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4 Tires & Fuel: Pit Crews Shine in Competition on the Track, Conflict off the Track at Wilkesboro

What a wild weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway. At the end of the day, pit crew members were a main fixture on the track, and off the track during All-Star Race weekend.


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Pit crews were on direct display during NASCAR's All-Star Race Weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Saturday marked the second edition of the NASCAR Mechanix Wear Pit Crew Challenge. An event which Joe Gibbs Racing dominated once again.

The No. 20 pit crew of Christopher Bell took top honors with the fastest pit stop of the challenge and repeated their success from last year when they were assigned to the No. 54 of Ty Gibbs.

The No. 6 RFK Racing crew of Brad Keselowski has been in the groove for the past few races but they fell about a tenth of a second short to that No. 20 JGR crew which took top honors on Saturday in order to defend their title.

This year in the competition, pit stops were extremely challenging for the pit crews because the cars were set up in short track race trim which meant that removing and indexing tires was extremely close on the left rear. We saw quite a few crews make mistakes on that corner on the index which cost them quite a bit of time.

Derrell Edwards is on the jack for that No. 20 and he shared that, "The cars were actually set up in race trim, so it wasn't as easy as last year, where they just set it up for us. We just pitted and went as fast as you could go. That's a lot of the trouble you saw today."

I also caught up with Edwards on Sunday to ask what made the difference on their stop and he shared that he made sure to get full extension on the pump on his jack to get as much clearance as possible before attempting to index that left rear tire.

Rear changer Michael Hicks continues to build out his trophy collection as this marks his fourth Pit Crew Challenge win, overall. In addition to that 2023 win, he also recorded victories in 2010 and 2011 under the previous Pit Crew Challenge format. The No. 20 crew shows that having a mix of veterans and younger athletes can be the best formula to success as Edwards and Hicks are joined by younger athletes from diverse background on that crew with front changer Blake Houston coming from a baseball background while tire carrier Jake Holmes and fueler Peyton Moore played football during college.

Timing for the Pit Crew Challenge was done using the timing lines on pit lane versus actually timing when the car was raised and dropped which is why the numbers aren't comparable to what we typically see on a weekly basis. That No. 20 crew had a winning time of 13.233 seconds per the rules and my stopwatch showed that to be around an 8.9 second four tire change which falls right in line with the times that we see consistently from that crew.

In my opinion, combining the Pit Crew Challenge with All-Star qualifying made some of the action harder to follow and took attention away from the crews compared to the format from last year. It would really be a benefit to the crews if the timing was focused more on them than the combined time of crew and driver. I also feel that it would make it easier for fans to compare to the times they see during the season to time the actual tire change versus using the timing lines on pit lane.

My optimal Pit Crew Challenge format would have all 36 full-time NASCAR Cup Series pit crews competing and would feature cars coming to pit lane two at a time with the first car having a stall towards the front of pit lane while the second car would have a stall towards the rear of pit lane. This would allow for the crew of the second car to immediately be shown on the broadcast while the first car is still making its way to its box.

Once the first car reaches its box, we can see the time for the other crew flash on screen while that crew tries to beat them. Once the jack drops we can see the two cars race to the line. This type of layout would put the focus more on the crews while allowing fans to relate to what they see on a weekly basis as they would be able to see actions similar to what they see in races.

There are lots of opportunities to expand the Pit Crew Challenge and hopefully in the future we see even more crews having an opportunity to compete. One positive aspect of combining the All-Star race and Pit Crew Challenge festivities is the fact that pit crews were introduced with their drivers which really amped the atmosphere and allowed those crew members to feel like an even bigger part of the race.

Once the All-Star Race started later that evening, it was once again a matter of track position and the pit crew was once again a significant part of capturing a victory. The No. 22 pit crew of Joey Logano not only contributed to that qualifying time which landed him the pole position but their consistency during the race played a huge part in keeping him up front. The No. 22 crew has median four tire change time of 9.89 seconds which was only slightly behind the leaders from the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports crew of Chase Elliott which set the pace with a 9.60 seconds median four tire change time.

That No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports pit crew also captured the fastest pit stop of the evening as they were able to change four tires in just 9.18 seconds while the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing crew of Ross Chastain and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing crew of Denny Hamlin tied for second place with both being able to complete a four tire change in 9.29 seconds.

Third place was another tie with the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports crew of William Byron and the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing crew of Kyle Busch both being able to complete a four tire change in 9.39 seconds.

Pit lane wasn't the only place where the No. 8 crew was in action as they ended up being in the middle of the conflict behind Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the No. 8 transporter after the race. Fueler Justin White ended up being the star of much of the video coverage of the fracas as he attempted to remove people from Kyle Busch after Stenhouse landed his punch.

White was hell-bent on clearing out the tailgate of their transporter. His approach is much better than what we saw from some of the other that were involved because White appeared to be trying to clear people out and de-escalate the situation while some of the others may not have done the same.

This may not have been a highlight that the No. 8 crew wanted to be a part of but in some regard it shows that there is more chemistry being built between Kyle Busch and his crew based on how quickly they were willing to hop in to help him. It was also very obvious that these guys are high level athletes with how quickly they were able to move in an unusual situation especially as White had three people holding onto him at one point. White is a veteran of the Cup Series and has spent time with Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing in addition to his current work at Richard Childress Racing. He has a stack of wins to his name and was of the 2014 championship squad with Kevin Harvick.

After the videos started posting to social media of the incident, White began to register some fame for his part in the situation.

"Justin White for President!!" X user @sandypanda said in a quote tweet of the fight video.

@nascarcasm, one of the most popular accounts to follow in the NASCAR world posted, "Who's this dude eliminating MFers off the lift gate like it's the Royal Rumble and the winner gets a shot at the universal champion"

And of course, a video surfaced of someone turning the lift gate battle into the Royal Rumble with an on-screen countdown graphic.

It was a wild moment, but White definitely stole the show after Stenhouse's punch kicked things off.

Tensions are definitely ramped up as crews head to Charlotte Motor Speedway this week and the Coca-Cola 600 will be a test of endurance for the pit crews as it is the longest race of the year and drivers will want fresh tires at every available opportunity.

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