Ryan Patton

Age: 31

Height: 6'0"

Weight: 210 lbs.

Pit Crew Role/Position: Rear Tire Carrier

Mechanix Wear Glove of Choice: FR Original

Did you play a sport in college? If yes, what sport? Football

What’s your most memorable team victory on pit road? Winning Martinsville in the fall of 2016 to advance to the Championship 4, and it was also my birthday.

Do you have any pre-race rituals? If yes, what are they? Personal pre-race prayer.

What separates the No. 48 pit crew from the rest of the field this year? Our team is always focused on the goal that needs to be achieved and will be dedicated to do our part in achieving that success. We have a strong level of teamwork and each give 100 percent. We don't dwell on previous races, we learn and look forward to the next one.

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