No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Wins at Sprint Pit Crew Challenge
The No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson saved the best for last Thursday night. Posting its fastest time in the final round of the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge, the No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup team dethroned the two-time defending champion No. 11 crew of Joe Gibbs racing driver Denny Hamlin. In a competition that includes simultaneously changing front and rear tires, fueling and jacking four different common cars and then pushing a team car across the finish line, Johnson's crew accomplished the task in 22.239 seconds to edge Hamlin's over-the-wall gang (22.533 seconds) in the finals. Gas man Brandon Harder, front tire changer Dave Collins, front tire carrier RJ Barnette, rear tire changer Calvin Teague, rear tire carrier Matt Tyrell, and jackman TJ Ford were the winning team for the 48, which finished second last year. "In this discipline, the athleticism and training really pays off," Johnson said after the event. "We made a big effort to get full-fledged athletes who did nothing but work on their pit stops and disciplines. And then they focused on this -- the distance to run, the car push and all that -- and I think it just shows how strong they are, how physically able they are to get the job done."
The victory was the first for the No. 48 team in the eight-year history of the event held at Time Warner Cable Arena. The team won $80,675, a $10,000 increase over last year's prize money. In addition, the Jimmie Johnson foundation received a donation of $9,169 from the NASCAR Foundation. The team also won the right to select pit stall No. 1 for Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race, which pays $1 million to win. "I think it's going to be a big advantage, especially if you can get out there and win one of those first couple of segments," said crew chief Chad Knaus, who sprayed his team with champagne after the victory. The winners of the first four 20-lap segments of the All-Star Race enter pit road 1-2-3-4 for a mandatory stop before the final 10-lap dash to the finish.
Conserving their strength for the finals, the No. 48 crewmen employed a strategy of stopping the push and letting the car roll to the finish whenever they had an insurmountable margin. That approach worked impeccably en route to the finals, setting up the confrontation with the champions of the previous two years. With a clean run in 22.453 seconds, the No. 48 team cruised into the finals by winning a head-to-head matchup against Matt Kenseth's No. 17Â crew (23.228 seconds). The No. 11 team earned its spot in the title match with a semifinal run in 22.869 seconds, beating the No. 88 crew of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (23.567 seconds). Whenever the 48 team had a clear win, Teague would signal his mates to stop pushing. "I saw that, too," Johnson said. "I wasn't involved in the training that went into it, but I think they were trying to conserve energy, and once they felt like they had a heat won, they just kind of backed off."
The event also crowned individual winners in each of the skill categories. Jeff Kerr of Kasey Kahne's No. 5 team won the jack man competition for the third time. Tom Lampe of Kyle Busch's No. 18 crew won the individual competition for gas men with an event-record time of 8.610 seconds. Kerr said the secret to winning the competition was "to learn to deal with pressure without making a mistake. It the same thing when you go across pit road. The pit stop when you're running first and the pit stop when you're running 43rd are two totally different pit stops. "The people that can do it under pressure are the people who can do it when it counts, and those are the people you want on your team."
Representing Jeff Burton's No. 31 team, the front tire changer/tire carrier combination of Tim Sheets and JD Holcomb were fastest in their category with a record time of 13.615 seconds. Changer Jake Seminara and carrier Kenny Barber took home individual honors on the rear tires in a record 13.073 seconds. Each individual winner received $10,000 for his efforts. This year more than ever, the Pit Crew Challenge was a perfect lead-in to All-Star weekend, given the emphasis on pit crew performance both in Friday's unique Cup qualifying session and Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race. A pit stop is an integral part of time trials, and the mandatory pit stop precedes the final 10-lap segment of the All-Star dash for $1 million. "We love that," Seminara said. "I think it was two years ago we came in the pits fifth on the last pit stop and came out second, I believe, and put him in position to win the race (though a late crash cost Busch a chance for the victory). (NASCAR Wire Service)
Richard Childress Inducted Into NMPA Hall of Fame
Legendary NASCAR team owner Richard Childress was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame last night at a gala event in Concord, N.C. The 14-time championship-winning team owner was inducted along with former NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd. Rudd took RCR to its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, in 1983 at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. It was the second hall of fame ceremony in the past two weeks for Childress, who was inducted May 3 into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on the grounds of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. "It's is a great honor for me to carry the banner for all of the talented people who have made RCR what it's become over the past 40-plus years," said Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "To go into the National Motorsports Press Association with Ricky Rudd is very special for me personally because of his important contributions to both RCR and the sport of NASCAR racing as a whole. I had a dream as a kid of winning races and championships but I never thought it would take me to the places it has in my life."
