CHAMPCAR/CART: Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge - Who Will Win?

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - With just one more qualifying race before the season-ending shootout to determine the champions of the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge, the engineers and mechanics in the Championship Auto Racing Teams FedEx Series are...

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - With just one more qualifying race before the season-ending shootout to determine the champions of the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge, the engineers and mechanics in the Championship Auto Racing Teams FedEx Series are beginning to speculate about who might win the annual pit stop competition. Many eyes are turning toward the team that services the Patrick Racing No. 40 car for driver Adrian Fernandez.

Fernandez and his crew are lending credence to the old saw that races and championships are won and lost in the pits: for the last 11 events, starting with Portland, Fernandez has scored championship points in each race; during the same stretch, the Patrick Racing No. 40 pit crew has scored Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge points in each race, the only team to do so.

Before Portland, Fernandez was languishing in 10th place in CART championship points, and his team was 10th in Craftsman points. Today, Fernandez is tied for fourth in points and his pit crew, with four perfect 20's for pit stop performance, stands atop the Craftsman leaderboard.

Boasting 154 Craftsman points, 23 more than second place (their teammates at Patrick Racing No. 20!), Patrick No. 40's over-the-wall gang is assured a position in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge shootout. They will be among five teams - the top four qualifiers during the first 19 races of the CART season, plus the "wildcard" winner at Michigan International Speedway - as they throw out the points and go head to head to determine the championship.

The shootout will occur on Friday, Oct. 27, prior to the season finale at California Speedway.

"We put a lot of hard work into our pit stops," said Don Lambert, chief mechanic on the No. 40 Tecate/Quaker State Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth. "This is definitely a team sport - if anyone drops the ball, the whole team suffers.

"The Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge has added a lot of excitement to the season for all the pit crews," Lambert continued. "It's especially pleasing for us (to be the top seed for the finals) because we have a competition going with the No. 20 Visteon Patrick Racing crew. They led the standings for a big part of the season, but that just made us work harder to catch up and pass them."

The Sears Craftsman tool brand sponsors the competition to recognize and reward the pit crews in the FedEx Championship Series. In a points system similar to that of the Fed Ex championship, the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge awards points to each team based on the total amount of time spent in the pits during each race. Less time in the pits means more points. Points are accumulated for the first 19 races on the calendar, with the top four teams and the wild card winner from Michigan International Speedway qualifying for the championship shootout. In the finals, each qualifying team will have a chance to make some pit stops under actual racing conditions. The fastest team wins.

The victorious team will take home a specially designed Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge trophy by Waterford Crystal, a $50,000 cash prize and bragging rights as the best in the business. <pre> Points leaders in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge (After 18 of 19 qualifying races)

1.  Patrick Racing No. 40 (Adrian Fernandez)                154 points
2.  Patrick Racing No. 20 (Roberto Moreno)                  131
3.  Player's Forsythe Racing No. 32 (Patrick Carpentier)    119 (Wildcard entry)
4.  Team KOOL Green No. 26 (Paul Tracy)                     118 (1999 winners)
5.  PPI Motorsports No. 97 (Cristiano da Matta)             117

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Cristiano da Matta