|05/09/12 12:53PM||Pit Crew Challenge, Sprint Cup All Star Race, Wood Brothers|
Wood eyeing three-peat in Pit Crew Challenge
By Steve Post, Special to NASCAR.COM
May 08, 2012 11:50 AM, EDT
His job generally is to stay out of the spotlight.
But every May, veteran gas man Scott Wood and his fellow pit road weekend warriors take center stage in one of the most exciting events of the season.
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The 2012 Sprint Pit Crew Challenge is set for 7 p.m. ET May 17 at Time-Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. The annual contest pits the top-24 Sprint Cup Series pit crews head-to-head in a no-holds-barred, over-the-wall elimination tournament.
For Wood, a Liberty, S.C., native and gas man for the No. 11 Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin, the event could mean extraordinary bragging rights. He and his over-the-wall teammates are seeking a record third consecutive victory in this year's eight annual Sprint Pit Crew Challenge.
"It's awesome," Wood said, speaking about the event. "Of course, our main focus is pit stops during a race. But, that's just a treat we get and everybody would like to win it."
While intense for competitors, the JHE-produced contest is a family-fun event for the crowd, allowing team members the opportunity to perform their skills in front of family and friends.
"They put it together really well, and we get a lot of fans there to scream for the guys who work on the race cars," Wood said. "We don't get that kind of attention very often and it's really cool. We have a lot of families and friends who come out, they make signs and cheer, it's awesome for us guys."
During the competition, Wood and his teammates -- Nate Bolling (jack man), Nick Krizmanich (front-tire changer), Brandon Pegram (front-tire carrier), Mike Hicks (rear-tire changer) and Heath Cherry (rear-tire carrier) -- will try to perform a technical "dance" in 21 seconds or less.
The Sprint Pit Crew Challenge features four individual skills stations where crew members from two teams simultaneously change front and rear tires, fill a car with 18 gallons of liquid, and jack up both sides of a car. After completing their individual tasks, the six crew members come together to push their race car 40 yards to the finish line.
Wood, a former linebacker for Mesa State University and running back/linebacker for the pro football Bergamo Lions in Bergamo, Italy, is no stranger to the 40-yard dash. He maintains training and conditioning are keys to the competition.
"The thing we've got going for us is that we stay in good shape all the time," said Wood, who has logged more than 15 years on pit road in the Cup Series. "We have specific things we have to do for our workouts, and most of us do more than that. We are gym-rats."
Wood said the No. 11 team will rely on their day-to-day conditioning regimen to be prepared for the competition, but will also put in a minimal amount of specific practice just for the event.
"A couple of weeks before the event, we start doing a couple of car-pushes after pit practice back in the lot [at Joe Gibbs Racing]," Wood explained. "That's about all we do extra."
Once teams complete the side-by-side 40-yard dash across the length of the arena, they'll focus back on NASCAR officials who will be there inspecting for loose lug nuts or other infractions.
"Mentally you don't want to make mistakes and that's the main thing," Wood said. "The rest of it is to do your job."
With bragging rights and more than $70,000 on the line for the team championship, it's not hard for teams to get motivated.
"Anytime there is something out there to win, we want to win it," added Wood. "There is a good bit of money and that helps with home projects, so it's quite a treat for sure."
The team that wins the 2012 Sprint Pit Crew Challenge also gets the very advantageous first pit stall for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway two nights later.
Sprint Pit Crew Challenge ticket prices start at just $15, while children two to 12 cost $7.50 each. Visit www.pitcrewchallenge.com or call the Time Warner Cable Arena box office at (800) 745-3000. SPEED will air the competition starting at 8 p.m. ET.
Visit www.nascar.com/allstar for tickets and information on the Sprint All-Star Race on May 19.