The National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame is located on the grounds of Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The inaugural class was inducted in 1965 which has become a Who's Who in the world of NASCAR. Childress and Rudd were the 79th and 80th inductees. RCR has earned more than 200 victories in NASCAR competition, including 100 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It has earned six championships in the NASCAR Cup Series with the legendary Dale Earnhardt, five in the Nationwide Series and two in the Camping World Truck Series. Its 2012 lineup includes three teams each in the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. In 2011, RCR earned championships in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, with drivers Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon, respectively. The Dillons are the grandsons of Richard and Judy Childress.
NASCAR Issues Fines And Probation For Violations At Darlington
NASCAR has fined Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, $50,000 and placed him on NASCAR probation until July 25 for his actions during the May 12 race at Darlington Raceway. Kurt Busch violated Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; reckless driving on pit road during the race; involved in an altercation with another competitor after the completion of the race) of the 2012 NASCAR Rule Book. Additionally, Craig Strickler, a crew member for the No. 51 team, has been fined $5,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31 for violating Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; interfering with a member of the broadcast media). Tony Gibson, crew chief for the No. 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, has been placed on NASCAR probation until June 27 for violating Section 12-1 and Sections 12-4G and 9-4A (Crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of his team members). Andrew Rueger, a crew member for the No. 39 team, has been fined $5,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until June 27 for violating Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; failure to comply with a directive from a NASCAR official). Both of these violations occurred post-race.
Teams Scramble To Understand New Rules
In one respect, the racecars being developed for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season will be on the racetrack next week—in the form of ideas that will be incorporated into the new models. On Tuesday, NASCAR sent a technical bulletin to all Cup team owners, crew chiefs and drivers, listing rule changes that will take effect as of May 16, in time for the Sprint All-Star Race. Typically, NASCAR's technical bulletins are more about housekeeping items and less about major changes to the competition package, but Tuesday's bulletin, which contained a laundry list of rule changes in eight areas, was significant enough that crew chiefs immediately began booking wind tunnel time. Of greatest interest was the shortening of the side skirts on the Cup cars, designed to create greater ground clearance. NASCAR also has mandated use of superspeedway-sized stationary air deflectors (commonly known as "shark fins") on all tracks of two miles or more.
According to Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, the rule changes were inspired by work on the 2013 car, with an eye toward raising the speeds at which a car will lift off and become airborne. "In working on our 2013 car, there were some things that we worked on that we can apply to help with liftoff speeds, and one of them was the Daytona and Talladega back glass and (rear) deck fins for the two-mile and above tracks," Pemberton said Saturday at Darlington Raceway. The other one was raising the clearance on the skirts an inch on the right and an inch and a half on the left. The majority of that was for safety."
One byproduct of the shortening of the side skirts will be a loss of downforce and a possible decrease in the stability of the cars in traffic. "In some places where they don't get the (suspension) travel, it'll reduce the downforce just a little bit," Pemberton said. "It's not a bad thing. It's a marginal thing, but it does take some of the downforce off the cars." (sportingnews.com)...READ MORE AT...
Jimmie Johnson Wins Darlington Southern 500
After months of frustration, Jimmie Johnson gave Rick Hendrick his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, running away from the rest of the field on a green-white-checkered-flag restart that took the Bojangles' Southern 500 one lap past its scheduled distance. On Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, Johnson ended his own winless streak of 16 races, a drought of relative epic proportions for the five-time champion. The victory was Johnson's 56th, breaking a tie with Rusty Wallace for eighth on the all-time list. Hamlin ran second, followed by Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Johnson won the 199th race for Hendrick, outdueling Kasey Kahne in last year's Oct. 9 Chase race at Kansas Speedway. In subsequent months, the organization has been tantalizingly close to No. 200 -- notably at Martinsville, where Hendrick drivers were running 1-2-3 before a late caution.
