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Newman team prevails in Pit Crew Challenge

Associated Press • May 16, 2007 at 10:33 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Ryan Newman's team kicked off NASCAR's All-Star week activities by winning the Nextel Pit Crew Challenge on Wednesday night, beating Bobby Labonte's team in the final round.

Newman's seven-member crew changed four tires, filled the car with gas and pushed it 40 yards in 24.66 seconds to collect the $70,300 first prize.

Labonte's jackman reached the car first, but Newman's crew was able to get the No. 12 car to roll quicker to win the event. And thanks to a new rule, Newman's team will get to choose its pit box for Saturday's Nextel All-Star Challenge.

Labonte's team completed its stop in 24.99 seconds. Mark Martin's team finished third and Kyle Busch's crew was fourth.

Newman's winning crew included George Whitley (gas man), Brian White (gas catch-can man), Ben Brown (front tire changer), Scott Reiniger (front tire carrier), Joe Piette Jr. (rear tire changer), Trent Cherry (rear tire carrier) and Britt Goodrich (jackman).

The event also included individual prizes of $10,000 each to crew members for completing their tasks the fastest in the opening round.

Those awards went to: Nick O'Dell and Jason Gay, front tire changers for Kasey Kahne; Daniel Rankin and Bryan Rockwell, rear tire changers for Labonte; Mitch Lash, jackman for Dale Jarrett; and Jeff Patterson and Brian Larson, gas man and catch-can man for Tony Stewart.

The event pitted 24 crews - seeded based on the Nextel Cup points standings - facing each other in head-to-head stops with the winners of each heat advancing to the next round.

The competition strayed from normal race pit stops. Teams changed tires on two unmarked cars, filled the tank on another and a jackman lifted a fourth car. The jackman then ran to the team's regular car and began pushing it to the finish line, joined by the rest of his crew as they finished their tasks.

Teams received time penalties for infractions ranging from loose lug nuts to spilled gas, which caused several teams to be eliminated after initially winning their heats. There were penalties on at least one team in each of the first 15 head-to-head stops.

Defending champion Martin Truex Jr.'s team was knocked out in the first round. It beat Clint Bowyer's team to the finish line, but was penalized three seconds for a loose lug nut.

Defending champion Martin Truex Jr.'s team was knocked out in the first round. It beat Clint Bowyer's team to the finish line, but was penalized 3 seconds for a loose lug nut. A lug nut violation also not knocked out Kahne's crew in the first round. Kahne's team, which won the inaugural event in 2005 and finished second last year, beat Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew to the finish line, but the penalty put Junior's team into the second round, much to the delight of the fans at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Junior's team reached the quarterfinals, but was eliminated due to a 5-second penalty for spilled fuel. A day earlier, Earnhardt was docked 100 points, while crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was fined $100,000 and suspended six races for an illegal car modification at Darlington Raceway Sunday. Eury Jr. and Earnhardt Jr. were not seen at the event, but many drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, were rooting on their teammates. While Gordon and Johnson's teams have dominated this season on the Nextel Cup circuit, Hendrick Motorsports continued to struggle in this competition. Hendrick, which has won four straight races and eight of nine, did get Busch's crew into the semifinals before it lost to Newman's team. It was the first time a Hendrick team reached the final eight. Denny Hamlin's team lost in the quarterfinals, the same day three crew members were replaced and two were given new jobs in response to Hamlin's criticism following a mistake during a late pit stop Sunday at Darlington Raceway.

Hamlin's team won its first two heats before losing to Labonte.

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