Friday, June 29, 2012

Meet the 2012 #22 Crew - The Shell-Raisers!

Pondering a nickname...

Todd Gordon – Crew Chief
1 year at Penske
Hometown: Camden, NY
Nickname: Todd claims he has no nickname...we have to work on this!
First job: Worked in a Pro Shop at a golf course.
Favorite Track:  Watkins Glen because he won there and its home.
Memorable Racing Experience:  His dominating win at Kansas last year in the Nationwide series.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  ECU (Electronic Control Unit) because it is his job to gather data and tell people what to do.
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Todd holds a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson University and had a very cool senior project - building a limited super modified race car from scratch.  No word on what his grade was but he must have passed because he did race it for 3 years!
1000 is on it!
Jeffrey Thousand – Car Chief
32 (!) years at Penske
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Nickname: “1000”
First job: Fabricator
Favorite Track:  Bristol
Memorable Racing Experience:  Winning the All Star Race and 600 at Charlotte with Kurt Busch in 2010.   
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The engine because he is always running!
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Jeffrey has seen and done everything there is to do at Penske.  He was one of Rusty Wallace's favorites and has bucket loads of information and experience at his finger tips.  One of the most respected guys in the sport who plays it straight but every now and again will surprise you by doing something completely wacky.

Chris Osborne – Spotter
4.5 years at Penske
Hometown: High Point, NC
Nickname: “Crazy”
First job: Collecting golf balls at age 8 at the local golf course/range (for free he adds...)
Favorite Track:  Bristol for the night race
Memorable Racing Experience:  His first Cup win in Phoenix working on Bobby Hamilton’s crew in 1996.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The throttle because he likes to back the corner’s up and ease it in…
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Chris is our smooth-talking “Voice of Victory” that fans associate most with because we listen to him every week guiding Sam Hornish, Jr  through traffic.   He is super laid-back, loved by all, and *always* sunburnt!
Fear the Beard!
Steve Reis – Race Engineer
4 years at Penske
Hometown: Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Nickname: “STEVEN” (in a voice like your mom would use)
First job:  The Green Giant factory sanitizing machinery after hours.
Favorite Track: Darlington for the Southern 500
Memorable Racing Experience: Winning the Bud Shootout and the Gatorade Duel with Kurt Busch in 2011.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? The tires because he is complicated and hard to understand!
Kristen’s Tidbit:   Like all race engineers he was easy to spot because he is always carrying a clipboard and records everything…or it could have been the beard.
Spring-y like Tigger?
Jonathan Hassler – Race Engineer
5 years at Penske
Hometown: Greencastle, IN
Nickname: “Go Back On That”
First job:  Go-Kart racer!
Favorite Track: Darlington
Memorable Racing Experience:  Winning at Bristol with “Lil Gator” in the Nationwide Series.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  A spring because “I love springs!”
Kristen’s Tidbit:   Jonathan graduated from Purdue University with an automotive engineering degree following in the footsteps of Ryan Newman.  Proving there’s a lot of brain power behind that pretty baby-face!
Ray and those long arms!
Ray Gallahan – Jackman 
7 years at Penske
Hometown: Lake Helen, FL
Nickname: “Gorilla”  (because his arm span is huge!)
First job:  Ray worked at Auto Bell Car Wash during high school and the first year of college.  “I was like their MVP guy in that I knew how to do anything there.  Inside cleanup and vacuuming were my specialties.”
Favorite Track: Daytona
Memorable Racing Experience:  In 2007 sneaking into the Chase at Richmond and hearing over the radio “we are locked in.”
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? The drive shaft because it’s not very complex!
Kristen’s Tidbit: I used to think of Ray as the “quiet intellectual” because he would always go on top the hauler and read.  Ray found this pretty amusing given his choice of car part…
Jay enjoying the spoils of Victory!
Jay Hackney - Front Tire Changer
10 years at Penske
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Nickname: “Hack”
