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Labonte’s Crew Wins Pit Stop Championship

October 19, 1996

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Terry Labonte’s crew, headed by crew chief Gary DeHart, won the 30th annual Unocal Pit Crew Championship on Saturday at North Carolina Motor Speedway.

The winners changed four tires and poured in two cans of gasoline in 22.056 seconds, beating the winning time from the previous year by 1.6 seconds.

Teammate Jeff Gordon’s crew, led by Ray Evernham, wound up second Saturday with a time of 23.502, followed by Rick Mast’s crew, with crew chief Kevin Hamlin, at 23.854.

The only other crew under 24 seconds was Ernie Irvan’s, led by Larry McReynolds, at 23.984.

It is the fourth time a Hendick Motorsports crew has won the contest, but the first time for DeHart. Gordon and Evernham won two years ago.

``You just do what you normally do in every race because you’re already doing all you can do,″ DeHart said. ``Anytime you can beat the 24 car (of Gordon) it’s a big win.

``We share a lot of information with the 24 team. They’ve got a lot of good guys. They practice pit stops about the same time we do and it’s like an internal competition among us, and that helps us a lot.

``We usually practice once a week, but we just practiced an extra day for this. We try to work on areas where we might be having problems. It’s like any other game you play. You’ve got to practice where you’re weak.″

The same two teams are locked in a battle for the Winston Cup championship, with Gordon ahead of Labonte by one point going into Sunday’s AC-Delco 400.

``Something like this can pump up a team, and if you look at who they beat, I think that’s what really pumped them up,″ Labonte said.

The winning team included jackman Walter Smith, tire carrier Gary Smith, gasman Jeff Torrence, gas catcher Dennis Hartsell, front tire changer Slugger Labbe, rear tire changer Mike Bumgarner and tire carrier Andy Graves.

Brett Bodine, last year’s winner, wound up 29th Saturday in the contest among 32 teams.

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