Chandler Reflects on Career as Final Pit Crew Competition Arrives at Rockingham DETROIT, Oct. 31, 2001 - For most Pontiac pit crew members, the last four races of the 2001 season simply mark the final month of their duties for this year. For...
Chandler Reflects on Career as Final Pit Crew Competition Arrives at Rockingham
DETROIT, Oct. 31, 2001 - For most Pontiac pit crew members, the last four races of the 2001 season simply mark the final month of their duties for this year. For Jeff Chandler, who changes front tires on the No. 18 Pontiac Grand Prix of Bobby Labonte, this stretch marks the final month of a 17-year career.
Chandler, who started working on pit road in 1985 with the late Alan Kulwicki, has missed only five races since the start of the 1986 season. During those 486 events - including an active streak of 254 - the 37-year-old Chandler shared in a Winston Cup title, a pit crew world championship and was named to NASCAR's "all-pro" pit crew.
This weekend at North Carolina Speedway Chandler will lead the crew that wrenches on Labonte's Pontiac into another edition of NASCAR's pit stop competition. While he looks ahead to that annual contest, he reflects on his stellar career as one of the best in the business.
Thoughts From Jeff Chandler,
Front Tire Changer, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix:
WHY ARE YOU RETIRING?
"It's just time. I've got a complete tear of the ACL in my left knee, I've got a partial tear of the MCL in my left knee and I've got two other partial ligament tears in my left knee, so I have to have total knee reconstruction at the end of the season. "I've gotten old. It's getting harder and harder. The training is getting harder. The time and effort that you have to put into it is a lot more. I' ve got nothing left to prove, so I think I've lost a little of the mental edge. Usually when you're trying to prove something you're going after it a lot harder. Once you've accomplished a lot of the goals that you've set for yourself, it's hard to get back up to go after them again. "I've been very fortunate. We've won the pit crew championship. I've won 'all-pro' awards. We won the Winston Cup championship. We won The Brickyard (400). We've done a lot of cool things. Now it's time to let a young guy come in here and do it."
DO YOU STILL THINK YOU'VE GOT SOME OF THE FASTEST HANDS IN WINSTON CUP?) "I like to think so. But your hands aren't the whole package. You've still got to get there and get back. My hands are good; it's the getting there and getting back that's getting hard."
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS THE MOST?
"The biggest thing will probably be the camaraderie between the guys."
DO YOU STILL GET AN ADRENALIN RUSH AFTER 17 SEASONS?) "Every time you see that car. There is no way around it. If you can't get pumped up for a pit stop, I don't know what will get you pumped up. "This is what I've dreamed about doing since I was six years old. You can ask my parents. When I was six or seven years old, I told them I was going to be doing this and they thought I was nuts. "I'm one of the few people in the world who have gotten to do something they wanted to do. I consider myself as fortunate as a baseball player that gets paid to do what they want to do every week. I consider myself just as lucky - not from the financial standpoint of those guys - but at least I've gotten to do what I dreamed about doing and had fun doing it."
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?
"Winning the Winston Cup championship was the biggest thing. As a personal accomplishment - I won Tire Changer Of The Year in 1996 - that was a big deal. But as a team, winning the Winston Cup championship was a big deal. "If you had to rank them, you've got the Winston Cup championship, you've got the pit crew championship, winning The Brickyard, winning the pole for The Winston was a big deal - that ranks up there pretty high. That would definitely be in the top five. That was a lot of fun. "Watching the '20' car - bringing those guys along and watching them win their first race at Richmond in 1999 when I was pit stop coordinator - that was a big deal to me to see those guys become successful. I enjoyed that."
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT?
"The thing that you always remember is something that is a blunder. You always seem to remember something that you messed up. The one thing that I will never forget was one time when we were at Dover in 1988 with Geoff Bodine. We went out for a pit stop and as soon as I hit the ground to start hitting my first lug nuts, I split my pants. As soon as I hit the first lug nut, it flew off and went right down in my pants. This lug nut is so hot and it is inside my pants just burning the heck out of me. I had to finish that pit stop like that and I was dancing around, shaking my leg, trying to hit lug nuts - I will never forget that. I know there were a lot of cool things that happened over the years, but every time somebody says, 'Do you remember one pit stop in particular?' That one always comes up."
Chandler's Career Driver List
1985 - Alan Kulwicki
1986 - Michael Waltrip
1987 - Darrell Waltrip
1988 - Geoff Bodine
1989 - Geoff Bodine
1990 - Ricky Rudd
1991 - Rick Wilson
1992 - Michael Waltrip
1993 - Michael Waltrip
1994 - Ricky Rudd
1995 - Ricky Rudd
1996 - Bobby Labonte
1997* - Bobby Labonte
1998* - Bobby Labonte
1999* - Bobby Labonte
2000* - Bobby Labonte
2001 - Bobby Labonte
* Served as Pit Stop Coordinator for Joe Gibbs Racing