CONCORD, N.C. – The date is Nov. 7, 2021. With 31 laps to go in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway, Kyle Larson sat in fourth place. Although the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had won nine races that year, the ultimate prize for the year seemed to be fading into Arizona desert.
When the caution flag came out on lap 283, it was the No. 5 crew's time to shine. With the season on the line, the group turned a blistering-fast 11.79-second pit stop - the second-fastest Cup Series stop all season - to get their driver into the lead. On the broadcast, viewers could see the rear-tire changer, Calvin Teague, celebrating his team’s accomplishment after Larson left the pit box.
"Going from fourth to first was something amazing. Everyone executed well," Teague said. "I think in that moment, we really wanted it. When he came down, we had a perfect stop, and the rest is history."
Larson would go on to win the title, and for Teague, it was yet another championship moment in his career with Hendrick Motorsports.
As a pitcher for Appalachian State University in college, Teague was an experienced high-level athlete prior to his entrance into the industry. He joined Hendrick Motorsports' developmental program in 2009. He then served in the catch can role in the 2010 season, going over the wall for the No. 48 team to collect leaking fuel during pit stops. For the 2011 season, Teague was promoted to the full-time rear tire changer, pitting Johnson’s car until the seven-time champion's retirement following the 2020 season. While with the No. 48 team, Teague was part of three championships ('10, '13, '16).
With the addition of Larson for 2021, most of the No. 48 team personnel moved over with crew chief Cliff Daniels to form the No. 5 team with Teague continuing to serve as the rear tire changer. The Taylorsville, North Carolina, native sees the team aspect of a pit crew playing a key part in their success.
"We put together a great season last year and were clicking on all cylinders," Teague said. "We meshed together and hung out on the weekends; the bond we had as a team was good. Moving forward, we still have the same components as far as our teammates. Everyone holds themselves to high expectations but the expectation for us is to be the best."
For 2022, a new challenge was thrown their way. With the introduction of the Next Gen car, the wheels were outfitted with a single lug nut design, rather than the five on the previous generation of stock car. The new design has carried a learning curve for all teams, but Teague and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew are up for the challenge.
"It’s way different," Teague said. "It’s been a learning curve. Finding those little tenths of a second that we can pick up is huge. On pit road, half a tenth be the determining factor."
Although the equipment has changed, the team has still been successful in their efforts. During the season-opening DAYTONA 500, Teague and the crew turned the fastest four-tire pit stop of the race at 11.502 seconds and averaged the fastest four-tire pit stop of any team in the event.
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With one win in hand on the season, Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team are looking to add to their total ahead of the playoffs. This weekend, the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Cup Series' lone race in the Irish Hills. Historically, Larson has fared well at the 2-mile oval, winning three races at the facility in his career.
Catch all of the action at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).