RCR’s Jackman Wilson Schooled By One Of NASCAR’s Best
Key Crew Member Learned At Knee Of NASCAR Hall Of Famer Junior Johnson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 12, 2011) — Kevin Harvick and his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team hit the equivalent of a walk-off, grand slam homerun in winning Saturday’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
A final “money stop” executed by crew chief Gil Martin’s over-the-wall pit crew gave Harvick the spark that led to his fourth victory of the season and the No. 2 seeding in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that begins this week in Chicago.
“The pit crew came alive when we needed them,” said team owner Richrd Childress.
Harvick’s victory gave the team four awards from the NASCAR National Series Contingency Program: American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award, fastest average speed on restarts; DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Race, best qualifying and race effort to Gil Martin; Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race, engine builder with greatest number of Mahle Clevite points accumulated for qualifying and race finish; and Mobil1 Driver of the Race.
Eric Wilson, the No. 29 team’s jackman, is proud to have learned his craft at the knee of NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. Johnson was a superlative driver and perhaps even more accomplished as a car owner and team leader. But he also was one of the best jackmen to ever work pit road.
Becoming a jackman happened by accident for Wilson, a 41-year-old Bethlehem, N.C., resident who, in 1995, was carrying tires for Johnson’s No. 11 Ford team and driver Brett Bodine. The crew chief, Mike Beam, departed mid-season and his jackman followed. Johnson sauntered into the shop one morning and beckoned Wilson outside.
Wilson recalls Johnson telling him, “’I’ll show you how to jack a race car.’ I guess it was because I was 25 and in shape. He told me to be a team leader. It really helped me. There was no way I was going to let that man down.” The team won the annual series pit crew championship later that season. Wilson continues to hold the fastest time for a jackman, set in 2008, during the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman.
Johnson’s advice created not only a position expert but a teacher as well. Wilson, a native Texan who moved to the Hickory, N.C., area to race and later win a NASCAR Dash Series championship, hired on with Cal Wells Motorsports where he worked as a crew member and pit crew coach from 2001-06. He joined Michael Waltrip Motorsports in the same capacity the following year and later with Ray Evernham Motorsports.
Wilson is in his first season with the Richard Childress Racing organization – again serving in dual capacity. He’s one of the few in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition to coach the crew with which he serves. Wilson recently was tasked to coach all four of RCR’s teams.
“You know everybody’s trying their hardest so I take (both) jobs really personal,” said Wilson, who spends hours poring over videos to make all of RCR’s crews – NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Camping World Truck and ARCA – perform their best. He personally does cardio and strength training each week. “I want everybody to do good as a group. We’re all human. We make mistakes. The whole thing is about building confidence.”
Wilson calls it “an honor” to be part of RCR. “All you have to do is go next door to the museum and see what (the team) is all about,” he said. “He’s got a great core group of people around him. He hasn’t imported anyone; it’s the same group and everybody knows how to win.”
Next on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first of 10 races in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (2 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Official winners of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Prize Money & Decal Program special awards include:
· AMERICAN ETHANOL GREEN FLAG RESTART: Kevin Harvick
· COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD: David Reutimann (127.383 mph, 21.196 secs,)
· DIRECTV CREW CHIEF OF THE RACE AWARD: Gil Martin (Crew chief for Ryan Newman)
· GOODYEAR GATORBACK BELTS FASTEST LAP AWARD: Jamie McMurray (124.229 mph, Lap 2)
· MAHLE CLEVITE ENGINE BUILDER OF THE RACE AWARD:, Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies, Richard Childress Racing, No. 29
· MOBIL 1 OIL DRIVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Kevin Harvick
· MOOG CHASSIS PARTS PROBLEM SOLVER OF THE RACE AWARD:, Drew Blickensderfer 0.141 secs (crew chief for David Ragan)
· O’REILLY AUTO PARTS POSITION IMPROVEMENT AWARD: Denny Hamlin (19 places)
· SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Andy Lally