Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

Meet the 2012 Shell-Raisers!

We've had a few changes to "my" crew and I thought it about time to update who is on the team and get some new pictures in their new sponsor colors!   I had a ton of fun with them answering the car part question...and learned some very interesting things about them.   Truth be told, our crew is still one of the tightest in the garage and the fact they still tolerate me bugging them all the time is truly appreciated!   Thanks guys!


Pondering a nickname...

Todd Gordon – Car Chief
2 years at Penske
Hometown: Camden, NY
Nickname: Todd claims he has no nickname...working on it!
First job: Worked in a Pro Shop on a Golf Course
Favorite Track:  Watkins Glen because he won there and its home.
Memorable Racing Experience:  His dominating win at Kansas.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  ECU because its his job to gather data and tell people what to do.
Kristen’s Tidbit: 
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. 
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’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.
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:  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?  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
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 at the front of the car and always digging!
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’s last win at Martinsville
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?   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 #2/22 having worked the longest on the same pit crew.   He is the go to guy for perspective on the sport and always gives you a straight answer.    He also has some mad carpentry skills! 
Trent with his 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 pit's 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?  Motor Oil – because he keeps everyone “loose!”
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: Doh! I forgot to ask him...
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!  
Any guesses on what Cold Start refers to?


Colin Fambrough – Back Up Rear Tire Changer
1 year at Penske
Hometown: Tyler, Tx
Nickname: “Cold Start” 
First job: Doh! I forgot to ask him too!
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:  I only spent about 5 minutes with Colin on race day as well
Crazy...indeed
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.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  Throttle – because he likes to back the corner’s up and ease it into the corners…
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Chris is our smooth-talking “Voice of Victory” that fans associate most with because we listen to him every week guiding AJ 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:  At 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 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...which he actually shaved off!  I have to get an updated picture as he is now sporting a very cool 70's 'stache.
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:  Sonoma was also the first time  I also met Jonathan, who graduated from Purdue University with an automotive engineering degree.  Proving there’s a lot of brain power behind that pretty baby-face!
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 – 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.
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 for the racing
Memorable Racing Experience: His 1st win in Pepsi 400 working for Roush #16 team.
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be? 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.
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 needs more time on this one – TBD! 
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 by a fraction of a second at Darlington
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  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. 
Stretch modeling his new Tag Heuer glasses...
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
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  Muffler bearing – because only the coolest cars have them.  (Anyone else call BS on this?!)
Kristen’s Tidbit:  Stretch is also one of my go-to guys for information on what the heck is going on.  He likes to pick on me and be disagreeable with a smile and he tolerates a fair amount of ribbing right back.  Don’t call him Eric because no one on the team would know who you were talking about…oh and apparently someone online thinks he loves cucumbers.

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?  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 (and has a great sense of humor!)
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? Carburetor – because he is full of gas!
Kristen’s Tidbit: Greg came to the #22 crew after starting on the #77 and is teamed up with George to haul the cars all over the country.  Greg seems to be always doing something and rarely is standing still.  He and George make a great comedy team as well…
The other Junyer in the garage

 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 Cup 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: 
Celebrating the radio's working at Sonoma!
David Perry – Trackside IT support
8 months 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: This years race at Vegas where he royally screwed up the radios and they didn’t work…and the fact he is still employed and look how far he’s come!
If You Were a Car Part, What Would You Be?  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…course his crew-mates would rip on him questioning what those skills actually are…but thankfully, we have another new teammate with a wicked sense of humor who fits right in. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sonoma Race Report - VICTORY!

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!  I just spent 2 hours writing this blog and when I went to post stupid Blogger said there was a conflict and when I hit the back button it was gone.  CRAP!

Ok guess we will try again...here we go...and this time I will copy it before I try to post!  Dang IT!

Hey Tez! I think you have some of this confetti!
It will be impossible for me to even articulate the absolute amazing experience it was to win at my home track in such dominant fashion.  So I wont even try (again!) but do want to thank Kurt and the entire #22 crew for sharing a crazy fun race weekend with me!

Sunday started with me and Tez hitting up Starbucks yet again and getting to the track when the garage opened.  Tez hung about while I got the schedule for the day and we met up a short while later at Jeff Gluck's tweet up.  Word on the street was "Maaaacus" was going to make an appearance so I texted Tez the super secret squirrel password (Sonoma) to get past security and met him in Victory Circle.
Gotta say Gluck was a bit of a disappointment - the subject of Kurt's girlfriend came up in the tweet up and he asked how he could possibly ask about her in Kurt's media time.  I said that probably wasn't the appropriate venue to ask in and he agreed.  Well, not sure how many of you saw his article yesterday about Kurt's girlfriend - so he wrote about it by pretending to be high and might and not write about it.  LAME!  Anyway, we did meet some fellow tweeters and Tez got more quality time with Maaaacus (see his blog for pics!) and when Gluck asked everyone for their picks for the winner this week for the record I TOTALLY called it!  =)

