All-Star: Pit Crew Challenge preview

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES PIT CREWS PREPARING FOR THEIR ALL-STAR MOMENTS * Inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge adding to 'All-Star Weekend' * 24 teams competing for total purse of nearly $250,000, winner's purse of $70,000 DAYTONA...

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES PIT CREWS PREPARING FOR THEIR ALL-STAR MOMENTS

* Inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge adding to 'All-Star Weekend'

* 24 teams competing for total purse of nearly $250,000, winner's purse of $70,000

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 17, 2005) -- Over the wall ... and into the spotlight.

That's the theme for Thursday night's inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge presented by MOTOROLA at the Charlotte Coliseum, as pit-crew members from 24 top NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will compete in a skills competition to determine the sport's best crew. In addition to the requisite bragging rights, also at stake is a $70,000 winner's purse.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge adds an enticing element to "all-star weekend" in Charlotte, as lead-in to the 21st annual NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge race set for Saturday night at nearby Lowe's Motor Speedway.

It also showcases the fact that NASCAR is a true team sport, with success partially dependent on the cohesiveness and athleticism of "all-star" pit crews, working in concert with crew chiefs and drivers.

"We feel like our all-star weekend now rivals what other professional sports offer their fans," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "In the process, we feel like having such a full weekend of all-star activity can only help increase our sport's popularity."

The NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge will have a tournament-style format with four rounds of competition.

Here's how it works:

Round One and Round Two will be "races against the clock" to determine the fastest tire changers, tire carriers, jackmen, gas men and catch-can men. The fastest eight teams in Round One will move on to Round Two.

In Round Two, teams are matched head-to-head in a single-elimination format.

In the semifinals, teams vie head-to-head with standard four tire pit stops.

The final also will be a head-to-head, four-tire pit stop duel, to determine the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew championship team.

"This is an opportunity for the individual crew members to showcase their talents," said NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, himself a former longtime NASCAR crew chief.

"The guys behind the scenes are an essential part of race day. This is a team sport, and even though the drivers get most of the accolades, it is the crew that will make or break your afternoon."

The same teams that have qualified for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge race are eligible for the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge. Twenty teams are eligible for both; however, the pit-crew event will feature 24 teams.

To be eligible for both events, you must have:

*• Won a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race in either 2004 or 2005;

*• Won the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge in previous years;

*• Won the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship within the previous 10 years;

Two other teams have qualified only for the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge:

*• Sterling Marlin's team, via his victory in last year's NEXTEL Open, a preliminary race to the all-star challenge for teams without wins in the previous and current seasons;

*• Ken Schrader's team. Schrader was the NEXTEL Open driver who made the "big race" last year via a fan vote.

In addition, three teams are in the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge field based on car owner point standings, accounting for the designated full field of 24 teams. (The team of Terry Labonte, one of the 20 teams originally qualified for both all-star events, declined to participate in the pit-crew competition.) The three getting in via owner's points are the teams of Jamie McMurray, Jeff Burton and Scott Riggs. (Note: Kyle Busch's team was in line for the third owner-points berth but declined, enabling the Riggs team entry.)

The Competition:

• Round One: Chosen by a random drawing, all teams compete, two teams at a time, against the clock in the individual skills/team competition, with the eight (8) fastest teams progressing to Round Two as determined by overall team time. Additionally, the fastest crew member at each station will be crowned as the individual champion in the following categories: front tire changer and carrier, rear tire changer and carrier, jack man, gas man and catch-can man.

• Round Two: Quarterfinals -- The eight (8) fastest teams from Round One advance to a head-to-head single elimination competition seeded by Round One overall team time.

• Round Three: Semifinals -- The competition changes, with the fastest four (4) teams from Round Two competing two at a time in a head-to-head standard four-tire NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series pit stop.

• Round Four: The Final -- The winning teams from Round Three compete in a head-to-head standard four-tire NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition pit stop with the winner crowned as the inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge champion.

Note: In the event of a tie in any of the rounds, the driver who is ranked higher in the current 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship point standings, as of May 15, 2005, will prevail.

Rounds One and Two Format Details:

The individual skills stations in these two rounds are actual pit boxes with a full size NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car. The four cars and pit boxes will be set up specifically for the front tire changer and carrier, rear tire changer and carrier, the jack man, and the gas man and catch can man. All team members will begin simultaneously at the sound of a starter's pistol. They will hit a stop button positioned on pit wall as they leave their respective pit box, creating their individual split time.

