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Sprint Cup - Quick Pit Stops Require Mental As Well As Physical Skills

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Roush Fenway’s Andy Ward Guides No. 17 Team to Mechanix Wear 3rd Quarter Award

DAYTONA BEACH, Oct. 10, 2011: Andy Ward, Roush Fenway Racing’s head of pit instruction, coaches physical skills but believes mental toughness ultimately is the difference between winning and losing.

Ward, whose No. 17 Ford team won the third quarter Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award, said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing has reached the point where every crew on pit road has reached an elite level of performance.

“Very few teams have a clear-cut advantage,” said Ward, who has managed pit crews for nearly 15 years. “Ninety percent of the cars (theoretically) would leave the way they came down [pit road]. What separates them is which can adapt the most to adverse conditions. It’s a nip and tuck thing.”

The No. 17 team’s performance during the season’s third quarter cemented Kenseth’s spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ as well as getting the driver off to a solid start in the post season. Its average pit stop time was second at Chicagoland, sixth at Bristol, first in Michigan, eighth at Watkins Glen and seventh at Indianapolis. Kenseth had four top-10 finishes during the third quarter including a fifth in the Brickyard 400.

Crew chief Jimmy Fennig’s over-the-wall crew consists of jack man Cameron Cobb, Washington, Ill.; front tire changer Justin Nottestad, Cambridge, Wis.; front tire carrier Joe Crossen, Salisbury, N.C.; gas man Shawn Ward, Hickory, N.C.; rear tire carrier Ryan McCray, Highland, Calif. and rear tire changer Jon Moore, Gainesville, Fla.

Ward, 38, is in his second stint with Roush Fenway, rejoining the organization when it absorbed Yates Racing in 2004. He shared the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 team in 2003.

“I just flat-out believed they out-performed every team in the sport,” said Ward, whose team claimed the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. The $5,000 award goes to the eligible driver – Kenseth – who records the fastest average speed on restarts. “We lost both tire changers from the previous year and we came back and won with the next group. I’d like to see us put this team over the top (for the championship). It would be a dream come true.”

The Kannapolis, N.C. native began his coaching career as a volunteer in 1996, moonlighting from his physical therapist assistant job with HealthSouth. He joined Penske Kranefuss Racing as a strength and conditioning coach two years later as teams began to realize that over the wall members should be specialists rather than mechanics pressed into race day duty.

“I still chuckle when I remember asking, ‘how often do you practice?’ and they answered, ‘we don’t,’” said Ward.

Ward’s job goes beyond simply teaching choreography and clicking the stopwatch.

“My influence is understanding people, putting groups together that work,” he said. “Super athletes can perform in the parking lot but when it comes time to race they fold. It’s all about being able to control your emotions; people who live for the spotlight, seek it and perform in it.”