Pit crew challenge not scheduled for 2013
April 09, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
The annual pit crew competition that has served as one of the opening events for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race week activities will not be held this year.
“While we remain committed to the continuation of the unique competition that the pit crew challenge offers our teams and our fans, it will not be held this year,” NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp said April 9.
Tharp said the sanctioning body is hopeful that a “more sustainable model” for the program can be found and that “due to the circumstances, the timing was too short to stage a successful event (for 2013).”
It is hoped, he said, that the event can return as soon as next season.
The Sprint Pit Crew Competition was held at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte and sponsored by Sprint. It consisted of team and individual events, which included changing front and rear tires, fueling and jacking the car, as well as pushing the car forward in a race to the finish line.
The Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team with driver Jimmie Johnson won last year’s competition.
The event also played an important role in the All-Star Race, with the winning pit crew earning the first choice of pit stalls for the upcoming race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"While we remain committed to the continuation of the unique competition that the pit crew challenge offers our teams and our fans, it will not be held this year."
-- Kerry Tharp, senior director, competition communications, NASCAR
It is expected that this year pit stall selection will be determined based on qualifying results.
In January, Sprint unveiled The Sprint Unlimited, taking over sponsorship of what had been the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. As a result, funding of the pit crew challenge would not continue.
“The pit crews are vital to the success of the sport and (event promoter) JHE has done a phenomenal job with the pit crew challenge,” Sprint’s Kimberly Meesters said at the time. “We are proud of the investment we made in the event in the past several years but it was time for us to explore (other) opportunities.”
The event has been around in different forms since 1967 when it was held at Rockingham (N.C) Speedway and consisted solely of a two-tire change.
Known as the Unocal 76 World Pit Crew Championship, it remained at Rockingham through the 2003 season.
There was no event in 2004; then two separate competitions in 2005.
The National Pit Crew Championship Powered by Tyson was held May 9, 2005 and won by the No. 97 Roush Racing team with driver Kurt Busch.
The Nextel Pit Crew Challenge, the forerunner of the Sprint event, was held May 19 at the Charlotte Coliseum. Evernham Motorsports’ No. 9 team and driver Kasey Kahne were the winners.
Former Cup crew chief Larry McReynolds, now a commentator for NASCAR coverage with FOX and SPEED, helped put together the National Pit Crew Championship, held in Mooresville, N.C.
“It was a big undertaking,” McReynolds said earlier this season. “At that point, there was two different groups doing the same thing and neither one of us knew the other was doing it.
“It was successful, but it didn’t make sense to do two. Had Sprint and NASCAR not gotten together and done one, we would have likely continued. But it was a huge project, a big undertaking and very expensive. Fortunately Tyson stepped in and supported us that one year.”
McReynolds, crew chief of the winning team in 1998, understands how much the event means to those who go over the wall on a weekly basis.
“Even though to some degree the spotlight is on these guys every single time that car comes down pit road, normally … the spotlight’s only on them if they screw up,” he said. “This is the time it is on them and on them only.
“It’s not about the $70,000. Sure each of those guys getting $10,000 is huge, but you know what? It’s getting that (winner’s) ring, it’s getting that jacket, it’s walking into that race track the next week or the next day and people saying ‘congratulations.’ There are 36 races … but there is only one pit crew competition a year and it’s 100 percent non-driver related.”
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