*• Front Tire Changer and Front Tire Carrier Pit Box -- In this box, changers and carriers will work together to simulate race-day conditions. Just like a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event, the front tire changer and carriers will start from outside the pit box, attacking the right side of the car first, then moving onto the left. The second tire will be pre-positioned by the carrier at the pit wall. Competitors will use their own air guns, and a five (5) second time penalty will be administered for any lugs not properly installed. Tire changer must hit split timer button on exit of pit box.

*• Rear Tire Changer and Rear Tire Carrier Pit Box -- Very similar to the front positions, but the starting position will be just over the wall, near the left rear of the car. Tire changer must hit split timer button on exit of pit box.

*• Gas Man Pit Box -- In this box, the gas man and catch can man will be responsible for filling a car with 18 gallons of non-flammable liquid, using two pre-loaded nine (9) gallon cans. Fuel nozzles and fuel cans will be provided. Gas men will start with one fuel can in hand from just over the wall near the left rear of the car, and will be timed through setting the second can down. If the fuel cans are not empty the competitor will receive a time penalty. The gas man must hit the split timer on exit of pit box.

*• Jack Man Pit Box -- In this box, the jack man, using his own jack, must jack each side of the car high enough to lift both tires off the ground. A NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Official will signal when the tires on each side of the car are off the ground. The jack man must start from outside of the pit box with his hands off the jack and must set off each light before hitting the split timer button and leaving his pit box.

*• 40 Yard "Push" -- As soon as each team member finishes their respective station, they can go to the center of the Charlotte Coliseum, where a special 40-yard lane is created. Each team will get to push their own 3,200 pound (w/o driver) race car across the finish line. Timing will begin when the car starts to move, finishing when the nose of the racing machine crosses the electronic finish line.

FAST FACTS

What: NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge presented by MOTOROLA.

Where: Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, N.C.
When: 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, May 19.

Posted Awards: $248,500.
Winner's Purse: $70,000.

Teams: A total of 24, starting with 19 of 20 teams eligible for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, plus the 2004 NEXTEL Open winning team and the 2004 NEXTEL Open fan-vote winning team. Also, three teams qualified based on current car owner point standings.

TV: FX at 6 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 21

Radio: XM Satellite (4-7 p.m. live from event) and MRN (6 p.m., Saturday, May 21).

<pre> Following is a list of the 24 teams scheduled to compete in the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge.

CAR                                   DRIVER             CREW CHIEF             HOW TEAM QUALIFIED
No. 16 National Guard Ford            Greg Biffle        Doug Richert           Aug. 2004 Michigan win
No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet    Jeff Burton        Kevin Hamlin           Car owner points
No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford             Kurt Busch         Jimmy Fennig           March 2004 Bristol win
No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet             Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pete Rondeau           Feb. 2004 Daytona win
No. 99 Office Depot Ford              Carl Edwards       Bob Osborne            March 2005 Atlanta win
No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet               Jeff Gordon        Robbie Loomis          April 2004 Talladega win
No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet        Kevin Harvick      Todd Berrier           April 2005 Bristol win
No. 88 UPS Ford                       Dale Jarrett       TBA                    Won '99 series championship
No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet               Jimmie Johnson     Chad Knaus             March 2004 Darlington win
No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge         Kasey Kahne        Tommy Baldwin Jr.      May 2005 Richmond win
No. 17 DEWALT Ford                    Matt Kenseth       Robbie Reiser          Feb. 2004 Rockingham win
No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Bobby Labonte      Steve Addington        Won '00 series championship
No. 40 Coors Light Dodge              Sterling Marlin    Steve Boyer            Won 2004 NEXTEL Open
No. 6 Viagra Ford                     Mark Martin        Pat Tryson             June 2004 Dover win
No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge        Jeremy Mayfield    Slugger Labbe          Sept. 2004 Richmond win
No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge          Jamie McMurray     Donnie Wingo           Car owner points
No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet            Joe Nemechek       Ryan Pemberton         Oct. 2004 Kansas win
No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge                   Ryan Newman        Matt Borland           June 2004 Michigan win
No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet            Scott Riggs        Doug Randolph          Car owner points
No. 38 M&M's Ford                     Elliott Sadler     Todd Parrott           April 2004 Texas win
No. 49 Schwan's Dodge                 Ken Schrader       David Hyder            '04 NEXTEL Open Fan Vote
No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet           Tony Stewart       Greg Zipadelli         July 2004 Chicago win
No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge               Rusty Wallace      Larry Carter           April 2004 Martinsville win
No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet                 Michael Waltrip    Tony Eury Jr.          Won '96 all-star race

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Mike Helton , Elliott Sadler , Chad Knaus , Kevin Hamlin , Robbie Loomis , Doug Richert , Tony Eury Jr. , Tommy Baldwin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin