Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Tech Talk is going to be a little different this week. Frontstretch is sitting down with D.J. Copp, former tire changer for several race teams, television personality for ESPN and pit crew coach. Copp has changed tires for some of the biggest names in the sport. He was once the fastest changer on pit road and ran a pit stop school, so he speaks from years of experience.
As four-tire changes have increasingly become the key to gaining or losing track position in the sport, Copp gives us a detailed look at each pit position, highlighting the attributes sought most when looking for someone to fill each role. He also gives a little insight into how the jobs are performed and what a crew chief and pit crew coach really want out of their stops. Shaving two more seconds off of a pit stop might seem like a tall order, these days but ten years ago the stops were in the 14-to-15 second range. As Copp explains, the ten-second stop very well could happen sometime soon…
Mike Neff: First of all, looking at pit stops in general, is it better for guys to be really fast or is it better for the crew to be a cohesive unit that moves smoothly together?
D.J. Copp: It takes a little bit of both. But if you’re going to put an emphasis in one area over another, it is definitely the cohesiveness. With that, everyone understands every other member’s tendencies and ultimately, that allows the crew chief to know what he’s going to get every time the crew goes over the wall. You can rip off an 11.70-second pit stop, then knock out a 15-second one the next time and that will be very frustrating for the crew chief. They’d rather have a 12.50 or 13 all day long because that allows them to make their strategy calls knowing what the crew will do.
Neff: Let’s look at each position on the crew and talk about what it takes to make each position work best. First, we’ll talk about tire carriers. When they index the tire, is that something that they just get used to over time? Hitting the lugs and knowing how the studs will go through the wheel… or does the cone on the hub assist with it?
Copp: Each tire carrier has his own little tendencies that work for him. But if you watch a race, you’ll see a piece of tape on each tire that runs from the center of the wheel to the outside edge of the tire. On every wheel, there is only one lug nut hole that will line up exactly with a spoke on the wheel. That is the reference point that they use for that tape. They’ll either put the tape on that spoke or one back from that point, depending on how comfortable they feel. They’ll put their fingers across that spoke and use that as his guide to put the tire on the studs. They put the tape on the tire so that, if they drop it or it gets knocked out of their hands they know where to grab the tire without having to search for that lug hole. When the tire changer is hitting the lug nuts, the carrier can see where the lugs have stopped on the wheel and he can figure out the location of the one he’s aiming for. He’ll aim his left hand, which is on the tape, at that lug. The carrier doesn’t really look at the holes in the tire. They just aim with their hand to the lug that they’re trying to hit and everything else falls into place.
Neff: To be a good tire carrier, do you need to be more agile or strong?
Copp: You need to be stronger, much more than agile. You have an 85-pound tire and that is a lot of weight on your back. You need to be able to sit in a chair and hold that straight out in front of you. You have to control that 85 pounds — it can’t control you. You have a lot of occasions where you have less than an inch of clearance as you’re swinging that tire in past the left shoulder of the tire changer. You also have to make sure you put it in there quickly while the tire changer is pulling the old tire out. If he starts to let that tire control him, all of the small movements become bumps and the slightest bump means seconds on a pit stop. The strength is the big part of it but agility also does come into play, especially for front tire carriers. Most front carriers have to be able to bring two tires back to the wall, so they have to be able to do that under control.
Neff: Tire changers have a skill that is obviously perfected over time, although you can certainly learn it. But the guys who are really good usually have a natural ability. It would seem that you would want to put the faster tire changer in the rear, since he has to run and catch the car rather than waiting on it to come to a stop. Is that how pit coaches usually approach it?
Copp: From a coach perspective, they’ll agree with what you said. That is how they do it, but I’ve always looked at it differently. If you’re a front changer, you do have an advantage waiting on the car but now you have to set your gun down after the lugs are loose, pull the tire out, pick your gun back up… there are just more movements during the stop for the front changer. For the rear, you chase the car down, loosen the lugs and then lean back. The jack man pulls the tire out for you, the new tire goes on and then you lean back in and tighten the lugs. I changed front tires for 12 years and rear tires for four years after that, so I know both sides of it. Rear was easier for me once I got over the anxiety of chasing down the car. You’re like, “Oh my God, there goes the car, I’ve got to get there” but once I was over that, I thought rears were easier.
Neff: When it comes to changing the lugs, what little tricks are there that make it easier for a guy to be faster?
Copp: Distance traveled is time. We’ll reference the right front. You’re waiting for the car to come to you; it is only natural that you want to hit the 3 o’clock pattern. For me, I’d hit a reverse counter-clockwise pattern because that was the first lug nut I came to. It is only 4.5 inches to the 9 o’clock position but that still takes time to get there, tenths of a second. I would start at 3 o’clock so I was finishing at 6 o’clock. That means my gun is finishing at the bottom of the pattern, so it is closer to the ground than if I did a clockwise pattern and ended at the 12 o’clock location. I would sit the gun down, pull the tire, pick the gun up, switch it into on and start doing a clockwise pattern to tighten the lugs. I start where I ended, at the 6 o’clock because it is the shortest distance to get back to the lugs. I finish at my 3 o’clock position, which is closest to where I’m heading to get to the other side of the car.
Neff: In talking with an old tire changer, he said the key to being fast is to get low enough so that you can see all of the lug nuts. If you kneel too high, you have the bottom lug obstructed by the cone so you need to have your legs spread far enough to be able to see all five lugs. Is that crucial for speed in changing tires?
