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4 Tires & Fuel: Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart Credit Richmond Win to Sub-Nine-Second Pit Stop by No. 11 Crew

Following a win in Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, Chris Gabehart and Denny Hamlin praised the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing crew, who knocked out an 8.99-second stop prior to NASCAR Overtime.


hero image for 4 Tires & Fuel: Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart Credit Richmond Win to Sub-Nine-Second Pit Stop by No. 11 Crew

Throughout the sport's history, it's always been well-documented just how difficult it is to triumph in the NASCAR Cup Series. With the implementation of NASCAR's seventh-generation vehicle, it's only gotten more difficult, as the field continues to get closer and closer with each passing year.

On most weekends, the NASCAR Cup Series demands perfection from its winners. The driver must be mistake-free, the crew chief must have the perfect strategy, the engineers must put together a strong setup, and the pit crew needs to be fast, consistent, and mistake-free -- and sometimes, it's still not enough.

At least in the short term, there is absolutely zero indication anywhere that the NASCAR Cup Series field is going to be spreading out, leaving organizations to find any semblance of an advantage, no matter how small, which may place them at the front of the pack.

In the early portion of the season, that's where Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart, and Joe Gibbs Racing have been shining the brightest. With a 53-time NASCAR Cup Series winner behind the wheel, an experienced crew chief on the pit box, and extremely fast cars, the No. 11 has been among the teams to beat each week.

However, when a late-race caution forced Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway into NASCAR Overtime, Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing unleashed their not-so-secret secret weapon to put Hamlin in position to capture the victory: the pit crew.

In a pressure-packed situation, the five-man crew of AJ Rosini (front changer), Deven Youker (rear changer), Dylan Dowell (tire carrier), Kenneth Purcell (fueler), and Joel-Alexandre Bouagnon (jackman) worked together seamlessly to knock out a sub-nine-second stop, at 8.99 seconds.

After parking his No. 11 Mavis Tires & Brakes Toyota Camry XSE at the start-finish line, Hamlin didn't mince words when giving full credit for the victory to his pit crew, who got him the track position he needed to defeat Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, and Martin Truex, Jr.

“All pit crew, this is a team win for sure,” Hamlin told FOX Sports after the race. “This trophy needs to go to each one of these pit crew members, they just did an amazing job, they’ve been killing it all year."

There's no question that Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing have the best five-man crew in the NASCAR Cup Series, with the No. 11 topping the charts in both median four-tire change and overall fastest four-tire change through the opening six events of 2024, while also handily leading the Bozi Pit Crew Index (BPCI).

What is it that makes the Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew easily the best on pit road?

"I think from my standpoint, these guys have had time to mesh," said Denny Hamlin. "They've had a few years now working together. The whole pit crew department really went through a lot of changes over the last couple years. It's starting to show fruit. My team, I was looking at kind of the average ages of all the pit crews, mine is definitely on the lower end when you average all the ages up. For them to now be on top of their game and be young, they’re right there at the top already. Who knows how far they can go."

Chris Gabehart, the crew chief of the No. 11 Toyota, mentions that getting Joe Gibbs Racing to this point wasn't easy, after the organization originally went a direction with the seventh-generation vehicle that didn't work out for them, leaving the four-car powerhouse to play catchup.

"Joe Gibbs Racing took a path in the Gen 7 era that just honestly didn't work. At a sport's top level, when you fall behind and there's constant improvement being had by all the top teams, it's difficult to catch up. There's a chance you won't," said Gabehart. "I can’t brag on the pit department enough, all the management at Joe Gibbs Racing, and the guys, all the athletes, not just my athletes, for buying into the work and effort that was going to have to be put forth to catch up."

Above all else, the 21-time race-winning crew chief made a point to comment on the morale and attitude of the pit crew, how they take the wins and losses as a team, and push each other to consistently be the best they can be.

"Really what I want to speak to is the intangibles because that’s where magic happens. It’s people that believe that they can do more than they can as individuals," added Gabehart. "My team, not just my pit crew, my team, they pull the rope selflessly. They know they got each other's backs. If you have a bad play or mistake, everybody is there to pick ’em up. How can we help you be better? What do you need? That’s the special part. You see it in sports, all different types of sports."

Later in his post-race winner's press conference, Hamlin continued lifting up his pit crew, detailing the major shift in demeanor for the 43-year-old driver when coming down pit road now, versus two years ago, when things weren't as refined as they are now.

"Tonight was them, for sure. I feel like I just went through a two-year period in 2020 maybe 2021, where every time I came down pit road I was terrified," added the Chesterfield, Virginia-native. "Please, only lose one spot. It was bad for a really long time.

"It’s just finally turned the page and we’re going the other way now. These guys have been together I think for three consecutive years now. They were on Martin’s team a few years ago, but they were young and making a lot of mistakes that first year. The pit crews and the drivers got together and they wanted to make changes. I ended up with those guys at really the right time, right when they were starting to all click on all cylinders."

While Hamlin wasn't necessarily thrilled about the late-race caution, having been in line for third and knowing everything that can happen on pit road, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver says he knew the stop was going to be fast when they dropped the jack on the right side in "about three and a half seconds."

"I knew at that point, just don't stall the car," said Hamlin. That would have been the most embarrassing thing I could have possibly done is take the win from them if I made that kind of mistake. We still have to race it out on the green-white-checkered."

It's played out several times already this season, in which the day-long performance of a pit crew, and sometimes even a single pit stop, can be the difference between winning the race and finishing outside the top-10 -- a fact Hamlin knows is prevalent in modern-day NASCAR.

"This is certainly the new age NASCAR of how you can win races because it is so equal on the racetrack that really the pit crew is the ones that make a difference when everyone is running the same speed."

A full rundown of pit crew performances from Richmond Raceway will be available in this week's 4 Tires & Fuel rundown later this week.

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, TobyChristie.com

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