Ask Trey Burklin, and he’ll tell you that being the jackman in the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge “sucks.” But it sucks, he added, in a good way, namely because pride, prestige and some serious loot are up for grabs.
Burklin is the guy — when the horn sounds — that must lug a jack that weighs as much as a wet bag of mulch, run around the car, stuff the jack under its mark, raise 3,400 pounds with all his might, high-hurdle a wall, sprint 40 yards to the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota, and then begin the dreaded push back the other way all by himself.
“Going off of what people have done in the past,” said Burklin, in his first Pit Crew Challenge, “the jackman trying to push it by himself, running the full length, pushing the full length … not fun for the jackman.”
In the end, however, individual skill combined with team strength and stamina will come together. And that’s what the Pit Crew Challenge is all about.
The Pit Crew Challenge, in its seventh year, is set for 7 p.m. ET on Thursday inside Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena. Red Bull Racing’s No. 4 team is eligible based on driver Kasey Kahne’s victory in the All-Star Race in 2008.
The No. 4 crew includes: Danny Kincaid (front changer), Jason Gay (front carrier), Chad Avrit (rear changer), Andy Brown (rear carrier), Burklin (jack man), Mike Metcalf (gas man) and Brian Dheel (second gas can man). Kincaid and Metcalf were part of the No. 83 team that won the Pit Crew Challenge title in 2008, and Gay was a winner with the No. 9 team in 2006 and owns an individual record from 2007.
“This is their opportunity to show how hard they’ve worked.”
“This is their opportunity to show how hard they’ve worked,” said pit crew coach Lance Munksgard. “There’s been some rejuvenation in the practice of it, knowing that they’re in the competition. Rather than just working out and staying fit, they’ve wanted it a little more. It’s nice to see they have a little extra motivation.”
Here’s what the Pit Crew Challenge, at the individual stations, boils down to: jack the car to its proper height, fill it with fuel (no splashes) and for certain have five lug nuts nice and tight. Penalties for not performing these tasks can easily ruin all chance of advancing. And then there’s the push — a bulky, not-easy-to-get-your-hands-around 3,400 pounds in a 40-yard dash.
The event pits 24 crews facing each other in head-to-head stops and sprints with the winners of each heat advancing to the next round. The No. 4 crew enters the event seeded 18th based on the current Sprint Cup car owner points.
“I think anyone that’s in the competition can tell you that to do well doesn’t mean you’re the best on pit road,” Burklin said. “You can be really fast in the individual part and have no penalties, but not be fast in the push and not win. It’s not representative of who the fastest pit crews are on Sundays, but it’s nice to have the spotlight on the team.”
Dheel was part of the No. 83 team in the 2010 Pit Crew Challenge and said individual mistakes are the defining factor.
“If you make a mistake — a lug nut that’s loose, a spill of gas — it’s not going to matter on that push.”
“If you make a mistake — a lug nut that’s loose, a spill of gas — it’s not going to matter on that push,” Dheel said. “As long as you’re clean on the individual side of it, most teams stand a really good chance at winning it. The same fundamentals from pit road on Sundays somewhat apply.”
Assuming one of the best pit crews in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series get through the individual stations mistake-free and without penalty, Munksgard and strength coach Shaun Peet have made sure they were prepared for the push.
“We spent a lot of time on the push side of it — sled pushes,” Munksgard said. “To replicate that push off through the lower body, it’s a little mental. You have to break ’em down a bit, make ’em tired.”
Follow Red Bull Racing Team on Twitter: @RedBullNASCAR.
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