Whitesburg Native, JD Holcomb wins the Individual Pit Crew Competition

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 pit crew got its
revenge.

Johnson's team won the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on
Thursday night, avenging last year's loss in the finals to Denny
Hamlin's No. 11 team.

Hamlin's team was the two-time defending champions coming into
the event and cruised into the finals again this year, but lost to
Johnson's team by three-tenths of a second.

Johnson's six-member team changed four tires, put in gas and
pushed the car 40 yards in 22.3 seconds without a penalty to earn
the $80,675 first-place prize and the front pit stall in Saturday
night's All-Star race for Johnson.

When pit crew coach Greg Morin realized who his team would be
facing in the finals he knew there wasn't much that needed to be
said to his highly competitive crew.

"It was sort of like, seriously? Seriously, you're going to let
them beat you again?" Morin said. "When the two numbers went up
on the board you couldn't write a better story."

Morin said he's never been a around a crew with better
camaraderie. Johnson's team included gas man Brandon Harder; front tire changer Dave Collins and carrier R.J. Barnette; rear tire
changer Calvin Teague and carrier Matt Tyrrell; and jack man T.J.
Ford. Their crew chief was Chad Knaus.

"I think it came down to who wanted it more and we had some
stamina at the end," Barnette said.

Johnson, who sat in on the press conference alongside reporters
while his team was up on stage, said he was extremely proud of his
guys.

"It's cool to sit here and watch all of that, and to watch
their celebration on the stand," Johnson said after the press
conference. "I know how much this means to them. To see their
smiles and their celebration, it's well deserved. They've put in
the time."

Johnson's team came in as the No. 1 seed and earned a
first-round bye.

Johnson said it's a "big advantage" to have the best pit stall
and it could come in handy in the All-Star race.

The indoor pit crew competition kicked off a busy 11-day stretch
in the Charlotte area that includes Saturday's All-Star race, the
Hall of Fame induction ceremony Wednesday and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27.

The top 24 crews in the Sprint Cup standings competed in the
standings with the top eight ranked teams earning a bye into the
second round. The teams faced each other in a head-to-head,
single-elimination tournament.

The event consisted of eight similarly marked NASCAR cars, four
on opposite sides of the floor at Time Warner Cable Arena The
six-man pit crew teams simultaneously changed tires on two cars,
filled the gas tank with water - a lot less cleanup and odor than
using real gas - on another and a jack man lifted both sides of the
fourth car.

After completing their tasks the jack men hustled to the teams'
regular cars, lined up side-by-side at the corner of the arena
floor and began pushing their own car 40 yards to the finish as
teammates joined to help after completing their tasks.

Teams received time penalties for loose lug nuts, spilled water
and other infractions.

For the pit crews, it was a night of fun and a rare chance to
shine.

"They are like the special teams like when a field goal kicker
comes on to kick a 38-yarder and we all sit on the couch and say
`Why can't you kick that 38-yard field goal?"' said veteran driver
Jeff Burton. "When (a car) comes in leading the race and they go
out in fifth place that's when they get noticed. But when the car
goes in third and comes out first, for whatever reason, when they
race is over they don't get recognized."

Burton said that's not particularly fair, sort of like blaming
the game on a kicker's missed chip shot field goal.

"You almost take it for granted they have great stops just like
a guy should make that field goal every time," Burton said.

Said former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne: "It's like a field
day for them, a chance to showcase their talents both individually
and as a team. Although this is a little different than our pit
stops in a real race the qualifying is exactly what we'd be
doing."

In the individual competition, Jeff Kerr (jack man); Tom Lampe
(gas man); Tim Sheets (front tire changer); JD Holcomb (front tire
carrier); Jake Seminara (rear tire changer) and Kenny Barber (rear
tire carrier) earned championships.

With the exception of Kerr, all set new individual records.

It was, however, Kerr's third individual title.

"The biggest thing is to learn to deal with the pressure
without making a mistake," Kerr said. "A pit stop when you're
running first and a pit stop when you're running 43rd are two
completely different things. The people that can do it under
pressure are the ones that you want on your team."


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