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Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew member calls Comcast honor ‘a little bit surreal’

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Pit crews often have to juggle a wide variety of duties on pit road each week. For Chip Ganassi Racing’s crew, they’ve added even more responsibilities off the track in recent years, all for the good of a greater cause.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s pit crew department was honored for its philanthropic efforts Thursday night, named the recipient of the third annual Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award. The team was on hand for Thursday’s ceremony, held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

Led by veteran crewmembers Mike Metcalf and Shaun Peet, the group provides pit-road service to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams helmed by drivers Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. Thursday, their accomplishments to benefit the community in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area were lauded.

Peet described the honor as “a little bit surreal,” and sheepishly joked that the team had downplayed preparing any sort of speech. For the Ganassi team, he said, the award was recognition for service that’s become second nature to their way of life.

“We’re lucky. We believe that the true essence of giving is giving with no thought of reward,” Peet said. “We didn’t do it for notoriety, we did it for our guys, for their perspective and purpose in things we thought would really resonate with our guys if we did it.

“When we were nominated, it was even a little bit like, ‘I don’t know if we deserve this.’ To oversimplify an Emerson quote, if one life has breathed easier because you’ve lived, that is to have succeeded. Again, we want these guys to succeed at life and that means more than us than anything else they could do.”

Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski — both former series champions with active charitable foundations — were the other nominees. Comcast presented Chip Ganassi Racing with a $60,000 donation to the charity of its choice, while Johnson and Keselowski each received $30,000 for their foundations.

Chip Ganassi Racing crewmembers have joined hands with community leaders in recent years to aid disaster relief missions, clothing drives and meal programs for the needy. Their efforts have benefited Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, the Charlotte Rescue Mission, plus Camp Care and Barium Springs Home for the Children.

A panel of 10 judges — which included former driver and current analyst Kyle Petty and reporter Holly Cain — voted for this year’s recipient. XFINITY Series driver Joey Gase (2015) and JR Motorsports crewmember Wade Jackson (2016) are past winners of the award.

“We can’t thank Comcast enough. It embodies who they are as an organization,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer. “They give back to communities, their employees volunteer their time and effort, so for them to look at the NASCAR community and do the same thing within our community is huge. I think these three organizations — the Ganassi pit crew, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski and what they do with their foundations — it’s just emblematic of what the NASCAR community does overall.

“I couldn’t be prouder to work at NASCAR because of the philanthropic and charitable things that the whole industry does. It makes me very proud.”