First job:  Jay worked with his father as a contractor but his dad fired him because he was being “lazy” and made him work in a saw mill.  “My dad knew how hard the work was and he wanted me to get off on the right foot while I was getting out of school and having to do things on my own.  I did everything from cutting and hauling the dropped trees to all the work at the mill.  Dad was right, that was the hardest work I can imagine doing…” and once he learned his lesson his dad hired him back.
Favorite Track:  Bristol
Memorable Racing Experience:  1st Bristol win with Kurt Busch in 2006.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  Jay couldn’t think of a part he was comfortable with but on crew consensus they suggested he be the splitter because he is always up front and diggin'!
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Jay is the most humble guy on the crew and is never comfortable with all the accolades he often gets and very much deserves. 
Fueled by Fruit Snacks
Travis Johnson - Rear Tire Changer
7 years at Penske
Hometown: Chetek, WI
Nickname: “T-rav”
First job: Hunt club "whipping boy"
Favorite Track: Indy
Memorable Racing Experience:  Winning the All Star race and the 600 with Kurt Busch in 2010.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? The drive shaft because he is always caught in the middle!
Kristen’s Tidbit: Travis returned to the pit crew this year after a mishap on his mountain bike resulting in a very messed up shoulder in 2011.   He is the star of the always popular "what is Travis eating in the pits" portion of my blog and gets bonus points for putting up with me!
"Ta Ta" the veteran...
Dave Littau - Front Tire Carrier
12 years at Penske
Hometown: El Paso, TX
Nickname: “TaTa” (started by Roy McCauley)
First job: Worked on Kenny Brightbill’s racing team.
Favorite Track:  Rockingham or Texas
Memorable Racing Experience:  Rusty Wallace’s last win at Martinsville in 2004
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?   The frame rails because they last a loooong time and are an integral part of the car.
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Dave is the “senior” member on the #22 and has worked the longest on the pit crew despite the fact they are now wearing red and yellow, not blue and gold.   He is the go to guy for perspective and always gives you a straight answer.   He also has some mad carpentry skills! 
Trent's poker face
Trent Cherry - Rear Tire Carrier/Pit Crew Coach
15 years at Penske
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Nickname: “Twitch”  
First job: Worked for his dad packaging t-shirts.
Favorite Track: Las Vegas - not for the track for the poker!
Memorable Racing Experience:  Winning the 2002 All Star Race with Ryan Newman because they had to race their way in, started dead last, and still won it.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?   A tire so he can roll out, do his work, and be done.
Kristen’s Tidbit: Trent came over to the #22 crew after a long stint on the #2 team and has been a familiar face in the Penske pits as the pit crew coach but his passion is poker - I know he'd prefer to be a Royal Flush but he is definitely One of a Kind.
Chris and his flowing locks
Chris Williams – Gasman
7.5 years at Penske
Hometown: Lebanon, OH
Nickname: “C-Dub”
First job: Chris worked at a putt putt golf and arcade.
Favorite Track:  Rockingham
Memorable Racing Experience:  The first time he went to the track as a fan in 1994 to watch the first NASCAR Brickyard practice at Indy. 
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The motor oil because he keeps everyone “loose!”
Kristen's Tidbit:  Chris has been instrumental in helping design the newest fuel cans to maximize fuel flow during pit stops and give Penske another innovative edge.  He's also newly married - congrats!
Darin looking for the canooter valve
Darin Russell – Engine Tuner
6.5 years at Penske
Hometown: Sunderland, MA
Nickname: “Meteor” or “D-Money”
First job: Picking cucumbers…(not sure if I buy this…)
Favorite Track:  Texas for the “view”
Memorable Racing Experience:   Being in Victory Lane with his parents at New Hampshire.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The canooter valve because its the “g-spot” of the engine (*cough cough*)!
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Darin is tough to read sometimes, one minute he is deadly serious the next he is vogue-ing by the car!   He definitely likes to mess with you (can you tell by his answers?) and has friends on nearly every team in the garage.   You’ll never catch him without his old school converse and his puka shell necklace and soon he'll be piloting the friendly skies!
The infamous "Canooter Valve"...

