‘It’s awesome, especially when you win it on pit road’
Two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte hadn’t won a stock-car race in four years. But on Labour Day weekend, at the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C., he put a dramatic end to his 156-race “losing streak from hell.” And his pit crew-including Murray Timm, the front tire-changer from Kitchener, Ont.-had a lot to do with it. Most of the field thundered off the 2.2-km, egg-shaped oval and onto pit road with just 32 laps remaining that day. Timm, 33, and his teammates scrambled over the safety wall to change all four tires. Labonte, 46, had been running third before he came in, but his fast-acting crew had him exiting the pits in first place. After that, Timm recalls, it was nothing but open track to the finish line.
I got up on the wall for the last stop. We really didn’t want to pit because we were In a good position. Mistakes happen so easily on pit road. We had picked up spots all day long in the pits, but our car was better on longer runs and it was a short run to the finish.
You’re allowed to use seven men over the wall, and late in the race when you have enough gas to make it, we use the two fuel guys to help change tires. I’ll knock my lug nuts off and lean back, and our fueller will pull the tire, and my carrier will put another in. I never let go of my gun, so it actually saves almost a full second. That’s where the difference was. An average pit stop will be in the 14s, high-13s. We had one 14-second stop, seven 13-second stops, and two 12second stops, which are almost unheard of.
During the week I work on aerodynamics. If you’re running behind somebody, the front of your car starves for air and the back gets more, so you lose the balance of the car. You can get away from a pack a lot easier when you’re in front, getting clean air, so we were at an advantage at the end.
That was my first time going over the wall and actually winning a race. It’s awesome, especially when you win the race on pit road. Our driver did an awesome job, no doubt about it, but we got him out first. That was the difference. It was really gratifying to us to be able to pull that off. I’m still trying to believe that we won the race!
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