If you think Ryan Newman's pit crew will feel pressure Thursday night as it tries to defend its title in the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Cable Arena, you should go to dinner with them.
Sure, there's a $70,000 first prize for the winner of the head-to-head competition. But when it comes to a meal with the No. 12 and the game of "credit card roulette" that follows, the crew guys aren't playing with house money. The loser pays out of his pocket.
"Everybody who wants to play puts his credit card into a hat," explains Trent Cherry, the team's coach and rear-tire carrier. "We have the waitress draw one at a time ... and the last card in the hat pays for everybody."
It starts out as fun and games, but as cards keep coming out of the cap things get serious.
"I guess it all evens out, but when you lose two or three times in a few weeks it starts getting a little tough," Cherry says.
The real cost, though, is hearing it from the others. You don't have be around this crowd long to figure out the guys on the crew love to give each other grief. They also clearly hate to lose.
"You could tell me that in three weeks we're going to build sand castles at the beach, and our guys would be ready," Cherry says.
"We'd have seven guys ready to compete."
The reigning pit crew champions were ready last year, turning in a time of 23.35 seconds during the quarterfinals that stands as a record for this three-year competition. They joined the 2006 champions from the No. 1 team at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and the No. 9 team from Gillett Evernham Motorsports, the 2005 champions, as winners of the event.
The No. 12 crew has spent several weeks practicing, including the particular techniques used during Thursday night's competition, which will begin at 7 p.m.
There are competitions for front-tire changers and carriers, rear-tire changers and carriers, gas man and catch-can man and jack man. After completing each station, team members run to one end of the arena floor and push their car about 40 yards to a finish line.
Following that round, 16 teams will compete head-to-head for the right to advance to the championship stop.
Time penalties for loose lug nuts and excessive fuel spillage - water is used instead of gas - often make the difference.
"If you look at why most teams get knocked out, it's not because they're slow, it's because they made mistakes," says Joe Piette, the rear-tire changer for last year's winning team.
" ... It's a great competition, but it's not exactly what we do every Sunday. You have to think about a few things. The more you practice the less you have to think and the smoother it should go."
Brian White was on the catch can last year but since has swapped positions with Britt Goodrich, taking over as the team's jack man. Like several of his teammates, White is a former high school and college athlete.
"I've been having anxiety attacks about this competition for weeks," says White, who played football at Virginia.
"It's the same as football. I was nervous from Wednesdays until game day, but once I got onto the field I was fine."
Front-tire changer Ben Brown said there is a "Monday Night Football" effect to this competition, in which pit road peers can actually focus on what each team is doing instead of all of them doing it at the same time.
"At the competition you actually see everybody who's watching you," Brown said.
"You know cameras are there for the race, but when it's actually people - some of whom you know very well like your mom and dad - that can be even more pressure.
"It's easier to get into a groove during the race because you do it every weekend and you kind of have a routine. You do this once a year.
"You don't want to look bad in front of those other guys. But it's really the fans. They'll tell you about it."