CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Denny Hamlin's No. 11 team continued a dominating season by winning NASCAR's Pit Crew Challenge on Wednesday night.
The seven-member team changed four tires, put in gas and pushed the car 40 yards in 23.132 seconds to edge defending champion Jeff Burton's crew and collect $70,650.
Hamlin team's entered the event having won three of the last seven Sprint Cup races — and Hamlin's girlfriend made their success known as she sat in the driver's seat as the crew pushed their car over the finish line.
She was right.
Hamlin, who also gets the first pit-row selection for Saturday's All-Star race, beat Dale Earnhardt's crew in the semifinals, ending Hendrick Motorsports' best showing in the event. The Burton team routed Ryan Newman's crew to reach its second straight final.
Hamlin's crew includes gas man Scott Woods; catch-can man John Eicher; front tire changer Mike Hicks and carrier Brandon Pegram; rear tire changer Jon Sherman and carrer Heath Cherry; and jack man Nate Bolling.
Driver Kyle Busch's front tire changer Nick Odell and carrier Brad Donaghy headlined the individual awards timed in the opening rounds with an event-record 13.903 seconds.
Other winners, who collected $10,000 for each competition: rear tire changer Dustin Necaise and carrier Matt Kreuter (14.322 seconds) of Clint Bowyer's No. 33 team; Bolling of Hamlin's No. 11 (5.573 seconds); and gas man Brad Pickens and catch-can man Travis Gordon of Mark Martin's No. 5 car (10.518 seconds).
In its sixth year, the only NASCAR-sanctioned indoor competition was the beginning of a busy week for the sport. A day after the All-Star race, the first Hall of Fame class will be inducted on Sunday at the new facility a few blocks from Time Warner Cable Arena.
The pit competition included the top 24 crews in the Sprint Cup standings, with the top eight getting a bye into the second round. Teams faced each other in head-to-head, single-elimination stops.
But these stops were unlike what you'd see on race day. Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Mark Mauldin said they practiced for a month to get ready.
There were eight identically marked cars, four on each side of the arena floor. Teams simultaneously changed tires on two cars, filled the gas tank with water on another and a jack man lifted the fourth car.
The jack men then ran to the team's regular cars, lined up side-by-side at the corner of the arena floor, and pushed them to the finish line as teammates joined to help after they finished their tasks.
Teams received timed penalties for loose lug nuts, spilled gas and other infractions, and that led to an early upset.
A 3-second penalty for a loose lug nut knocked top seed Busch's No. 18 team out in the second round by the No. 71 team of driver Bobby Labonte, which has been strapped for funding much of the season.
The No. 71 crew was beaten in the quarterfinals by Earnhardt's team. Jeff Gordon's team was ousted in the quarterfinals by Newman's crew, thanks to a loose lug nut.
Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 crew, which has never won this event, lost in the second round to Ryan Newman's No. 39 team.