As part of the Truck Series’ visit to Dover, Delaware this weekend, several drivers and teams visited Dover Air Force Base to thank the troops for their service. But they also went to school on how pit stops are done, Air Force style.
[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”247″][/media-credit]Several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, including Matt Crafton, Joey Coulter and Miguel Paludo, as well as their crew chiefs and team members, had a behind-the-scenes tour of the base, home of the 436th Airlift Wing and the 512th Airlift Wing, Reserve Associate.
From piling into the hold of the C-17, a huge plane designed to transport all types of military equipment and troops, to literally standing atop the wings of a C-5 in the hangar for repairs, the teams were treated to one of the most unique military experiences in their lives.
Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Menards/Certain Teed Chevrolet truck, was one of the drivers most impressed with his visit to Dover Air Force base.
“It meant a lot to be there,” Crafton said. “The guys and gals came out and thanked us for being here, but I mean we need to thank them a lot more for what they do for us because if they didn’t do for us, we wouldn’t be here doing what we do.”
Joey Coulter, rookie driver of the No. 22 RCR/Rip-It Chevrolet, echoed Crafton’s sentiments about his experience at Dover Air Force base.
“It’s been really awesome,” Coulter said. “You get a whole new respect for things that you don’t see behind the scenes that is pretty neat.”
“It’s unbelievable the size of those airplanes,” Coulter continued.” Even in the cockpit, there were ten of us and there was still plenty of room.”
Miguel Paludo, another rookie behind the wheel of the No. 7 Lucas Oil/K&N Oil Filters Toyota, was also amazed at the base and the size of the airplanes on which the air men and women were working.
“I am just in awe,” Paludo said simply. “It is amazing the engineering that goes into these things.”
While showing off the enormous hangar/garage area where planes are repaired, the air men and women were equally as thrilled to have the NASCAR drivers and teams see them in pit stop style action. One of those was Tech Sergeant and Production Supervisor, aka night shift pit boss, Matthew Ende.
“I think it’s great to have the NASCAR teams here at Dover Air Force Base,” Ende said. “It’s a great morale booster for these guys because they work hard every day.”
“To see these guys interact with the NASCAR folks is really good,” Ende continued. “We appreciate them coming here to hang out with us.”
Ende, originally from update New York, has been stationed at Dover Air Force Base for sixteen years. His job is to coordinate all of the specialists, including hydraulic, electro and environmental specialists, who serve as the cargo planes’ pit crew on the night shift.
“I pretty much run the whole shop and coordinate everyone that works on the jets on the night shift,” Ende said. “So, yes I am the pit boss.”
Ende is not just large and in charge in his Air Force ‘garage’. He is also a true NASCAR fan.
“Oh yes, I am a NASCAR fan and I usually go to the September race here in Dover every year,” Ende said. “My favorite driver right now is Tony Stewart.”
All of the NASCAR Truck Series teams returned the favor of their visit to the Air Force base, inviting their Air Force counterparts to the Dover Truck race. And for most of the drivers, at least for Crafton who finished third, as well as capturing the points lead, and Joey Coulter, who finished a personal best sixth place, their Air Force partners were definitely good luck.
Unfortunately, Miguel Paludo did not have such good luck. He ended up in the fence with a damaged race truck as a result of a tangle with Ricky Carmichael.
Truck Series points leader Crafton summed up his feelings about his Air Force honorary pit crew best.
“It was just an honor to have them in our pits,” Crafton said. “It was great to be with them throughout the day and have them hang out with us. They had a blast and they were all smiles.”