Consistency is what wins on NASCAR's pit road – as long it's consistently fast.
The No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota team hit both marks Thursday in winning the fourth annual NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Arena.
"Consistency breeds speed," said Greg Miller, the coach of the winning squad that work on driver Brian Vickers' Sprint Cup cars each week. "When you're consistent and smooth and you don't have to go back and make up for mistakes then you will be fast."
The winners were mistake free in peeling off five straight stops in less than 23 seconds to take home the first prize of more than $70,000 as well as this year's bragging rights for NASCAR's top series.
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They edged Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota squad from Joe Gibbs Racing, for the championship with a time of 22.902 seconds. Hamlin's team ran penalty free, too, but finished in 23.011 seconds to take the runner-up slot in front of about 8,000 fans.
The event record coming into the night was a 23.35-second stop, but as teams figure out this competition it was predictable that would fall. But Vickers' team beat that mark in each of its stops, with a best time of 22.572 seconds in Round 2.
The No. 83 team's victory had much to do with the portion of the competition that's unique to this contest - a 40-yard push of the race following the completion of the individual tasks on each run. The key this year seemed to be which team could get its gas man and catch-can man to the car to join the jack man - the first to arrive in most cases - in starting the push.
"It's like a drag race," gas man Doug Newell said. "The car coming out of the hole first usually gets it."
Miller, who coached Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodge team to victory in this contest in 2005 before joining Red Bull Racing, said his crew uses a car push as a regular-part of the strength and conditioning program set up by strength coach Ben Cook.
Rear-tire carrier Jake Brzozowski said the crew is "like one giant family" because the team members spend so much time together. Most NASCAR teams use over-the-wall crewmen who coming in only for training and practices as well as the weekend races. But Red Bull Racing's No. 83 and No. 84 teams are full-time team employees.
"It's like having 14 brothers," Miller said.
The winning team included Newell and catch-can man Mike Metcalf, front-tire changer Brian Haaland and carrier Aaron Schields, rear-tire changer Danny Kincaid and Brzozowski, and jack man Shaun Peet.
The defending champions from the No. 12 Penske Racing team of Ryan Newman lost in the second round to Carl Edwards' No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford team.
Individual competition winners each collected $10,000 checks for their wins.
Nick O’Dell of Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota team at Joe Gibbs Racing, got a victory as a front-tire changer for a second straight year, teaming with carrier Brad Donaghy for a time of 14.739 seconds. O'Dell was with the No. 9 team a year ago.
Caleb Hurd, the gas man, and catch-can man Jamie Frady from Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet team won with an event-record time of 10.031 seconds, ending a two-year winning streak by gas man Jeff Patterson and catch-can man Brian Larson from the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Tony Stewart.
Rear changer Dave Smith and carrier Jason Binger from the No. 17 Ford team of driver Matt Kenseth at Roush Fenway Racing won with a time of 14.462 seconds.
Jack man Eric Wilson from Kahne’s No. 9 team won with a record time of 5.431 seconds. The No. 9 Dodge team has had at least one individual champion in every year the competition has been held.
Wilson, 38, has been working in NASCAR since 1996. "We were doing 17-second pit stops in 1996 and now teams are getting into the 11s," Wilson said. "The caliber of athletes compared to 12 years ago is just unbelievable."