CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR’s All-Star Race weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway will see the pit crews take center stage on Friday with the Pit Crew Challenge presented by Mechanix Wear.
This year’s format consists of each pit crew competing in both the All-Star Race and All-Star Open perform a four-tire pit stop with no fuel. The timing lines will be set as one box behind and one box ahead of the designated pit box. The results of those stops will determine the lineups for both Saturday’s All-Star Heat Races as well as the All-Star Open on Sunday.
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It’s a bit of throwback to the popular pit crew events of the 1980s and 1990s and a moment for pit crews to be celebrated under the spotlight of the historic all-star weekend at the North Carolina track.
"It means a lot obviously," head pit coach Jon Carvin said. "You want those guys to demonstrate their abilities in front of a large crowd, in front of a bunch of people on television, and most importantly we want them to be able to have fun while they're doing it. We want to put ourselves out there in the best light possible because I know how much work that they do and how much they put into it. Anytime that they can get recognition or make people aware of what they do and their amazing abilities, I’m all for that."
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No. 24 team crew chief Rudy Fugle is also glad to see the crew get their acknowledgment in this event.
"It is a great part of the All-Star Race weekend," Fugle said. "It showcases the athlete’s talents. They get to be the main focus of Friday and they will set qualifying by the speed of their stop. I know they will do a good job but just pumped for them.
"They support us every single week of the year to get us out front and help win the race. You see the driver, you see the crew chief but a lot of times you don’t always see the pit crew. This is an opportunity for them."
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The past two All-Star Race events (held at Texas Motor Speedway) saw the return of the Pit Crew Challenge albeit in different formats. In 2021, the challenge occurred during Round Five of the All-Star Race and the team with the fastest stop without penalties took the $100,000 prize. That team was the No. 9 pit crew for driver Chase Elliott. Last year saw a head-to-head elimination bracket that saw eight cars compete for the pole position as pit crews executed pit stops against another team.
The format awards a trophy and a prize of $100,000. The money-stop feel goes beyond the prizes though. These crews will be faced with immense pressure to not only win the challenge, but also to set their drivers up with the best track position for their respective events later in the weekend.
No. 24 team tire changer Ryan Patton is looking forward to getting after it and detailed how the team will go about preparing. That is especially key when you consider that the Cup Series hasn't been to North Wilkesboro in 27 years.
"Going to North Wilkesboro (Speedway) will be a great experience for all of us," Patton said. "We haven’t been to that track in several years and none of us have pitted there. There’s obviously going to be inherent excitement in the air with it being the All-Star Race at a classic retro venue.
"For us, we’ll try to survey the pit stall, try to get the dimensions of it, take a look around and see if there are any elevation changes. Does the pit stall slope in one direction? What do the visuals look like down pit road as the car’s coming to us and really hone in on those little things. During the competition, it’s all about being clean and executing the pit stop."
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Coming out of Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway, the No. 24 Liberty University pit crew has the second-fastest four-tire pit stop average in the Cup Series at 11.128 seconds. The No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew has the fourth-fastest average at 11.232 seconds. The No. 48 Ally Racing crew has been a steady bunch all year. The No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts crew is not only the same five-man crew that won the 2020 championship, but it is also the same group that was named the 2021 Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew.
Tune in to watch the pit crews of Hendrick Motorsports compete in the Pit Crew Challenge on Friday, May 19, at 5:45 p.m. ET with coverage on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).