CONCORD, N.C. – For the pit department of Hendrick Motorsports, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season showcased the team’s strengths and provided many fruitful opportunities for success. In the seventh episode of “Refueled presented by AdvoCare," the pit department staff reflects on the season to date. The full episode is available to view on Hendrick Motorsports’ YouTube channel and can be watched below.
"It’s been a solid year for us and the pit department," said assistant pit coach Jacob Claborn. "I think we had a really good off-season and a really good January that set us up to set the season strong. We were really strong in the beginning, in the first and second quarter of the season. (The) third quarter has a mixed bag of tracks we go to with backwards stops, regular stops and superspeedways, so I think it’s been a solid start. We’re heading in the right direction as we get into playoffs."
Since the beginning of the season, the organization has strived to be the best on pit road. Its seven wins (along with the All-Star Race) were the most by a team in the regular season. In March, William Byron earned the first win of the year for Hendrick Motorsports at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March before going back-to-back the next weekend at Phoenix Raceway. He accrued five wins during the regular season and was tied for the most playoff points (36) entering the postseason. Kyle Larson notched two wins in the regular season and scored the $1,000,000 triumph in the non-points-paying All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
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Wins are the end result of a successful day at the track. Behind-the-scenes of victories are often pit strategies and quick pit stops. Two-tire calls by No. 24 crew chief Rudy Fugle at Las Vegas and Phoenix set up his driver to be in position for those wins. Pit strategy from No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels contributed to Larson’s victories at Martinsville and North Wilkesboro. The work of the pit crews helped set the stage for those triumphs. Through the first and second quarter of the year, Hendrick Motorsports ranked one-two-three-four in quickest pit stop times among teams on pit road. Byron’s No. 24 pit crew has ranked atop the board for much of the season for the fastest average four-tire pit stop.
"This season, I felt really happy about our teams being able to hit that eight-second mark and five out of the six teams that we work with here on campus have hit that eight-second mark," Flynn said. "I think in the future, years to come, I think eight-second stops are going to be the norm and the next thing we do is tap on that seven-second range. Very happy that our guys hit that mark as quick as they did."
Things revved up for the pit department in the summer months, starting with the annual Pit Crew Combine in June. This allowed recent graduates, who have been recruited, to showcase their athletic abilities. After the first phase of the combine was complete, the coaching staff invited prospects back to campus in August for a three-day minicamp for additional evaluation.
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"They brought a lot of experience in their former sport, which was mainly football and a tremendous amount of success in their last sport," Flynn said. "We just hope that they bring those winning ways to Hendrick Motorsports. More importantly, we think that they’re going to be great teammates and a great fit to the guys that we have here already on our pit crew. That’s the main thing that we look for, to be a great teammate. We really hit it out of the ballpark with the four guys."
The month of June also held special significance for the Garage 56 pit crew at Le Mans, which was made up of Hendrick Motorsports pit crew athletes: Dawson Backus (front-tire changer), Cody French (front-tire carrier), Jarius Morehead (rear-tire carrier), Mike Moss (rear-tire changer) and Donovan Williams (jackman). In the Pit Stop Challenge at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team topped 16 squads in their GTE class with a NASCAR-styled pit stop of 10.364 seconds and placed fifth overall, 0.3 seconds behind the top team.
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"I think it was pretty cool to be a part of it because you weren’t just representing yourself or your family, but you were representing all of NASCAR, all of Hendrick Motorsports, Goodyear, and IMSA," said pit development manager Evan Kureczka. "Not just that, but you’re technically representing America too. That was kind of the coolest thing about being a part of that project."
The work and resilience behind the Garage 56 pit crew, both in the Pit Stop Challenge and throughout the 24-hour race, underscores the commitment and dedication behind the pit department’s recruitment process. The five pit crew athletes used their athletic abilities and the teachings from the organization’s coaching staff to earn the victory and a lifelong memory.
"The recognition is something that we all take pride in," Williams said. "To come back and be recognized even by our peers and the older guys and some of the vets. That’s a great feeling."
In March, Hendrick Motorsports’ "Refueled presented by AdvoCare," debuted. The series looks at the dedication and discipline of the organization’s pit crew athletes and staff. Catch up on the previous episodes below.
Episode 6: Behind-the-scenes of backwards pit stop prep
Episode 5: How pit crew athletes persevere through heat
Episode 4: Inside the annual pit combine at Hendrick Motorsports
Episode 3: Behind-the-scenes of the Pit Crew Challenge
Episode 2: In the gym with the pit crew of Hendrick Motorsports
Episode 1: Everything You Got: Hendrick Motorsports prepares for 2023 season
The production follows a member from each of the four teams. Get to know the featured pit crew members, who cover a variety of different positions on pit road and have a wide range of experiences in the sport.
Anderson is the front-tire changer on the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Hard work and determination to be the best on and off pit road is what Anderson brings to the table after joining the No. 5 team in the middle of the 2022 season. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2019 as a backup crew member.
In his years on pit road, Gianninoto converted from a jackman to the now fueler on the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. The veteran is in his 11th season and was part of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning pit crew with driver Chase Elliott. He also serves as an asset to help upcoming jackmen and the coaching staff, assisting in the pit crew recruitment process.
Patton is the tire carrier on the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet and is now in his 11th season. Prior to being on the No. 24 pit crew, he worked on the No. 48 earning two NASCAR Cup Series championships with Hall of Fame nominee Jimmie Johnson. His leadership throughout the department is highlighted not only through his words of encouragement to fellow members but also through his actions to be a helping hand in any given situation.
Holman joined the No. 48 Ally Racing pit crew ahead of the 2022 playoffs. The 2023 campaign marks the first starting year for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native with the team. His drive and resoluteness to be the best on pit road carries through in his approach.