LIFE IN THE PITS In November 2006, Team Penske officially moved its operations from Reading, PA to Mooresville, NC and joined the Penske Performance, Inc. NASCAR and ALMS teams under one 424,697-square foot roof. A couple of the crew members...
LIFE IN THE PITS
In November 2006, Team Penske officially moved its operations from Reading, PA to Mooresville, NC and joined the Penske Performance, Inc. NASCAR and ALMS teams under one 424,697-square foot roof. A couple of the crew members from the #3 and #6 Team Penske Dallara/Hondas chose to stay in Reading, which meant that the Team needed to start looking for two new inside front tire changers. Tapping into their new found talent pool in North Carolina, the Team looked to Penske Racing's NASCAR personnel for their insight.
In January, Rick Rinaman and Matt Jonsson chief mechanics for the #3 and #6 cars respectively met with Bob Pressley, strength trainer at Penske Racing and Trent Cherry, rear tire carrier for the No. 12 Alltel Dodge and Pit Coach to begin developing criteria for pit crew try-outs.
Cherry, along with Rinaman and Jonsson designed a try-out program for the two open positions. In total, nine Team Penske crew members tried out over the course of several weeks. In order to best determine what the Team needed from its over the wall crew, Cherry reviewed a DVD of Team Penske pit stops from the 2006 season and used this information to develop the required criteria.
For the first two weeks, Cherry conducted a series of two-a-day workouts consisting of drills and training exercises. After each guy was brought up to speed, they conducted a week of time trials during which each candidate was measured against one another in several different categories including consistency in times and best overall time. The crews were finalized in January and the next step was to make them a cohesive unit performing to the best of their ability.
Cherry and Pressley, who has been at Penske Racing for 15 years, designed a work-out regimen for the Team Penske pit crews to not only maximize their pit skills, but also work on their strength and fitness. The crew works out four times a week in the gym with Pressley and four times a week in the "pits" with Cherry.
To re-create a live-action pit stop, Penske Racing built a replica pit wall with three pit boxes that the Team uses to train. Each workout lasts about half an hour and the Team works on different scenarios that can occur in the pits as well as drills for individual positions. The practice always ends with a full team workout running live pit stops with a moving car. "When we started in January, we had guys that couldn't even do a single pull up," explains Cherry. "Once they got over the wall, they were phenomenal at their jobs, but they needed some strength training as well. Over the past couple of months these guys have really worked hard and it's definitely going to pay off during the season."
DAG OVER THE WALL
Last year's season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway marked a first for the crew of the #6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda -- it was Paul Klein's first race as the Team's new DAG (data acquisition guy). This season when the green flag drops at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Klein will be "debuting" once again. Not only will Klein continue to fulfill DAG responsibilities for the #6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, but he'll also be climbing over the wall on pit stops.
Klein participated in the Team's inside front tire-changer try-outs this past
January. After a grueling week of time trials, he emerged as one of the most qualified personnel and thus earned a spot on the over-the-wall crew for the #6 car for the 2007 season.
"I had asked in my yearly review if I could try out to be a tire changer during the race. My supervisors were great about it and they told me to try out," explains Klein. "In between stops I'll be helping out with fuel and telemetry and I'll come down off the scoring stand a few laps before Sam (Hornish Jr.) comes into the pits, I'll change the tire and then I'll get back up on the scoring stand. I'm really excited for this opportunity; I think it's going to be an exciting year. None of this would be possible without the support of my colleagues like Tom German and Aaron Yeager because they're making sacrifices so that I can practice with the Team and be down in the pit box during stops."
Penske Racing's Technical Director and Race Engineer for the #6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, Tom German, encouraged Klein to try out for the position.
"Based on his success in tryouts; Paul was the best guy for the job," said German. "We have some built in redundancy during the races, which allows us to absorb his responsibilities on the scoring stand when he needs to prepare for the stop four or five laps before Sam comes in to the pits. Paul proved that he is currently the best suited for the job of inside front tire changer and as a Team we'll make sure that we work together so that nothing slips through the cracks."
CASTRONEVES SUPPORTS BUONICONTI FUND
On March 2nd, Helio Castroneves was in his hometown of Miami to support The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis by participating in Destination Fashion "Seasons", presented by Tova Leidesdorf, as the fabled Bal Harbour Shops closed its doors for the private event. Grammy-award winner Gloria Estefan served as the evening's Honorary Chair as more than 2,000 celebrities and influencers from the worlds of entertainment, media and fashion converged on the Southeast's most stylish beach community to raise $1.9 million for The Buoniconti Fund.
The evening featured the announcement of 2007's Women of Substance & Style, in which Castroneves served as an award presenter. "It's always an honor to work with Nick, Marc and the whole Buoniconti family," said Castroneves after the event. "The event was truly incredible and I'm happy I could be a part of it. The Buoniconti Fund is a wonderful organization and I'm so glad that I can offer my support."