After the tweet up I headed back to the garage to try to finish up my interviews with the pit crew.  They were coming up with some really funny stuff for what car part they would be...I hope to have the updated crew blog done by the end of the week!
The pits were open to the fans and RA6AN, Tez and CR were busy writing good luck messages on their favorite drivers pit walls.   I found two of my favorite people wandering on pit lane...Rex and Brandon who are like family to me and who I lived with for nearly 10 years before getting married.   It was their first race ever so I gave them the tour of our super swank pit box and managed to get them out on pit road by the cars as well, thanks to Tony, on of my buddies who is an official.
We Tony the Troublemaker wanted to make sure they were getting the full experience so he grabbed some poor girl out of the crowd and asked her to take a picture with a somewhat shocked Brandon...apparently this is what you do at a NASCAR race? 
Tony also grabbed a girl for CR and Tez but I'll leave it up to them to post that since I don't want anyone getting in trouble...LOL

I had to get back in the garages to follow the car through inspection and do my informal job as the cutest tool bag girl on the circuit!  This time we made it through inspection without problem.  Thanks to Tez and CR who stuck around to get some pictures of me following the guys pushing the car out on to pit lane.
I had a bit of downtime once the car was ready to go so I grabbed some food and hung out with our guests at the hauler.   We had quite a few visitors this weekend - several winemakers, a bigwig from Shell who came out from Houston along with the two women who star in the commercial with Kurt (the ones who wear the lab coat), also guys from Lennox and a family from Magellan.   While we were chatting I couldn't help but snap a picture of Kurt's "beer cozy"...
If you read my previous posts you'll recall a public service announcement about sensible shoes.  Well Kurt wasn't going to be in 6 inch platforms today but I am sure with all the shifting, braking and gassing he appreciated his extra padding.  

The #6 crew Man Cave - but they said girls are allowed so you are all set Melissa!
I headed out to pit road for the pre-race festivities and got a good spot in the corner of the pit box to watch the action.   Not much to see except turn 11 but with Kurt leading the whole race it didn't make too much difference!  With Addington's aggressive call for the race there wasn't that many opportunities to catch our crew in action.
But the Red Bull team sure was busy...
And shortly there after the other teams around us were dealing with problems as well...
Sigh.  He just hates Sonoma...
And so Junyer had to pack up and leave early knowing he couldn't compete for my attentions with Kurt dominating the way he was...bubye.
Junyer's empty pit stall was the perfect spot to watch the safety workers try to extract Smoke from the tires...
While our crew had stellar stops all day, by far the fastest stop was when Dave H had to do a quick tire refill on the tire cart when Stevo had a flat...those air hoses attached to the box are quite handy!
The laps were winding down and we were getting cautiously excited.  The guys were so amazingly calm and reminded me there was plenty that could go wrong yet.  They were monitoring several other team radios and watching for any trickery with tires but the cautions didn't come and we were sitting pretty!   Here is Kurt coming around on our final restart...
This is about when I started bouncing up and down while I was standing on a tire trying to burn off some of my adrenaline...the white flag flew and the guys were up and ready to party!
And the celebration begins...
I had really hoped Kurt would try the backwards Victory Lap but it would have taken forever!
The beer begins to fly!
And the celebratin' begins!   Here is my "Where's Waldo" picture...see if you can spot me!
On left in front row in between fire fighters in the white helmets 
And then it was time to get soaked in Champagne!
And finally time for the hat dance...
While I was not on stage for the hat dance I did manage to snag one of the Sprint caps they are wearing in this picture and have Addington and Kurt sign it as well as a very cool black Infineon winners circle hat!  woot!   Kurt then went off and did his Winner's media time and the post race show so I decided to follow the guys and the car going back through inspection.
It was really quite special to see how many crew guys from the other teams congratulated our guys for the dominating win - NASCAR really is a big family.   We even got a special congrats from this guy in the red shirt...
My astute readers will definitely recognize those *cough* sexy legs...

We finished up inspection and the guys started tearing down the car so they could load it up in the NASCAR hauler for them to take back to the tech center to do the full winner's tear down.  Kurt was still not back yet from Victory Lane so I headed back over to find him still doing the hat dance for all the sponsors.   TR guessed he probably had about 40 hats and photos to take.  I was feeling particularly ballsy with all the excitement so I asked TR if he thought Kurt would take a picture with me in Victory Lane and he said he thought he would...and wha'la!  How cool is that!?!!
I am waiting on the "official" photographers shot of this but gotta thank TR for not only getting me up there but also for snapping this!

I am sure you all caught the fancy hand blown glass chalice that Kurt was drinking from in Victory Lane with the Reserve Estate Zinfandel in it.   Well after he got zipped in a golf cart to yet more interviews he dropped it off with the crew and they were kind enough to share the spoils of victory with me!  (Probably cuz I made them beef jerky...)
I am now two for two getting in to the winners circle at the races I have gone to...so I guess that means Kurt wins Phoenix in Nov??!!

Thanks for reading!