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NASCAR-WCUP: Pennzoil Team Grabs 2nd Place in Pit Stop Contest

3 November 1998

Steve Park
As the #1 Pennzoil Monte Carlo team learns its lessons on the track, the pit crew proved it is about the best first-year pit crew ever assembled in NASCAR Winston Cup racing. After winning the Coke pit stop competition at Charlotte in May the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team turned in another impressive performance by finishing second on Saturday at the Unocal 76 competition in Rockingham.

The first year team earned the second place finish at the prestigious annual pit stop competition and in the process surprised observers who predicted the more experienced teams would occupy the top positions.

"You guys have put a lot of hard work into this and should be very proud of yourselves," said Crew Chief Philippe Lopez. "This is a heck of an accomplishment for any team but especially for a first-year team."

The team's luck didn't hold for the AC Delco 400 on Sunday, when the Pennzoil team and driver Steve Park struggled to a 35th place finish with an ill handling race car on the slippery North Carolina Motor Speedway race track.

"It was a pretty frustrating day," Park said. "We were tight which meant it was hard to turn the car in the corner. That made for a very long day."

Park started the race in 38th place and moved up to the middle of the pack early in the race before the handling problems relegated the Pennzoil Monte Carlo to the back of the field. Jeff Gordon won the race as well as the 1998 Winston Cup title.

Park did benefit from 17-second pit stops but suffered from some untimely yellow flags that dropped him down several laps.

The green flag pit stops on Sunday were nearly as impressive as the Pennzoil crew's 20.526-second pit stop on Saturday that enabled the team to finish second among the 37 teams entered during the two-hour competition. The time was only two-tenths of a second behind Mike Skinner's winning team.

Walt Smith, the team's pit stop coach and jack man, said the weekly pit stop practices are paying dividends.

"I think this is kind of a reward for all the work our guys have put in on pit stops this year," said Walt Smith. "A lot of these guys work in the shop and so it's doubly tough to find the time and the energy to work on pit stops but as competitive as this sport is on the track pit stops are becoming more and more critical each year."

The Pennzoil pit crew includes tire changers Travis Block and Robbie Fuller, tire carriers Kevin Manion and Gary Smith, jack man Walt Smith, gas man Troy Cole, catch-can man Charles Dickey, and crew chief Philippe Lopez.

The DEI team earned $7,500 for the second place finish in the pit stop competition. The team returns to racing action this weekend in Atlanta. Editors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in The Racing Image Galleries and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.