Quick-change artistry of Parrott's crew speeds Wallace toward Victory Lane

March 02, 1993|By Tom Higgins | Tom Higgins,Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the late 1970s, when NASCAR allowed the Winston Cup teams to change engines during races, a pit crew led by Buddy Parrott once made a switch in an incredible 11 minutes.

The feat enabled driver Darrell Waltrip to salvage an 11th-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

The next week NASCAR officials banned engine changes while races were in progress.

Last Sunday, stunningly quick service in the pits by another crew overseen by Parrott was a major factor in Rusty Wallace winning the Goodwrench 500 at N.C. Motor Speedway. Wallace's Penske South teammates whipped through one four-tire change in 17.4 seconds, unofficially a NASCAR record. They consistently got Wallace's Pontiac out of the pits ahead of other top contenders, preserving critical track position.

Don't expect NASCAR now to bar service that's almost a blur on pit road. The spirited performance of crewmen is among the attractions that has made Winston Cup racing the most popular form of motorsports in the world.

"We've set a goal of doing a four-tire stop in the 16-second bracket," Parrott said yesterday at the Roger Penske-owned team's shop near Mooresville, N.C. "After what the guys did Sunday, I definitely think it's possible."

Parrott credits pit stop practice -- and perhaps just as importantly, dedication to a physical fitness program -- for his crew's pivotal performance at Rockingham.

"When I joined this team last August, Rusty took me on a tour of the facilities," said Parrott. "He had this one spare room where he did exercises to strengthen his neck. Rusty told me to have the room carpeted and painted and he'd buy workout equipment for the fellows to use.

"During the off-season we got that workout room in operation. Our team manager, Don Miller, had Bob Pressley of the Harris YMCA in Charlotte devise a program for us. We told the guys they'd get an hour three days a week on company time to take part, and they've devoted themselves to it. After Sunday's experience, I imagine they're going to go after it even harder."

Wallace's over-the-wall crewmen are Scott Robinson, jack man; Bill Wilburn, front tire changer; Scott Cluka, left-side tire changer; Earl Barban and Nick Ollila, gas men; Rocky Owenby, catch can; Brad Parrott, right rear tire changer; and Todd Parrott, tire carrier. The latter two crewmen are Buddy's sons.

Not a bad investment.

Yarborough rescued

Just a month ago, it appeared that three-time Winston Cup champion Cale Yarborough, who became a team owner en route to retirement as a driver in 1987, would have to park his Fords.

No sponsor appeared in sight -- no matter that Jimmy Hensley had become Rookie of the Year in 1992 in Yarborough's cars -- and Yarborough said he couldn't operate without backing.

Virtually at the 11th hour, the Charlotte-based Bojangles fast-food restaurant chain signed on for a one-race deal, the season-opening Daytona 500. Yarborough put Derrike Cope, the classic's 1990 winner who was facing a similarly bleak future, in his Thunderbird prepared by a Bob Johnson-led crew.

Enthusiastic investors suggested expanding the deal to company officials. Yarborough now has a three-year contract.

NASCAR at Indy?

Officials of both NASCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway continue to insist there are no definite plans for scheduling a first Winston Cup race at the world famous "Brickyard" in 1994.

Evidence otherwise continues to mount that the Indianapolis 500 won't be the only event held on the 2.5-mile track.

A delegation from the Indy speedway recently visited Richmond Raceway, site of this weekend's Hardee's 200/Pontiac 400 NASCAR doubleheader. They came to study the retaining walls, catch fences and pits for "significant improvements" at the Indianapolis track.

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