Rockingham World Pit Crew competition preview

Union 76/Rockingham World Pit Crew competition rewards the best crew on pit road. Rockingham, N.C. -- From the time Winston Cup pit crews began orchestrating organized chaos in order to change four tires, add fuel and make adjustments to their...

Union 76/Rockingham World Pit Crew competition rewards the best crew on pit road.

Rockingham, N.C. -- From the time Winston Cup pit crews began orchestrating organized chaos in order to change four tires, add fuel and make adjustments to their race cars, there has been a friendly Sunday rivalry among race teams. For each round of pit stops during a Winston Cup race, the pit crew for the car that makes it off pit road first is deemed the winner, for the moment. Races can be both won and lost in the pits, and rest assured the crew takes its responsibility very seriously.

The Wood Brothers are credited with being the organization that developed pit stops as we know them today. The 76 brand realized the importance of the pit crews and as a result developed the Union 76 / Rockingham World Pit Crew Competition. Beginning 35 years ago in 1967, Union 76 proudly crowned the first world championship pit crew. Leonard Wood and his Wood Brothers crew were the first champions, changing two tires in 21.992 seconds.

Fast forward to 2001 when Robbie Reiser led his Roush Racing crew to a world championship title. Matt Kenseth's crew changed the mandatory four tires (teams changed only two tires prior to 1985) in 17.695 seconds. To put into perspective the skill needed to perform a pit stop comparable to today's standards, the 2001 champs performed twice the work in five less seconds than the original champions. But that in no way takes away from the pioneer Wood Brothers and the steps taken in order to further refine auto racing as we know it. It simply shows the progression of talent and resources of NASCAR Winston Cup pit crews.

Since 1967, the Union 76 World Pit Crew Competition has been the only NASCAR sanctioned pit crew contest on the circuit. Giving world-class pit crews a time to shine, this event rewards the best of the best with the coveted 'World Championship Pit Crew' title.

Held annually during the fall race weekend at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, the object of the competition is for each crew in the top 25 in points to empty 14 gallons of 76 Gasoline into the car (two cans holding seven gallons each) and change both left- and right-side tires in as short a time as possible. Time penalties are assessed for various infractions including loose lug nuts, fuel spills and fuel left in the gas can. The team with the fastest time becomes the new world champion.

Today's Winston Cup pit crews have refined their performance to an art. Undertaking such activities as mental drills, extensive workouts and cross training are just some of the ways teams reach for perfection. Numerous teams employ full-time physical trainers in order to build the best pit crew.

Past champions of this elite event include such notable teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Petty Enterprises. Richard Childress Racing and the Wood Brothers organization each won the championship a record four times.

The 35th annual Union 76 World Pit Crew Competition takes place November 2, 2002, following the NASCAR Busch Series event at North Carolina Speedway. From the Rainbow Warriors to the Flying Aces, NASCAR Winston Cup pit crews have established themselves as motorsports celebrities from their pit crew performances both at this event and on any given Sunday.

As teams go head to head this November, they are competing for more than bragging rights or a new nickname, they are vying for a healthy payday. The total prize money payout in 2001 was $76,000, with $30,000 going to the winner. Teams that set a new world record also get a $1,000 bonus.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth
Teams Hendrick Motorsports