In the return of NASCAR’s Pit Crew Challenge at a revived venue, the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota TRD Camry pit crew piloted by rookie Ty Gibbs and led by crew chief Chris Gayle achieved an advantage in their quest to make the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race by winning the All-Star Pit Crew Challenge at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Friday, May 19.
The No. 54 JGR pit crew executed the top four-tire pit service time of the day at 13.012 seconds, which was enough to best 36 challengers and their respective pit crews as they claimed the $100,000 bonus. The result also awarded Gibbs, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion from Charlotte, North Carolina, the pole position for the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Open which will comprise 100 laps and occur on Sunday, May 21, at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1.
This year’s Pit Crew Challenge made its first return since 2012 and served as part of NASCAR’s revival to the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, with the last NASCAR competition occurring in 1996 and was won by four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.
During the Pit Crew Challenge, which determined the starting lineup for the All-Star Open and two 60-lap Heat Races, which will determine the official starting lineup for the All-Star Race, the 37 competitors who participated in the challenge drove their respective cars into a pit stall prior to entering and stopping at their assigned for their pit service, which would start the time. Once the pit crew completed the four-tire service, the competitors exited their pit stall and crossed the stall after their own, which would complete the time.
With the top starting spot for the All-Star Open, Gibbs, a 2023 Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year contender who is currently campaigning in his first full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series, will attempt to race his way into this first All-Star Race event that will occur on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. Gibbs’ pit crew led by crew chief Chris Gayle include car chief Nate Bellows, fueler Peyton Moore, jackman Darrell Edwards, front-tire changer Blake Houston, rear-tire changer Mike Hicks and carrier Jacob Holmes.
“All credit to [the pit crew],” Gibbs said on FS1. “To be honest with you, I don’t think you should be interviewing me. You should be interviewing those guys. They work so hard. Thank you to all those boys out there. All those guys work so hard, so I appreciate them and all they do. I’m excited. We’ll see what happens. [I’m] Excited that NASCAR brought this [pit crew challenge] back. I really appreciate them giving these pit crew guys a shot.”
Joining Gibbs on the front row for the All-Star Open will be Josh Berry, who will also be making his fourth start as an interim competitor in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry for the injured Alex Bowman. Despite Bowman and the No. 48 team’s eligibility for this year’s All-Star Race after winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2022, Berry does not meet any automatic eligibility criteria for the event as he will attempt to race his way into the main event on Sunday. Nonetheless, the No. 48 pit crew delivered on Friday with the fifth overall and second for the All-Star Open pit stop time at 13.677 seconds.
Corey LaJoie will line up in third place for his starting spot for the All-Star Open while Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland, Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger will start in the top 10.
NASCAR All-Star Open Lineup (including pit stop time)
1. Ty Gibbs (13.012 seconds)
2. Josh Berry (13.677 seconds)
3. Corey LaJoie (13.911 seconds)
4. Harrison Burton (14.091 seconds)
5. Justin Haley (14.294 seconds)
6. Michael McDowell (14.509 seconds)
7. Todd Gilliland (14.707 seconds)
8. Ryan Preece (14.760 seconds)
9. Aric Almirola (14.776 seconds)
10. AJ Allmendinger (15.796 seconds)
11. Josh Bilicki (18.281 seconds)
12. Ty Dillon (18.447 seconds)
13. Chandler Smith (19.004 seconds)
14. Ryan Newman (20.300 seconds)
15. Noah Gragson (20.886 seconds)
16. JJ Yeley (21.066 seconds)
Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher were also left victorious after both achieved pole positions for the two Heat Qualifying Races that will occur on Saturday, May 20, beginning at 7:20 p.m. ET on FS1.
For Suarez, who received the second-fastest pit service from his No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team led by crew chief Travis Mack at 13.297 seconds, he will lead a group of 11 competitors overall to the start of the first Heat event, with the first Heat event determining the starting lineup of the inside lane for the All-Star Race. Joining him on the front row will be Chase Elliott, whose No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 pit crew posted the fourth-overall pit stop time at 13.572 seconds.
“[The pit crew] are legends,” Suarez said. “I’m very, very fortunate to have an amazing pit crew. We have amazing people and it’s showing. It’s amazing that we’re gonna have a good starting spot [for the Heat Race]. The car is pretty good. I’m confident that we’re gonna be able to keep our track position, have some fun and hopefully, be fighting for the big trophy on Sunday.”
Buescher, who received the third-fastest pit service from his No. 17 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford Mustang team led by crew chief Scott Graves at 13.381 seconds, will lead a group of 10 competitors to the start of the second Heat event that will follow suit at 8:15 p.m. ET on FS1 and determine the starting lineup of the outside lane for the All-Star Race. Joining him on the front row will be Austin Dillon, whose No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 pit crew posted the sixth-overall pit stop time at 13.712 seconds.
“That was awesome,” Buescher said. “I’m so proud of our group. You’re interviewing the wrong person. I had nothing to do with [the result]. I just got it for [the pit crew] and they did a heck of a job. [I’m] Gonna be watching all the on-track activities here these next two days and be ready for this race. We had a really good car in practice too, so I’m pumped right now. That’s awesome.”
Heat Race #1 Lineup
1. Daniel Suarez (13.297 seconds)
2. Chase Elliott (13.572 seconds)
3. Joey Logano (13.835 seconds)
4. Denny Hamlin (14.089 seconds)
5. Chase Briscoe (14.674 seconds)
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (15.063 seconds)
7. Austin Cindric (14.154 seconds)
8. Kevin Harvick (15.579 seconds)
9. Ryan Blaney (18.819 seconds)
10. Christopher Bell (20.064 seconds)
11. Erik Jones (21.359 seconds)
Heat Race #2 Lineup
1. Chris Buescher (13.381 seconds)
2. Austin Dillon (13.712 seconds)
3. William Byron (13.867 seconds)
4. Ross Chastain (14.373 seconds)
5. Kyle Larson (14.697 seconds)
6. Martin Truex Jr. (15.115 seconds)
7. Bubba Wallace (15.167 seconds)
8. Brad Keselowski (18.044 seconds)
9. Kyle Busch (19.531 seconds)
10. Tyler Reddick (21.034 seconds)
With the starting lineups for both the All-Star Open and the All-Star Race Heat events set, the first All-Star Race Heat event is scheduled to occur on Saturday, May 20, at 7:20 p.m. ET on FS1 followed by the second All-Star Race Heat event that will follow suit at 8:15 p.m. ET on FS1. The All-Star Open is scheduled to occur on Sunday, May 21, at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1 while the All-Star Race will follow suit at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, all at North Wilkesboro Speedway.