Top Sprint Cup pit crew members, teams of 2014 named

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Pit crews are arguably the most important part of any Sprint Cup race team.

You can have a driver with the greatest talent in the world, but if he doesn’t have a crack pit crew to get him on and off pit road quickly, that driver’s talent will typically go for naught.

But at the same time, while pit crews are so important, the members of those teams usually toil in relative obscurity and anonymity when it comes to attention and notoriety.

That’s why PitTalks.com takes it upon itself every year to honor the top pit crews. To its credit, PitTalks.com only takes votes from pit crew members only, so that this is a true representative selection process of the best of the best, as judged by their peers.

After a month of voting and more than 350 ballots cast by pit crew members on all Sprint Cup teams, the web site announced the results Thursday.

Not surprising, given their performance on pit road all season, the majority of individual winners came from the No. 11 pit crew of Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing, which was also named top pit crew collectively of 2014.

Here are the top pit crew members at their respective positions and their teams:

Gas Man: Justin White, No. 14 (Tony Stewart)

Jack Man: Nate Bolling, No. 11 (Denny Hamlin)

Front Tire Changer: Dustin Necaise, No. 11 (Denny Hamlin)

Front Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris, No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.)

Rear Tire Changer: Mike Hicks, No. 11 (Denny Hamlin)

Rear Tire Carrier: Heath Cherry, No. 11 (Denny Hamlin)

Pit Coach of the year: Mike Lepp, Joe Gibbs Racing

Pit Crew of the Year:

  • 1st place – No. 11 car (Denny Hamlin/Joe Gibbs Racing).
  • 2nd place – No. 24 car (Jeff Gordon/Hendrick Motorsports).
  • 3rd lace – No. 22 car (Joey Logano/Team Penske)
  • Honorable Mention: (tie) No. 20 car (Matt Kenseth/Joe Gibbs Racing and No 88 car (Dale Earnhardt Jr./Hendrick Motorsports).

Congratulations to all the winners.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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