CONCORD, N.C.—That Jimmie Johnson’s crew won the NASCAR Sprint Crew Challenge on Thursday night was hardly surprising. More remarkable was the complete turnover of the five-time champion’s over-the-wall gang.
No member of Johnson’s 2009 and 2010 title teams is still on the crew in any of the skill positions. Does that mean the template for a pit crew member has changed in the last three years?
“Yeah, just like the sport in so many other respects, it continues to evolve,” Johnson told the NASCAR Wire Service. “For a long time, due to budget reasons and the structure of the budget for our organization, we worked hard to have over-the-wall guys that also had some responsibilities in the shop. (Current car chief) Ron Malec was a tire carrier for a long time.
“We were getting our money’s worth out of Ron week-in and week-out. Today, it’s changed. The physical demand on the road crew guys, working on the car three days in advance — here when the garage opens, when it closes — it takes away a little bit. Pit road is so competitive that we felt we needed to have just specific over-the-wall guys.”
Crew chief Chad Knaus actually held mini camps for prospective pit crew members, drawing from college sports.
“Our whole search started and took us some time to get everybody in the right positions and get the experience they need, but now it’s really paying off,” Johnson said.