CONCORD, N.C. -- The four Hendrick Motorsports pit crews are ready to bring the competition to the next level for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race where pit crews will have their own competition during the event.
During the fifth round of the six-round race, all drivers will have a 20-lap window to head down pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop. The team that properly executes the involved pit stop in the fastest amount of time will earn a $100,000 prize, marking the first time the pit crews have had an active challenge during an All-Star Race.
“We’re definitely making sure that we’re ready for the pit crew competition, and one of our four teams should have a chance to put a really good stop down,” pit crew coach Jon Carvin said. “Hopefully, all four of them do, and they’re ready for it. They’ve been doing a great job this whole year and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
The fact that the pit crews are being included in the bounty for the exhibition race has added excitement for the teams, although the groups are doing what they can to drown out any outside noise so they can focus on the intense repetitions that create a well-trained crew.
“It’s been a while since they’ve had a pit crew element to it, especially with the $100,000 cash prize,” No. 24 jackman Spencer Bishop said. “The guys are pretty excited. They came out with some rules saying you got to hit five lug nuts off and on, so that kind of levels the playing field. We’ve just been working on being as efficient as we can because efficiency equals speed. We’re just trying to hone in on everything we can and when the time comes, just be as calm as we can.”
All four crews are in the top 11 with the fastest four-tire pit stop times in this year in the Cup Series, with Alex Bowman’s No. 48 team boasting of the fastest average four-tire stop so far this season and Kyle Larson’s No. 5 group and Chase Elliott’s No. 9 team following in second and third, respectively. Along with William Byron’s crew clocking the 11th-fastest average four-tire stop, all four teams have been instrumental in aiding the four drivers to victories in 2021.
“Our ultimate goal is to go as fast we can every pit stop so we aren’t preparing any different,” No. 48 jackman Dustin Lineback said. “It may create a little more pressure, but Alex has to come down pit road, too; that’s the ace in the hole. I think once he executes and we come down and lay down a good stop, all together, total package, we should have a shot.”
Like Lineback and the No. 48 crew, the rest of the teams are aiming to treat the round five pit stop like any other pit stop during any other race to not add any unnecessary pressure. It also allows a crew to have bragging rights on pit road for the rest of the season.
“I think the biggest competition is all four of our cars,” No. 24 fueler Landon Walker said. “It’s like when you’re a kid and you want to beat your siblings in everything you do, and I think that’s how we approach this weekend. All four of the Hendrick Motorsports pit crews have been really good all season long, so I think we are going to have to be at our best to beat one of those and that’s our motivation to beat our sibling in the competition.
“Obviously, it’s a little extra excitement with $100,000 on the line but I feel confident in our team that if we just do our part, that we will be one of the top contenders at the end of the night.”
As for what the teams will do if they win the $100,00 prize? The top priority is making sure everyone who helps with the pit stops are acknowledged for their hard work.
“It’s simply a team effort – I hope that we would spread the love because we can’t do the pit stop without our road crew, those guys behind the wall,” No. 48 fueler Jacob Conley said. “I would like to get a portion of it – I got a lot of kids who need to go to college, so that would be great to put that away.”
Walker agreed with Conley, adding that everyone over and behind the wall deserves credit for making Hendrick Motorsports’ pit stops so smooth.
“Those guys are a huge support for us every single race,” he said. “The pit competition puts the light on us, but it’s not just about us. It’s about everyone on this team, too. They take care of us and give us the opportunity to be out. I think that’s the biggest thing - making sure that everyone’s taken care of and whatever’s left over, I’m sure we can take a vacation.”
Watch the action on pit road during the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on FS1 and see which crew earns the lucrative $100,000 prize and see which driver is declared the 2021 All-Star Race winner.