On Saturday night, in winning for the third time at the Lady in Black, Johnson finally put the question of the 200th win to rest. After pitting for the final time on Lap 299 of 368, however, Johnson had to save fuel to make it to the checkered flag. All of Johnson's 56 victories have come under the Hendrick banner. "You've got to love that man," Johnson said of his car owner during a celebration in Victory Lane. "He said, 'Two hundred is great, but let's go get 250.' So that tells you where his head is. I love it. Oh, man, what a day!" --/-- In the closing laps, with the outcome in the balance, Hendrick left the pit box and paced up and down pit road. "I had to get away," Hendrick said. "They said that we were going to make it (on fuel), but I don't believe them, you know? Everything has happened backward for us. We've run so good this year and then had such bad luck... "I'm kind of numb, but I'm glad it's over. I think we're going to win a few more now."
Matt Kenseth finished sixth and trimmed the series lead of Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, who came home 12th, to two points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained third in the standings, 14 points back, after a 17th-place result. Hamlin is fourth in points, 17 behind Biffle. Stewart, himself a car owner, had the highest praise for Hendrick, who picked up his first victory on a shoestring budget when Geoff Bodine won the April 29, 1984 event at Martinsville. "I think it's phenomenal, especially with the competition over here getting tougher and tougher," said Stewart, who lost second position to Hamlin when his car temporarily lost fuel pressure coming to the final restart. "It's getting harder and harder to win these races. Especially for it to happen in the Southern 500 -- it's such a historic race. It's a pretty cool milestone."
The co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, which gets engines, chassis and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports, chased Johnson in the late stages of the race before the final caution, but Johnson's Chevrolet was simply too strong. "I was trying to postpone (No. 200) for another week by trying to get to Jimmie, but I just couldn't do it," the reigning Cup champion said. "The closer I got to him, the tighter I got. That was one of the best runs we'd had, but still I wasn't strong enough. He had plenty of car left. He was just riding, trying to save fuel. They won it in dominating fashion. To win a 200th race, you don't want to back into it. They dominated and took it the way they should."
Stewart also fields the No. 10 car for Danica Patrick, who started 38th and finished 31st, six laps down in her Darlington Cup debut. The night before, Patrick ran 12th in her first Nationwide Series race at the 1.366-mile track. "She ran good lap times tonight," Stewart said. "There was a period in the race when she set her balances at her best -- they said she was within a tenth (of a second) of the leaders at that point in the race. So I'm really, really proud of her."
Johnson, who led a race-high 134 laps, held an advantage of .8 seconds and was saving fuel, when Kurt Busch hit the wall on Lap 361. Ryan Newman checked up behind Busch, only to be turned into the wall by Aric Almirola. Caution flew for the eighth time to set up the two-lap sprint to the finish. After the race, Newman parked his Chevy near Busch's and exchanged words with the 2004 champion. Several of Newman's crew members tried to confront their counterparts on Busch's team, and the driver himself, but NASCAR officials restrained them. The hard feelings stemmed from the aftermath of the wreck, when Busch brought his car to pit road for repairs. "The 39 (Newman's) guys were mad because Kurt burned out of our pit stall, and I don't know if they were still there working or whatnot," said Nick Harrison, Busch's crew chief. "Their gas man came down there raising hell and wanting to fight Kurt."
"It's crazy, pit road," said Tony Gibson, Newman's crew chief. "Things happen, and everybody's emotions run high. It's a hot night. Everybody settles down and talks about it. We're all good. We can't control drivers. Nothing against the team -- none of those guys. They didn't do anything wrong." --/-- The race was an anomaly. In a track known for wild action, this year's Southern 500 ran caution-free for the first 172 laps, through three cycles of green-flag pit stops. By the time NASCAR called the first caution, for debris in Turn 2, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet had emerged as the dominant car, having opened a lead of more than five seconds over Kyle Busch, who was running second when the yellow flag was finally displayed. Rounding out the top ten were Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano. (NASCAR Wire Service)
NASCAR Hotpass Lineup At Darlington Raceway
NASCAR Hotpass on DirecTV is free to all DirecTV customers. Four dedicated driver channels offering viewers multiple camera angles, real-time statistics and audio of the network broadcast augmented by live communication between the drivers and their pit crews are available for all 36 point-paying races during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The NASCAR Hotpass lineup for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway is as follows:
DIRECTV Channel 795: Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team of Richard Childress Racing
DIRECTV Channel 796: Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Ford EcoBoost Fusion Ford team of Roush Fenway Racing
DIRECTV Channel 797: Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports
DIRECTV Channel 798: Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports