After nearly four months of selecting weekly nominees, the first NBC Pit Crew All-Stars Team was announced Wednesday.
Here are the winners:
FRONT TIRE CARRIER: Graham Stoddard – No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevy, Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska
- Grew up in Charlotte but moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 8th grade … Went on to play football at Nebraska (linebacker, special teams) and earn a finance degree
- Following end of career, he took a job in financing but wanting something different, he looked into NASCAR … After finding a pit crew combine tryout in May 2014, Stoddard did enough to land a job with Michael Waltrip Racing and moved back to Charlotte that August
- Has also worked with Chip Ganassi Racing & Team Penske … Has contributed to two Xfinity Series wins & a Snowball Derby win
FRONT TIRE CHANGER: Mike Lingerfelt – No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Hometown: Travelers Rest, South Carolina
- Competed as a driver in local dirt racing as a youngster
- Opened a garage at age 16 with his brother. “We started out working under a tree with a shed, and that evolved into a building. We started from the ground up and turned it into something that is pretty cool … My grandfather had his own shop, my uncle had his own shop, and it was just a great opportunity for me to get in there and carry on what my family had always done. My junior and senior years of high school, I went home and worked there as part of a co-op program with the vocational school.”
- Entered the Monster Energy Series in 1997 and has contributed to multiple championships with Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002) & Jimmie Johnson (2008-2010)
- Suffered fractured left femur when he was hit by Tony Stewart during 2000 Daytona 500; Lingerfelt was trying to retrieve an errant tire. Following surgery in Daytona (which included insertion of a 14-inch rod for support), Lingerfelt returned to Charlotte and immediately began physical therapy. After seven months and 14 days away from the #20 team, Lingerfelt returned to action later that season in the fall race at Charlotte
REAR TIRE CARRIER: Ethan Marquette – No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, Hometown: Merrill, Wisconsin
- 12-year career in sport has seen him work at every pit crew position and also as a pit crew coach
- Resume includes stints at Roush Fenway Racing & Richard Childress Racing
- Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 3
- Volunteers with American Diabetes Association office in Charlotte, North Carolina, helping young children with diabetes learn how to live with the disease … Will take 8-week program at Duke University this fall in the Integrated Health Program for Diabetic Education
- Hobbies include sport shooting, playing guitar, and cheering for the Green Bay Packers
REAR TIRE CHANGER: Raphael Diaz – No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford (Xfinity), No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford (Cup), Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
- Joined No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports pit crew in Cup at Martinsville … 3-year veteran of Roush’s No. 16 Xfinity team … Works as a carbon fiber fabricator at Roush during the week
- Holds special place in history of NASCAR Drive For Diversity program as the first D4D grad to be part of a winning pit crew at the Cup Series level (Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing, Sonoma 2014)
- Additionally, Diaz and Mike Russell are the first D4D crew members to win a national series championship (Chris Buescher, Roush Fenway Racing, 2015 Xfinity Series)
- Discussing D4D program in 2017: “I never thought I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life, but it puts you in a spot where anybody can do this if you have the determination. The program works if you want it bad enough, and it helps with all those fundamentals you need to have.”
- Contributed to Chris Buescher’s first career Cup win at Pocono in 2016 … Also contributed to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first two career Cup wins this season at Talladega (May) & Daytona (July)
- Initially aspired to be a professional soccer player before suffering a knee injury
- Grandfather immigrated to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico
SPOTTER: TJ Majors – No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Cup) Hometown: New Castle, Pennsylvania
- Majors first met Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1997 as a rival on iRacing (Majors was based in Buffalo, Earnhardt in Charlotte) … After becoming friends, Earnhardt advised Majors to come to North Carolina in order to enter the industry … Earnhardt helped him make the trip shortly after Christmas 2001, arriving in Majors’ driveway with a pickup truck to tow his box trailer filled with his belongings
- Majors suited up and raced for JR Motorsports in street stocks and late models, earning a win in a 200-lap race at Motor Mile Speedway (Radford, VA) in 2004 … Got the call to spot for JRM’s first Xfinity Series start in the 2005 season finale at Homestead – the following day, Earnhardt asked Majors to start spotting for him
- With Dale Jr.’s retirement as a full-time driver, Majors will make a move to Team Penske and become Joey Logano’s spotter in 2018
- Believes the hardest part of spotting is depth perception; as cars come toward a spotter’s view and then drive away, it gets tough to perceive distance between each car on the track
GAS MAN: Caleb Hurd – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Hometown: Pulaski, Virginia
- Former Virginia Tech Football special teams player (1996-99); has a degree in mechanical engineering
- Has been involved in NASCAR for over 16 years, double-dipping as an engineer and pit crew member
- Says Richmond holds “a higher significance than some of the other places we go” because that’s the track, back when he was an intern with Hendrick, that he became inspired to become a crew member
- Was hired by Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 – because of his athleticism and also, “we were in the process of trying to make the fuel cans faster. And he was an engineer. Now that’s a double win,” said Mike Lepp, JGR’s senior athletic adviser.
- He and his wife Courtney gave birth to daughter, Kate, last fall, nearly 9 weeks early. A few weeks later, Hurd was at Phoenix when Courtney called to tell him Kate needed surgery. Seemingly the entire NASCAR community rallied around them. “I could barely make it past the pit box without someone coming up to me and saying they were thinking about us and everything,” Caleb said. Kate is “doing just fine” now.
- Caleb and Courtney are actively involved in charity, which has ranged from working with the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Duke Medical Center, to the Hendrick Marrow Program, and Habitat for Humanity.
JACKMAN: Ray Gallahan – No. 22 Team Penske Ford Hometown: Lake Helen, Florida
- Before entering NASCAR, Gallahan worked at a car wash in high school and his 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.”
- Has been with Team Penske for more than a decade.
- In the 2014 championship finale at Miami, Joey Logano’s car fell off Gallahan’s jack during the final pit stop, costing Logano a chance at the title … Gallahan’s colleagues at Team Penske encouraged him throughout that offseason, and in the 2015 Daytona 500, he and the #22 team delivered a flawless performance to help Logano win “The Great American Race.”
- Gallahan after the Daytona 500 win: “For me, it’s pretty breathtaking to go from, like, the lowest of lows to probably one of the highest of highs you can have in all of motorsports … [Miami] definitely is a life-changing thing. You try to take positives from that, and you try to go on and learn from it and get better.”
TIRE SPECIALIST: Jeff “Jet” Zarrella – No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Ford Hometown: Southington, Connecticut.
- Involved in the sport for over 30 years, starting at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium. He finally realized his dream, winning the Daytona 500 back in February.
- Joined SHR in 2009, prior to that he had worked for Yates Racing, DEI, Roush Fenway Xfinity Series program and several others.
- From 1984 to 1993, worked as a tire specialist with 44 Racing and the No. 44 Modified driven by Reggie Ruggiero, Rick Fuller and Greg Sacks.
- Enjoys cooking, gardening, shooting guns and golf when not at the racetrack.
ENGINE TUNER: Frank Mathalia – No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Hometown: Oneida, New York
- Retired auto mechanic & tow truck driver for Mathalia Motors Corporation
- Served in United States Marine Corps
- Family is from upstate NY – his dad, also Frank Mathalia, raced at Utica-Rome Speedway – the home track for NASCAR Hall of Famers and modified racing legends Richie Evans and Jerry Cook
ENGINEER: Andrea Mueller – No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, Hometown: Fresno, California
- Joined Team Penske in 2007
- Graduate of Cal Poly
- Previously worked for Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, and also worked on engine projects for NASA’s space program
- According to Andrea, her dad was very involved in racing at the local level, taking on a variety of roles such as engine tuner and mechanic for sprint cars
- Andrea also talked her dad into letting her race in quarter & micro midgets, but stopped after her mom started to get nervous
- Ryan Blaney on Mueller: “She’s done a great job. I’m really excited to have her. Knowing race cars, knowing what parts and pieces do and coming up with ideas to improve everything – that is what she does so well.”