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Johnson’s Pit Crew Is Up To The Challenge

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 18 2012

The pit crew of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet reigned in Charlotte on Thursday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Everyone knows the adage a photo is worth a 1,000 words, but for Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR Sprint Cup team one photograph was worth $80,675.

Thursday night in the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Arena, Johnson’s crew gained some sweet revenge, defeating Denny Hamlin’s team by three-tenths of a second in a rematch of the 2011 finals. Last year, Hamlin’s team narrowly defeated Johnson’s for its second straight title.

“Coach (Greg) Morin sent us a picture last week of last year’s finish and the (No.) 11 car beat us by a couple of strides. On the picture it said, ‘If this isn’t enough, I don’t know what is?’” jackman T.J. Ford, of Charlotte, said after the No. 48 team captured its first pit crew championship and the $80,675 first-place money.

The photo apparently was “enough” as the top-seeded team improved its time in each of the final three rounds, winning with a time of 22.903 seconds in the quarterfinals, 22.453 in the semifinals and 22.239 in the finals. The No. 11 team’s time in the final round was 22.533 seconds. In addition to the money and bragging rights for a year, the victory gives the No. 48 team first pit stall pick for Saturday’s All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It came down to the end as to who wanted it more,” said front tire carrier R.J. Barnette, from Pinson, Ala. “No way were we going to let them [No. 11] beat us this year. We had more stamina left at the end.”

Ford noted the team’s success came down to overall conditioning. In fact, the six men got in trouble last week for staying in the Hendrick Motorsports weight room too long.

“All of us feel pretty good about the program we have,” said front tire changer Dave Collins, of Riverside, Calif.

Other members of the championship team and their hometowns are: Brandon Harder, gasman, Oak Harbor, Ohio; Calvin Teague, rear tire changer, Taylorsville, N.C.; and Matt Tyrrell, rear tire carrier, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Even though the No. 48 team captured the team championship, no one in that group captured an individual title. Kyle Busch’s team claimed three of the six individual titles, Jeff Burton’s team two and Kasey Kahne’s one. Those taking individual titles were: Jeff Kerr, jackman No. 5, Salisbury, N.C., 5.291 seconds; Tom Lampe, gasman No. 18, Odell, N.C., 8.610; Tim Sheets, front tire changer No. 31, Indianapolis, 13.615; J.D. Holcomb, front tire carrier No. 31; 13.615; Jake Seminara, rear tire changer No. 18, Steubenville, Ohio, 13.073; and Kenny Barber, rear tire carrier No. 18, Hoosick Falls, N.Y., 13.073. Each individual champion received $10,000.

Kerr was the only one of the six who didn’t establish a record; however, it was his third individual championship, having captured his other two in 2006 and 2009. He was a member of the 2006 team in 2006.

For Seminara and Barber, mechanics at Joe Gibbs Racing, it was their second individual title with the other coming in 2009. The record they broke was 13.846 seconds set in 2011 by Dustin Niecaise and Matt Kreuter. Teammate Lampe also set a record in obtaining his first individual championship. His time broke the record of 8.652 seconds shared by Rick Pigeon and Mike Casto.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 18 2012
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