Copp: It definitely is. There is an interesting dynamic that comes with that. Tire changers are typically smaller in size because they can get low. The drawback to that is that their arms are shorter than taller guys. When they reach in to pull the tires out, there is a 10-inch tire width on the tire and another half-inch on either side of the tire with the sidewall flex on the tire. So you have to pull that out, so you have to make sure your knees are back far enough for the tire to clear the knees. The bigger part is the tire carrier has to put the new tire on. It is swinging in, not from a tread width standpoint but from a 9-3 o’clock position, at its largest diameter, so you have to clear a lot of room for him. It is a double-edged sword because the smaller guys have a better view of the lug nuts, but it restricts the room you have to play with for the rest of the pit stop for your tire carrier. For me, I’m 6’3” so I sat back farther to be able to see all of the lug nuts and my tire carriers loved me because I gave them more room to swing the tire in. There’s a balance, but it goes back to what we said before about the cohesive unit and working together and learning each others’ tendencies. Once you do that consistently, it doesn’t matter what the body build is as long as you have time to work together.
Neff: How about jack dudes? It seems like the jack man determines the overall speed of the stop because the front changer beats the jack man around the car. The rear changer usually gets there before the jack man starts raising the car. Is it important for the jack man to be faster or smoother with his actions?
Copp: The majority of pit road prefers they be smooth on the pump, so as the car rises, it is smooth and the changers can continue their actions while the car comes up. If he’s late getting to the side of the car and doesn’t get the car up quickly enough, then he’s going to have an effect on the time of the pit stop. It is a fine line. He has to be aggressive to get the car up in the air, but he can’t be overly aggressive lifting the car or the changers won’t be able to keep up with the lugs as they move up into the air. They are the ones who can determine the speed of the stop if everyone else does their job correctly. If the changers hit all 20 lugs and the carriers index properly, then it is going to come back on the jack man for the speed of the stop. If any other element messes up slightly, then the jack man is going to be waiting on them.
Neff: Finally, the gas guys. They are generally the biggest and strongest guys because, most of the time speed isn’t critical unless you’re doing a gas-and-go at the end of the race.
Copp: They’re becoming more and more crucial over the last few years. We’ve gone from having two gas men down to one, and then made the rule changes with the new fueling system and what goes on. The gas men have been an intricate part of the pit stop of late, along with the strategy of when to pit, when not to pit. Rear tire carriers have started coming into play by holding the first can while the gas man goes to get the second can, thus reducing the transition time between cans. At the end of the day, you never want to wait on gas so now that we’re limited to six guys over the wall, what do we do to keep the pit stop speeds coming down? Agility has become a big focal point for gas men because of that. Also, the ability to make adjustments here or there, pulling a tire on the right side if it is a short fuel run before heading back around and hitting the fuel hole to make sure the car is full before it leaves. Agility has become an emphasis with the gas men. It isn’t just put gas in the car and let it go. Even though we’ve lost the catch can man, you still have to get the car full and still have the same duties that you used to, along with some others so the gas men have to be more versatile than they were in the past.
Neff: How did you become a tire changer? Did you start out in racing or were you working in a garage?
Copp: I think I have an interesting story on that. I’ll try and condense it. For years, I watched racing on TV and I wanted to be the front tire changer because I thought it was the most dangerous spot. You could get run over and I thought I could be on TV. That’s where I came from before I got into racing. I learned you could make some money being a crew member in the Pro-Cup Series. A guy came and asked me if I wanted to be on a crew and I told him I was the best tire changer ever. I’d never picked up an impact gun like that in my life and after the race, he realized that and asked me what the deal was. I was homeless and told him that I lied to do it because I needed the money. I told him my whole story; he took me under his wing and from there, I was able to continue getting better and established my racing career. His name was Russ Galindo in the Hooters Pro-Cup series. He was out of New Jersey. He helped me out and from that point on, a tire changer was what I’d viewed myself as and I continued to get better and it stuck with me because I was halfway decent at doing it.
Neff: Where do most of the jack men come from?
Copp: Most of them are coming from college football. They’re bigger and they can change directions. Most of the drills that they’re doing are the same as they did when they played football. They need to be explosive because they’re bending down to pull a tire out, so they have to have the upper body strength. They have to be agile and on their toes and drive off of them as they explode around the car. A lot of the jack men are coming from college football.
Neff: And gas men are all old jack men who can’t get around the car as fast as they used to?
Copp: That’s how it used to be, but that is changing to more guys from a football standpoint as well. They need to move and change directions around a car if they have to pull a right front or left rear tire or make adjustments. In the past, jack men aged and weren’t able to do the jacking as quickly as they needed to. They’d transition to gas men but now, they’re getting fuel men from college football. It is becoming a younger crowd doing the fueling.
Neff: Finally, what is the fastest full fuel pit stop we’re ever going to see? Aren’t we ultimately going to be limited to how fast the fuel can flow out of the gas can?
Copp: Exactly right. NASCAR came up with the self-venting fuel system and that was supposed to slow the stops down. It is just like the cars themselves. We limit them, put restrictor plates on them and the teams figure out a way to get back up to that speed that caused NASCAR to put the plates on them to begin with. Pit stops are the same way. They did it with the fuel system. They lengthened the studs a few years ago. We were in the 12-second bracket and that moved it up to 13s. But by the end of the season, we were back down in the 12s. I don’t know how fast it will ever be. I think we’re close to maxing it out although… I think you can see a 10-second pit stop. From the abilities of the members going over the wall, their physical attributes increasing I think that is possible.
When you watch the race this weekend, take a little extra time to watch the pit stop and think of all of the components. It is a speedy ballet that allows the teams to get their car back on track as quickly as possible and, when it is done right, it is a thing of beauty.
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