Claims never been spit on by a llama...
Dave Nichols – Tire Specialist
5 years at Penske
Hometown: Macedon, NY
Nickname: “Mule”
First job: A farm hand at a llama ranch(!)
Favorite Track:  Richmond
Memorable Racing Experience: His 1st Cup win at the Pepsi 400 working for the Roush #16 team.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? The track bar because he likes to move around…
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Mule is easy going and gets along with everyone in the garage and always has tons of personal jokes going with the crew and does some pretty darn funny impressions.  He also has a big orange "S" tattooed on his arm but it doesn't stand for Shell...
Come on Dave, what car part would you be?!
Dave Hansen – Shock Specialist
3 years at Penske
Hometown: York, ME
Nickname:  “Hansen”
First job: Mechanic
Favorite Track:  New Hampshire
Memorable Racing Experience: Winning Indy with JGR
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  Alas, Dave adamantly refuses to answer this question for some reason so his colleagues on the crew suggested he be a bump-stop because he deals with them all day and he always tries to keep things smooth.
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Dave is the shy one on the team and is like a rare bird that you hardly ever spot until race day.  You can always find him working in the hauler by the shock dyno machine or where ever there is shrimp being served.
Stevo waiting on more abuse...
Steve Williams - Underneath Mechanic
8 years at Penske
Hometown: Lebanon, OH
Nickname: “Stevo”
First job:  Machinist
Favorite Track: Eldora
Memorable Racing Experience:  When he was employed by PPI racing on Ricky Craven’s team and they beat Kurt Busch by a fraction of a second at Darlington in 2003.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The brake pads because he gets the most abuse!
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Stevo always takes the time to answer my questions and explain what they are doing to the car for which I am eternally grateful!  He is the one who got me hooked on the crew’s favorite Sweet and Sweaty Chicken wings and has a wood shop in his house that he wishes he could use more often.  
Such concentration!
Eric Bailey – Front End Suspension Mechanic/Windshield Tear Off  
7 years at Penske
Hometown: Olathe, KS
Nickname: “Stretch”
First job: Life Guard
Favorite Track: Kansas because its home
Memorable Racing Experience:  Back to back Charlotte wins with Kurt Busch in 2010.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The muffler bearing because only the coolest cars have them.  (Anyone else call BS on this?!)
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Stretch is also becoming quite the triathlete!  He's participated in several this year, often times right before or after a race, and still has energy to spare to pit the car.  
Wild Bill being "cool"...
Bill Spencer – Interior Mechanic/ Fuel Support
6 years at Penske
Hometown: Brenham, TX
Nickname: “Wild Bill”
First job: Maintenance at a greenhouse.
Favorite Track: Indy
Memorable Racing Experience:  Working as the car chief for AJ Foyt and winning the Indy 500 in 1999.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The air conditioner because he is so cool…!
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Billy indulges me and makes me feel somewhat useful and very much part of the team by letting me do his “job” of pulling the tool bag around as the car goes through inspection.   He is also excellent at cleaning windows and de-stinking helmets.
Gassy Greg!  =)
Greg Sorber – Transport Driver
4 years at Penske
Hometown: Shickshinny, PA
Nickname: “Roadblock”
First job: Cleaning cars in his family’s business.
Favorite Track:  Bristol
Memorable Racing Experience:  Getting a “real” job at Penske Racing.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? The carburetor because he is full of gas!
Kristen’s Tidbit: Greg came to the #22 crew in 2011 after starting on the #77 hauler and enjoys competing against his hauling buddies in the various Freightliner challenges.  Greg let me ride along with him in the hauler parade this year at Bristol and see first hand how he negotiates tight spaces!
Hey JR do we have any milk?
JR Weller – Transport Driver
1 year at Penske
Hometown: Pottstown, PA
Nickname: “JR”
First job: Dishwasher
Favorite Track: All of 'em!
Memorable Racing Experience: Winning Homestead with Brad Keslowski - his first time driving a NASCAR hauler.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? The engine because he is a big guy and has a lot of horsepower!
Kristen’s Tidbit:   JR is new to the #22 crew this year and he fits right with a great sense of humor (especially in giving me a hard time) and is always willing to lend a helpful hand.   The only time you'll catch JR standing still is when he is catching a mandated nap in the hauler.
Celebrating the radio's working!
David Perry – Trackside IT support
1.5 years at Penske
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Nickname: “Brinks” (because he leaves a lot of cash at the casinos)
First job: Dishwasher
Favorite Track:  Bristol
Memorable Racing Experience: The 2011 Vegas race where he royally screwed up the radios and they didn’t work…and the fact he is still employed.   Look how far he’s come!
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The antennae because he is always searching for a signal!
Kristen’s Tidbit:  With the technology involved in racing today and the complicated communication set ups on the new pit box, David’s skills are sorely needed, of course his crew-mates would rip him about what those skills actually are, but thankfully, we have yet another  teammate with no self esteem problems!
He definitely looks like a front bumper...
Chris Conklin – Behind the Wall Fuel Technician
3.5 years at Penske
Hometown: Burlington, NC
Nickname: “Big Chief Deuces” 
First job: Bailing hay on a farm in Snow Camp, NC.
Favorite Track:Charlotte
Memorable Racing Experience: Being the 2010 Nationwide Champions.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The front bumper because he is smooth and sexy (!)
Kristen’s Tidbit:  I only spent about 5 minutes with Chris on race day so I have to get to know him a bit better before I can give you any tidbits but based on his car part answer, I think we'll have some good stuff in no time!  
Has met Sarah Palin...
Colin Fambrough – Back Up Rear Tire Changer
1 year at Penske
Hometown: Tyler, Tx
Nickname: “Cold Start” 
First job: Working at a baseball card collectible store.
Favorite Track:  Dover
Memorable Racing Experience: His first Cup win at Talladega.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  The exhaust because he is full of hot air.
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Colin is another new pit support crew member this year and as such, I have not gotten a lot of time with him yet since he only arrives on race day but I can tell you he is the rear tire changer for Sam Hornish, Jr's Nationwide car which sometimes makes for a crazy race weekend schedule for him.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Phoenix Subway Fresh 500 Garage Report

