From Reid Spencer | NASCAR Wire Service
Ty Gibbs’ pit crew triumphs at North Wilkesboro, earns pole for NASCAR All-Star Open
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — The pit crew of Ty Gibbs busted off a 13.012-second stop to win Friday night’s Pit Crew Challenge and the $100,000 winner-take-all prize that goes with it.
With his team’s victory, Gibbs will start on the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Open as he tries to qualify for the NASCAR All-Star Race that follows (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Daniel Suarez’s No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet team earned the pole position for the first of two Saturday night heat races that will set the order for the All-Star Race. In a competition that included both All-Star and Open teams, Suarez is already qualified for the main event.
“This team has been through a lot this year,” said Gibbs’ veteran rear tire changer Mike Hicks. “Pulling this out here is a big confidence builder.”
Gibbs’ 13.012-second stop included the time it took for NASCAR Cup Series rookie to drive his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the pit stall and to exit after the work was complete. In addition to Hicks, Gibbs’ pit crew includes front changer Blake Houston, tire carrier Jacob Holmes, jackman Derrell Edwards and fueler Peyton Moore.
“It’s huge,” said JGR pit crew coach Brian Haaland. “These guys put in so much work that people don’t see. Most of the time when things go wrong, it gets highlighted. So it’s nice that they were able to perform in a really intense environment out there against all their peers and run the fastest pit stop.
“Ty did a fantastic job getting the car exactly where we needed it, and (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) with his mechanics gave us a little help on setup. It was a lot of extra work for those guys—it was a complete team effort today.”
Suarez’s team features front changer Josh Bush, rear changer Jerick Newsome, tire carrier Jeremy Kimbrough, jackman Josh Appleby and fueler Milan Rudanovic. Collectively, they orchestrated their stop in 13.297 seconds in a competition where pit crew performance sets the order for both the All-Star qualifying heats and for the All-Star Open.
Suarez’s crew edged the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford team of driver Chris Buescher, who will start on the pole in Saturday’s second heat after a stop in 13.381 seconds.
The competition was rife with mistakes, as the crews competed for the top prize money under huge pressure to perform at top speed. A five-second penalty for a loose wheel, for instance, cost Brad Keselowski the top starting spot in Heat 1. Keselowski’s team was second fastest overall at 13.044 seconds, but the penalty dropped him to 26th overall.
Chase Elliott’s team was fourth fastest at 13.577 seconds, earning the driver the second starting position in the first heat race. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Josh Berry’s crew was fifth at 13.677 seconds. Berry will start next to Gibbs in the Open.
Austin Dillon’s team was sixth fastest at 13.712 seconds, giving the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet the second starting spot in the second heat.
Twenty-one drivers already are eligible for the All-Star Race, either by winning a NASCAR Cup Series points race in 2022 or 2023, or as former Cup champions or former winners of the All-Star Race.
The top two finishers in the Open will advance to the main event, along with the winner of the Fan Vote.
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Photo's: NASCAR | Jared C. Tilton & Chris Graythen (Getty Images)