Avoiding mistakes on pit road has been a key to victory in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition this season.

The same can be said of the fifth NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge, which the #31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team of driver Jeff Burton won in record fashion Thursday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Burton's over-the-wall crew of gas man Curt Bowman, catch-can man Andrew Childers, front-tyre changer Daniel Blizzard, front-tyre carrier Jon Wallace, rear-tyre changer Terry Spalding, rear-tyre carrier Chris Martin and jackman Adam North completed their respective skills and the 40-yard car push in 22.115 seconds, an event record, to defeat the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge team of driver Reed Sorenson in the finals.

"I'm really proud of them," said Burton, who attended the event in support of his crew and his wife Kim, who steered the car during the push. "They put so much effort into the pit stops, and they take this very seriously. They truly are athletes, and they work very hard at it."

The #31 team, led by crew chief Scott Miller, won the event with a rear tyre changer (Spalding) who had just joined the team, after a stint with Michael Waltrip Racing.

"Terry literally started for us yesterday," said pit crew coach Matt Clark. "Yesterday was his first practice. We did two practice runs with him... We were having performance problems, and Terry became available. We liked what we saw, and we definitely liked what we saw tonight."

With a total time of 22.411 seconds, the #31 team advanced to the finals with a mistake-free semi in which they lost a close race to the finish line but benefited from a three-second lug nut penalty to the #11 team Joe Gibbs Racing team of driver Denny Hamlin.

That set up the unlikely meeting with the #43 team, which took advantage of penalties to each of its opponents in the preceding three rounds to advance to the finals.

The second round of the competition produced an immediate upset, as the top-seeded #18 Joe Gibbs Racing team of driver Kyle Busch drew a five-second penalty for not getting enough fuel in the car. (The top eight teams in Cup owner points competed for seeding in preliminary rounds during the afternoon.)

Though the #18 crew posted a lightning-quick 22.228-second total time, the penalty was enough to give the round to the #43 Dodge, which subsequently proved to be a giant killer, knocking out the defending champion #83 Red Bull Toyota team of driver Brian Vickers and the #14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet team of driver Tony Stewart.

The Pit Crew Challenge also crowned individual champions, with the competition dominated by the #1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team of driver Martin Truex Jr. and the #18 Toyota team. From Truex's crew, gas man Preston Cordell, catch-can man Eric Hoyle, front-tyre changer Dennis Terry, front-tyre carrier Shannon Keys and jackman Jeff Kerr took individual honours.

From the #18 team, rear-tyre changer Jake Seminara and rear-tyre carrier Kenny Barber posted the fastest time in the individual competition.

Members of the runner-up team were gas man Chris Moore, catch-can man Jeff Seaberg, front-tyre changer Bryan Jacobsen, front-tyre carrier Brett Morrell, rear-tyre changer Tony Lunders, rear-tyre carrier Joel Coronel, jackman Ed Watkins, pit crew coach Brett Cumming and crew chief Mike Shiplett.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News

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