NASCAR visits Robins

Jon Wood, driver, climbs out of the #21 Air Force car,Thursday March 15 during the pit crew competition. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Jon Wood, driver, climbs out of the #21 Air Force car,Thursday March 15 during the pit crew competition. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

TSgt. Barry Stone, 19th JV team, lifts the right front tire out of the way so it can be replaced. The 19th JV team won the competition. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

TSgt. Barry Stone, 19th JV team, lifts the right front tire out of the way so it can be replaced. The 19th JV team won the competition. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Team Robins was visited by an elite Air Force team March 15; the Air Force sponsored Wood Brothers Racing Nextel Cup No. 21 pit crew. 

The race team, usually with a show car and occasionally the driver, visit several different Air Force bases and local events near NASCAR races supporting Air Force recruiting and retention efforts. 

"This year we are going to have eight races with the Air Force sponsorship and paint scheme," said Master Sgt. Rupert Brown, Air Force Recruiting Service motor sports events manager. "Jon Wood will drive all of those races."
Although the driver is in high demand, the pit crew doesn't get requested for too many appearances. 

"We (pit crew) don't get to go to too many events," said Mike Moore, Woods Brothers jack man. "Normally we only get to visit places in the Detroit area." 

The team's visit to Robins was culminated by a pit crew competition between the various organizations, sorted by rank. Although Team Robins had some fast pit stops, the cream of the crop was the professionals of the Air Force No. 21's crew led by Gary Smith, team pit crew coach. They did a two tire change in 5.82 seconds. 

"We are pitting the varsity against the junior varsity guys doing right side pit stops," said Mr. Smith "We got here a little early this morning and spent some time showing the guys how to change tires, index some tires and jack the car. We are showing the Air Force, who is very big on team work, our side of team work, have some fun, (let them) learn what we do and learn what they do." 

There were nine teams from the base competing in its first pit crew competition. 

"This is a real race car, it ran last fall at Homestead (Fla.)," said Eddie Wood, team co-owner and Jon's father. "We brought the whole pit crew just like when they go over the wall at the race, all seven men. My guys really enjoy doing this." 

The 19th Air Refueling Group really enjoyed the competition too. 

The 19th ARG had both winning teams in the varsity and the junior varsity.
Then the two division winners competed against each other with the NASCAR driver, Jon Wood, driving the car in for the right-side pit stop during the championship round. 

The 19th ARG junior varsity team beat out their seniors by just .24 of a second with a winning time of 15.39, earning them an autographed Air Force racing team helmet.
The idea came from one of our people visiting another base. 

"I was at Randolph (Air Force Base, Texas) writing the performance fitness exam, during lunch time I saw some commotion on the flightline." said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Hamilton, 19th ARG superintendent "When I went down there I saw a NASCAR race car and a bunch of teams of people in their own colored T-shirts. When I started talking to people I found out one of the people was the base commander, another was the command chief and so on. Every one was having a great time, a lot of camaraderie. I've tried since then to conduct the pit crew challenge here. It almost happened last year and we couldn't quite pull it together. This year I locked in with (Air Force) Recruiting Service and we made it happen." 

As with every NASCAR victory, the driver had to finish with a burn out. This time Jon Wood got to do something he usually isn't allowed to do. 

"It's awesome, I usually don't get to smoke the tires until one blows," he said. "It's great getting to come to Robins."