Tuesday, April 9, 2013

NASCAR pit crew competition put on hold this season

   The annual NASCAR pit crew competition, which has been a staple of Sprint All-Star weekend activities the past eight years in Charlotte, is going on at least a one-year hiatus due to a lack of sponsorship.

  The event, which included individual and team competition, typically has been held on the Wednesday night prior to the all-star race.

   The winner of the team competition had been awarded the right to pick the first pit stall in the race, which pays $1 million to the winner driver. That selection process will now revert back to its traditional method, which is based on qualifying results.

   “As an industry, we were looking for the most sustainable model for the event,” said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp.

   With no sponsorship and time running out before the typical date of the event at Time Warner Cable Arena, the decision was made to forgo the event this season.

   NASCAR hopes the event will return as early as the 2014 season, Tharp said.

   Sprint was the most recent sponsor of the competition but elected not to renew this year. Previous sponsors include Motorola and Craftsman.

   The biggest losers in the decision are the teams in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

   The annual competition remains the single biggest event which shines the spotlight on what many call the “unsung heroes” of race weekends – the pit crews.

   “This is a competition that will be greatly missed by all the crew guys,” said Trent Cherry, pit crew coach for Penske Racing and tire carrier for driver Joey Logano’s No. 22 Ford.
   "I was fortunate enough to be part of the winning team in 2007 and it was a great experience. The competition that it generates with all the crew guys was something that we all looked forward to."

   T.J. Ford, the jackman for Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team which won the team competition in 2012, called the decision a “heartbreaker.”

   “We obviously love that competition. It would be a shame for all the competitors, as well as the fans, for this All-Star contest to dissolve,” Ford said. “We have to keep it going.”  
   Who’s the fastest?
   Team winners of the annual NASCAR pit crew competition since its debut in Charlotte in 2005:
   Year, team, car
   2005, Evernham Motorsports, No. 9
   2006. Dale Earnhardt Inc., No. 1
   2007, Penske Racing, No. 12
   2008, Red Bull Racing, No. 83
   2009, Richard Childress Racing, No. 31
   2010, Joe Gibbs Racing, No. 11
   2011, Joe Gibbs Racing, No. 11
   2012, Hendrick Motorsports, No. 48