Though the distinct roar of the NASCAR Garage 56 Chevrolet has earned global attention at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was NASCAR's over-the-wall athletes who took center stage – and a victory – on Tuesday.
The Hendrick Motorsports pit crew topped 16 competitors in the GTE class to win the Pit Stop Challenge, despite being the only team competing with a manual jack. The five-person crew changed four Goodyear Eagle tires in 10.364 seconds, edging Northwest AMR by 0.12 seconds. They finished fifth overall, just 0.3 seconds behind the top finishing team.
“It was actually our fastest stop of the day, so I would say I was surprised, but also very pleased,” said Hendrick Motorsports Pit Crew Coach Evan Kureczka. “You can tell the fans were very impressed with the fact that we were using a jack to jack the car up. You could see the smiles on their faces, we put on a great show for the fans.”
Even more impressive is the fact it was the team’s first time working together in a competition setting.
“Over the past eight months we’ve put this team together and we’ve rolled with them the entire time and knew this is what we were going to bring to Le Mans, but we had to get them up to speed together,” Kureczka said.
The crew includes Dawson Backus (front tire changer), Mike Moss (rear tire changer), Donovan Williams (jackman), Cody French (front tire carrier) and Jarius Morehead (rear tire carrier). All five compete for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“This is a special moment to be able to represent Hendrick Motorsports, represent our families, America and NASCAR as a whole,” said Williams, the only jackman competing in the competition. “We just relied on our training and it came into place instinctively. I think we all just went out there and performed and didn’t think too much.
“That’s what’s special about sports – we all come from athletic backgrounds and were able to lean on that when you talk about canceling out the crowd, locking in and being in the moment. It was a special moment and we were able to capitalize.”
The Garage 56 project is a partnership between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – the winningest team, manufacturer and tire in the sport’s 75-year history. The Garage 56 Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be driven by 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller in this weekend’s 100th anniversary running of the world-famous endurance race.