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What's the real deal behind NASCAR cancelling the annual pit crew championships?

What's the real deal behind NASCAR cancelling the annual pit crew championships?

Jay Howard's production guys always put on a hellava show. But maybe this pit crew championship needs a makeover. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   By Mike Mulhern

   FORT WORTH, Texas
   Remember Dale Earnhardt's 'Flying Aces,' that legendary over-the-wall gang that helped him to so many wins and so many championships?
    Wonder how those guys would fare today? Still remembering Kirk Shelmerdine's calculated lazy-loping work as right-front tire changer....in such contrast to Joey Knuckles' showmanship flare for Davey Allison over at Robert Yates'.
   NASCAR pit crews have become almost super-human machines over the past few years, churning out 12-second pit stops despite tight rules, and occasional penalties....like the one, 'over the line,' that stymied Brad Keselowski at Martinsville.
    But along the way, for whatever reason, the pit road 'superstars' have become increasingly anonymous.
   Maybe it's the 'for hire' aspect of that part of the business lately. When NASCAR allowed Ray Evernham to introduce professional pit crews, flying specialists in every Sunday morning, at significant cost, the whole business changed, and probably not for the better.
   Why NASCAR didn't crack down on that still seems surprising. Bill France Jr. came close to a crackdown, considering limiting the number of crewmen each team could bring to the track. That would naturally even the playing field.
   For whatever reason, France backed down, and NASCAR hasn't picked it back up.
   Which of course has made the wins by Jeff Burton's all in-house pit crew in the sport's annual pit crew championships all the more impressive.
    As important as pit work is in this game, it is disheartening that NASCAR and series sponsor Sprint have just decided to axe this year's pit crew championship. The reason: officially it's 'lack of sponsorship.' The money was apparently spent on promoting Daytona's Sprint 'Unlimited' during SpeedWeeks, instead of promoting Charlotte's All-Star week.

   (Update: When Bruton Smith, head of Speedway Motorsports, learned ot NASCAR's action Thursday, he responded quickly by saying he would find sponsorship for the pit crew championship and stage it again during All-Star week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, possibly at his zMax dragstrip on CMS grounds.)


  Going over-the-wall isn't for the meek (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   The All-Star week pit crew shindig, running since 2005 in downtown Charlotte, replaced the long-running pit crew championship held annually at North Carolina Motor Speedway at Rockingham and sponsored then by Unocal.
   The All-Star week format differed significantly from the Rockingham championship format, and it was much more heavily promoted.
   However the Charlotte event -- inside the coliseum, without engines on, and with crews pushing cars instead -- always seemed out of kilter.  Even drivers didn't have to drive their own cars; wives and girlfriends at times got the nod, as crazy as that might sound.
    Little wonder that despite the glitz and glamor and fireworks the Jay Howard production crew provided downtown, attendance has never been strong...usually a mish-mash of friends and family in the stands.
   And just what the TV audience thought of the whole thing was never quite clear.
   So this 'break' in the action may be just what the doctor ordered.
   There is no doubt there will be an annual pit crew championship back on the schedule somewhere next season, in some form.
   And this looks like the opportunity to rethink the whole thing.
   For starters, any true NASCAR pit crew championship has to have real drivers in real cars with real 358s screaming and real Goodyears smoking.
   Ideas needed.


  Dale Earnhardt's Flying Aces pit crew




I think they should bring the ENTIRE all star

I think they should bring the ENTIRE all star weekend to Rockingham. Charlotte already has 2 races, it really doesn\'t need the all star race as well. We need Rockingham back. It was one of the best tracks on the circuit by far.

Any excuse to bring the cup cars to The Rock is fine by me.

What I'd like to see happen for next year is the

What I'd like to see happen for next year is the All-Star race moved to the Thursday night before the 600, with the Pit Crew Challenge taking place the night before. The results from the Challenge would set the lineup for the All-Star race. The Coke 600 weekend schedule of events would look something like this:
Wednesday== Pit Crew Challenge
Thursday=== Truck practice and qualifying(mid-day)
Showdown qualifying(late afternoon)
Showdown and All-Star Races(evening)
Friday===== N\'wide,Cup practice(mid-day)
Coke 600 qualifying**(late afternoon)
Truck race(evening)
Saturday=== N\'wide qualifying(mid-day)
Cup final practice(late afternoon)
N\'wide race(evening)
Sunday===== Coke 600(6:00pm start time)

** = former All-Star qualifying format

Pit crew championship

I always thought the Zmax dragway would be a much better venue for the pit crew championship. 4 wide pit competition lol!No issue with seating or parking!And you already have the vending and displays set up at the speedway!You could have the cars come down that strip,pit,and tear off to the finish line! If the drivers don\'t care enough to participate the fans won\'t care either,But have the drivers in their cars,Maybe an autograph session at the event or something where the fans can walk down on the strip and see the cars up close, a burnout competition,or even a nice fireworks show after the event and I believe it would be a more popular event than it has been in the past.

Pit Crew challenge

I'm sorry that the pit crew deal won't go on this year but I agree that it needs a remake. Have it at the track for heaven's sakes. Inside seems so wimpy. Fire the cars, have the driver drive it - it's a team event for heaven's sakes. Make it real, not fake with a show production.

Bruton Smith

That man is always ready to step up. Gotta give him credit. I may not always believe in his views (and buildup of way too many cookie cutter tracks, and for screwing North Wilkesboro), but he does what he needs to to get something done.

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