Benson pit stops the key at Talladega

Pit stops will be key word the next two weeks as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visits the Talladega Superspeedway then holds its annual pit stop competition the following weekend in Rockingham. Improving pit stops has been a daily effort...

Pit stops will be key word the next two weeks as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visits the Talladega Superspeedway then holds its annual pit stop competition the following weekend in Rockingham.

Improving pit stops has been a daily effort at Johnny Benson's MB2 Motorsports team in recent weeks. The team's three top-10 finishes in the last five races have made improving the pit stops even more critical in the effort to visit Victory Lane. When Benson raced in the middle of the pack, his crew chief James Ince figured he had an above average pit crew that could turn 15 and 16 second pits stops routinely. Now that Benson is consistently racing with the leaders, Ince is learning that the Aaron's Pontiac is losing ground in the pits to the upper echelon teams that perform 14-second pit stops each stop.

To solve this problem, Ince has employed MB2 Motorsports pitstop coach/athletic trainer Phil Horton to begin working on the #10 team's pits stops. Horton has been working with the #36 for three years helping the team improve its physical conditioning as well as pit stop times. Horton entered the sport as Ernie Irvan's trainer. He has experience as a trainer at Florida A&M, Memphis University, and the NBA's the Milwaukee Bucks.

Phil Horton, MB2 Pitstop Coach/Athletic Trainer On:
What Makes A Good Pit Crewman?

"There are three things I look for in a crewman. First is strength. For the tire carriers and jackmen I require that they perform a minimum of a 225-lbs. bench press, 600-pound leg press and 350-lbs. squat. Second is cardiovascular. The season last 10 months so you have to have a firm base regarding endurance. Not so much for the pit stops but for doing your job Sunday in and Sunday out for ten months. You have to be in shape or you will diminish. The third component is mental toughness. Other athletes have to block out their opponents or fans. In racing you have to be very strong minded to block out those 3,500-pound cars that are whizzing inches from your body. You don't teach that. They have to come through the door with that toughness."

How Does The Season Take It's Toll:

"Everybody is fresh at the beginning. But in the summer months, with the way the schedule is with the travel, it really starts to take its toll. You don't get a whole lot of time for working out and training from about June to September. The crews better get all their training in before that because in the last part of the season about the time September rolls around that's where everything starts to take its toll. If you have your strength built up, the better teams will have the better pit stops. That's why you see a lot of teams that were really good at the beginning of the season tend to fade to the end. That's natural. To stop that you have to be in better shape."

What Is A Good Pit Stop?

"I look at pitstop video and break it down to grades A, B, C and D. As far as the way I grade it a good pit stop now is 15.5 seconds on average. A great stop is about 14.5 seconds. Anything over 17.5 is a bad stop. A lot of people who watch the races on television only watch the three or four best teams. I think the fastest a pit stop can be done is 11.7 seconds. If everything stays the same, you will probably never see a stop quicker than that. It's almost humanely impossible. But, I think pretty soon you will see a 13.5-second stop."

Key Ingredient To Success?

"Getting them to believe it is more important to be precise than to be quick. If they bought into that concept, they would be excellent across the board. So many athletes come into this sport with the mindset they are going to attack the pit stop like football player attacks the ball carrier. But racing requires the finesse mindset. It's like golf. If you attack the ball, you are going to slice it. But if you finesse it, you are going to have better results.

Future of Pit Stops:

"Everybody is getting better but the top teams are really getting good. They are hiring the best people. But the crews that aren't on television are pretty good also. Usually television shows the good teams at critical points when they have to have their best stops. Sometimes fans are getting an inflated average of what they are turning. I think you will see more and more teams using a whole different set of guys for their pit stops than just the mechanics. We are asking a lot of these guys to work on the car and pit the car. Their dedication is unbelievable."

What Changes Have You Made At #10 Pontiac:

"I watched what they were doing and the biggest problem was incorrect foot patterns around the car. That led to a lot of injuries. All of these guys trained as baseball, football, and basketball players. Nobody trains as a pit crew member when they are young. It's only on the professional level that you learn these skills."