Greetings from the NASCAR Cup garages in 2012...lots of changes, new faces and quite a few missing from last year as the economy takes its toll on the race teams.   Of course, the big changes on the 22 Shell/Pennzoil team is the addition of AJ "The Dinger" Allmendinger and our new Crew Chief Todd "I don't have a nickname (yet)" Gordon.  Look for an updated Meet the Crew blog coming...probably after Sonoma...because someone didn't do their job interviewing everyone in Phoenix!  doh!

I was only at the track on Friday for practices and race day this time but did manage to get there when the garage opened and stayed until it closed both days.   As always it is fun to see the guys in street clothes with fans walking right on we have Lugnut fav's -- Birthday Boy Rootie and Maaacus and your Daytona 500 winner.

Turning around we find the masterminds of HMS and possibly a sight not to be seen for another six weeks...yes, we are all "deeply saddened" Chad.   I, of course, headed straight to my favorite crew and got caught up on all the news, gossip and story lines so far.  They put me to work pulling the tool cart through inspection...gotta say not a fan of the new toolcart - its bigger and louder.  Billy is going to work on making it better by Sonoma.
They filled me in on the #48 car penalty from last week and how Chad designed the car on the bottom of the C-post to have a crease that fit the template and then bubble up around it which technically fit the template but was outside the bounds of the rules as NASCAR saw it.  Interesting way to push the envelope and now made sense why NASCAR didn't need a template to know there was something "amiss."

This next picture was by direct request of our beloved Lugnut GUNNY, who asked if Carl could shake up our favorite SpeedBeagle with a call and ask her why oh why does she insist on chewing on that poor duck during the races and eliciting her doggie voodoo on him!?!  What has he ever done to her??  Apparently, she was out chasing cars when he called...
He soon thereafter he hopped in the pace car and took some VIP for a spin around the track.  He requested no pictures in the car since it wasn't a Ford, alas, I couldn't resist and this shot has no identifying features...suffice to say he might be the only driving it next year.
It was quickly time for first practice which is my absolute favorite moment in the Cup garage when the cars roll off in points order and file out to the track. I've gone enough times now to know where to stake out the best spot which my buddy Dobbin's caught me waiting patiently for them to file out...
And here is the link to the you tube video I got from the spot...I just love almost getting run over! LOL

Midway through practice Junior was out of his car and not only checking underneath but actually HELPING his crew - bringing tires over, handing them tools.  It was odd.  Letarte has that boy more a team player than ever.  I had lots of pictures of this but choose his "Captain Morgan" pose because I think its kinda funny and the girls requested a butt shot...
I also found this fairly amusing...not sure this is really necessary!
"For racing purposes only not for highway use"

In between practices most of the top 10 drivers held their media time. Kyle was next to us and was looking spiffy in his new Monster gear...
The #22 crew worked their asses off in practice, changing everything on the car at least twice as they struggled to get the car to bite into the track and adjust to AJ's style.  Despite all the hard work, they still manage to have fun, which is why I love them.   Stevo is doing his best equestrian impression as Billy mocks him.   Not two seconds later does Roger Penske walk was pretty funny!  
I stayed until they shut down the garages and enjoyed a dinner out with my buddy Dave and we got caught up.   Saturday was another long day of wrenching on the cars for 2 laps on the track....I spent it celebrating my nephew's 8th birthday.  

