Denny Hamlin may have piloted the No. 11 Sprint Cup Series entry of Joe Gibbs Racing to victory lane three times already this season, but the team took a win on Wednesday evening without Hamlin’s help by winning the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Hamlin may not have been in the car, but he was nervous throughout the competition none the less.
“I was as nervous as I’ve ever been,” Hamlin said. “I wanted it so bad for these guys. I always get all the credit when we win, and this night was about them and his showed how steady and good that they are.”
Instead of Hamlin, his girlfriend Jordan Fish was behind the wheel of the No. 11, steering while the team repeatedly pushed the car across the finish line each round to claim its first title in the pit crew competition. The obstacle the No. 11 team had to face in the championship round — last year’s winners, the crew of the No. 31 of Richard Childress Racing. It was a rematch of sorts from last year, only a round later. The No. 31 team beat the No. 11 team in the semifinal round in 2009 to eventually claim last year’s title.
Claiming the title of best pit crew for the No. 11 team were gas man Scott Wood, catch can man John Eicher, front tire changer Mike Hicks, front tire carrier Brandon Pegram, rear tire changer Jon Sherman, rear tire carrier Heath Cherry, and jack man Nate Bolling.
“We have a good group that works well together and is just a team,” Cherry said. “We keep that consistency.”
As a result of the win, the No. 11 team will have first choice of pit selection for Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race, and the decision has already been made. Crew chief Mike Ford and Hamlin have already decided to take the first pit stall nearest the exit of pit road.
“That No. 1 pit stall, if we’ve got to make up a couple of spots, is going to help us out,” Ford said.
Several crew members also received individual honors in Wednesday’s competition. Bolling from the No. 11 crew claimed jack man honors, and a couple of his coworkers at JGR also recieved individual recognition. Nick Odell, the front tire changer, and Brad Donaghy, the front tire carrier on JGR’s No. 18 crew were also rewarded for being the best in their field.
It was Odell’s third individual honor.
“I was tickled to death when I won one,” he said. “To win three is unbelievable to me.”
Richard Childress Racing duo Dustin Necaise and Matt Kreuter took individual honors for their work as rear tire changer and rear tire carrier on the No. 33 team. A couple of Hendrick Motorsports team members, specifically on the No. 5 team — Brad Pickens and Travis Gordon — won honors as best gas man and catch can man.
NASCAR News is presented by Amanda Vincent. Amanda has been covering NASCAR for more than a decade and her work has appeared in several publications, both print and online. Follow Amanda on Twitter @NASCARexaminer or check out her website at www.nascar-examiner.com.