Johnny Benson On Pit Crew:

"Nowadays there seems to be a greater importance on everything we do. We look at everything from how good the driver gets through traffic to how good you qualify. We are concentrating more than ever on pit stops. It doesn't just mean what the crew does. But we think pretty hard on Saturday's about where we want to pit. You pick your pit stall based on qualifying so it puts a little more emphasis on qualifying as well. As a driver, I have to get in and out as fast as I can without being penalized. It's easier to pass in the pits than it is on the racetrack. Its not just the time it takes to pass. But you don't use up your tires as well.

"Right now, as long as we stay even on pit stops we are happy. But in the future that is an area of our program that will get better and better. Look what happened at Martinsville. Jeff Burton is out there cruising ready to win the race. The yellow comes out and their team doesn't get out of the pits as quick as Tony Stewart and they don't win the race."

Crew Chief James Ince On Pit Crew:

"What we realized about a month ago is that when we were racing the 15th through 20th place cars our pit stops were fine. Now that we are racing the fifth through 15th place cars all of a sudden, our pit stops weren't what we wanted them to be. Now there is a huge premium put on the pit stops. We spend about 25 hours a week working on pit stops. We are always looking to improve and looking for the better guy. The cars are so equal on the race track now that you to get what you can get on pit road."

Crew Chief James Ince On Pit Rockingham Pit Stop Contest:

"We wouldn't go to Rockingham unless we planned to win the pit stop competition on Saturday then sit on the pole, lead every lap, and win the race on Sunday."

RACE INFORMATION: Winston 500 presented by UPS Winston Cup Race #30 of 34 for the 2000 season

a.. Race: Sunday, October 15, 2000 in Talladega, AL

b.. Talladega is in Central time, all times listed here are Eastern Time(1 hour ahead)

c.. TV: ESPN 1:00pm/et

d.. Posted Awards/Purse: $2,795,869, plus a possible 1 million to a No Bull 5 Winner

e.. 1999 Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt

f.. Overall Race Record: Mark Martin, May 1995, 186.288mph

g.. Track/Race Length: 2.66 mile quad oval, 188 laps, 500.08 miles

h.. Pit Road Speed: 55mph

i.. Practice: Thursday, Oct 12th times unknown(for the new rules to test); Friday, Oct 13th 12:00noon - 2:00pm/et; Saturday, Oct 14th 9:15 - 10:30am/et

j.. Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Oct 14th 12:45-1:45pm/et, TV-ESPN2 4:30-5:30pm/et same day tape

k.. Qualifying Draw: Friday, Oct 13th at 11:30am/et

l.. First Round Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-25, Friday, Oct 13th at 4:00pm/et, TV-ESPN2 live and live via PRN radio/internet

m.. Second-Round Qualifying: 2 lap for positions 26th-36th, Saturday, Oct 14th at 11:45am/et

n.. Track Qualifying Record(no restrictor plate): Bill Elliott, April 1987, 212.809mph

o.. Track Qualifying Record(Restrictor Plate): Bill Elliott, May 1990, 199.388(15/16th inch plate)

p.. Event Qualifying Record: Bill Elliott, July 1986, 209.005mph(unrestricted)

q.. Last Year's Pole Sitter: Joe Nemechek, 198.331mph

Track Specs: Superspeedway: 2.66-mile trioval 48 feet wide (12-foot apron) Turns: Banking: 33 degrees Length: 3,750 feet Radius: 1,100 feet Trioval: Banking: 18 degrees Frontstretch: Chute length: 2,150 feet (from turn to middle of trioval) Total length: 4,300 feet Banking: Minimal for drainage only Backstretch: Length: 4,000 feet Banking: Minimal for drainage only(Talladega Website)

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Ernie Irvan , Tony Stewart , Joe Nemechek , Johnny Benson , Mark Martin