Sunday I was at the track by 7:00a and I headed straight out to our pit box - WAAAY out in turn 1 -- to see my favorite over the wall guys.  Got all caught up on who is pitting the car this year and some changes to the crew.   JB is gone and we got Travis back as the right rear tire changer! yay Travis!  He was happy to continue his blog feature of "what is Travis eating during the race..."  But we also lost my buddy Larry - who is now carrying the rear tires on the #2 he is back in familiar colors but the #22 team definitely misses him.   Replacing Larry is the current pit crew coach, Trent Cherry.  
I headed back to the garage to go through inspections with the guys for the final time and followed them out to pit road as Stretch did a bang up job of parallel parking the double deuce.  We were ready to race!
I decided to be brave and head over to the driver's meeting - the first time I'd ever gone in as I try to "stay out of trouble" (and we know how well that goes) but there are so many guests in there it was pretty easy to just blend in.  Here are a bunch of shots from the "tent" and many of the drivers taking time to meet a young, handicapped boy which had to be a thrill for him.
the view from the back..

Kyle & Sam
Your race winnner
The meeting itself was pretty straightforward - they introduce the celebrity guests, then they watch a video on the basic rules for the race which I must admit was very much like an after school special and sounded like Mike Joy doing the voice over.  They established the "Juan rule" with slowing down around the safety vehicles and having those workers wearing fire suits and helmets (which I cannot believe they weren't already doing...) and then the drivers stood for a rousing round of applause for the military families present who had lost children in the war.  Kurt sat right in front of us about two rows up so we said hello and wished him luck this year...he definitely seemed in good spirits.

Immediately afterwards I went to the NASCAR hauler to snag a pic of the sign in sheet since I knew none of the "brass" would be around...Since I can't ask for autographs with my credentials, this is the best way to get them! lol
Back at the hauler, AJ was finishing lunch and getting ready to race.  He signed my 22 visor --wait what? there are no AJ visors you say?  Bah! Its my patented look! So I ordered mine off ebay for $2 - an old Dave Blaney CAT car one - the right colors and number and just picked the signature off with a seam ripper.  Of course, I don't  have a picture of it...doh!  It will have to do until we get the new merch! 

The guys suited up and we all headed out to pit road...on the way I ran into one of the newest members of the Getty images team....any guesses who this famous photog is?  Nope not Photo! 
Randy Johnson ex-Diamondbacks pitcher...weirdness
It was tough to see the track from our pit stall as we were mid turns 1 & 2 but it was cool to see the cars sail off to the back stretch.  I sauntered over in front of the pit road exit and got some shots of the track before someone noticed me over pit boxes!

While over there I also snagged this video of the cars coming off pit road mid race...kinda a unique perspective! 
Unfortunately, we spent lots of time in the pits this race but the crew did a fantastic job of getting the deck lid reattached.  Lots of tape, beating and banging in a very short amount of time.  
We caught lots of long green flag (single file, no passing) racing about 3/4's through the race and it was the perfect time for Travis to grab his snack and continue his blog feature...

Today was "Fruit Snack" day in the pits along with chips and beef jerky...amazing what fuels the crews...Thanks Travis!    =)

Also snuck in a shot of the best PR guy in the business -TR with our buddy Dobbins...
This picture of "TaTa" or Dave Littau, our front tire carrier kinda sums up our race day...
I know AJ and the team was disappointed to not come out of Phoenix with a top 10 finish but considering they have a new driver, Crew Chief and cars I thought they did a pretty impressive job of sticking with it and making a bad day at least okay.   Onto Vegas!

Speaking of, lots of people asking how the hauler drivers were going to swing this. Penske had the 2nd haulers come out to Phoenix to meet them them and switch out the cars for Vegas and then the hauler drivers are heading straight to Vegas, while the 2nd hauler will take the Phoenix cars back home.  Everyone else on the crew flew back to NC to work in the garages on the Bristol cars.

On my way out of the garages...I ran into the NASCAR "brain trust" heading off into the can almost hear the gun fighter tune in the background.   
Hope you enjoyed the up for me, Sonoma!