Jeff Gordon says new tire changer brings air-gun knowledge

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CHARLOTTE – The most recent high-profile pit crew acquisition in NASCAR’s premier series was as much about obtaining trade secrets as gaining speed.

After a seven-year run at Joe Gibbs Racing, front-tire changer Nick O’Dell joined Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 team before last week’s Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway. Gordon said Hendrick Motorsports expected that O’Dell would make an impact on improving the team’s pit crew equipment.

“That was an opportunity (to hire) someone that is highly regarded on pit road (and) very knowledgeable  about more than just changing tires,” Gordon said Tuesday during media day for the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “He was somebody that a lot of people wanted to get their hands on. I’m very proud that he came to our organization. I think it’s going to pick our program up.”

Gordon said O’Dell made an impact on swifter pit stops Sunday but said Hendrick still is “a little behind in the equipment,” meaning the air guns used to change tires.

“I feel like we’ve been off,” Gordon said. “We train guys. We have very talented individuals, but it goes further than that. Now we’re starting to see where these pit guns are a crucial part of pit stops. It’s something we’ve been working on, and now (adding O’Dell) helps us take it to the next level.

“He brings a lot of things. He’s very, very in tune with all that equipment and was a big part of that at Gibbs.”

Busch estimated that it would take “six to eight months for those guns to appear (at Hendrick), but we’ll see them next year, and we’ll be competing against them, I’m sure.”

Busch said his No. 18 Toyota had made a “seamless” transition without O’Dell the past two races but expressed remorse about the loss.

“Nick O’Dell is one of my best friends,” he said. “I’m friends with all my guys, and if any of them left, I’d be hurt about it.

“I didn’t want to see Nick go, but things happen for a reason I guess in this business. Certainly being a part of Joe Gibbs Racing and the development work and everything that we’ve done with those air guns … obviously Nick was a part of that and knows some of that stuff, so he’s a guy who does have some of that knowledge and will share it (with Hendrick).”

The addition of O’Dell to Gordon’s team also resulted in the move of front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team. The teams of Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski also have made pit crew changes for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“You’re just always trying to find out where you need more strength and what can make you better,” Gordon said. “Track position has become so important.

“I think next year (track position) will be less important because of the aerodynamics. I think that’s great for the sport. But we’re never going to stop trying to figure out how to find time on pit road if it’s possible and to do it consistently. Right now, it’s so crucial. The aerodynamic power and combination we have, it’s so difficult to pass once you get the green flag and get strung out. Very, very difficult.”