Brad Keselowski hopes a change in the culture of his pit crew will help propel his No. 2 Team Penske Ford back into championship contention.
After winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in 2012, Keselowski missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last year, for a variety of reasons.
Mechanical problems were a factor, particularly overheating problems that led to engine failures. A blown engine in the 25th race of the season, at Atlanta, all but doomed Keselowski's Chase chances.
A 25-point penalty for an unapproved rear end housing at Texas sapped the team's momentum in April. Keselowski also acknowledged there were times he overdrove the car to try to compensate for a lack of speed.
But the most readily identifiable weakness of the No. 2 team showed up during pit stops. During the offseason, Team Penske took measures to correct the deficiency.
Keselowski's Ford will have two new tire changers and a new tire carrier this year. In addition, owner Roger Penske has hired former University at Buffalo wrestling coach Jim Beichner to oversee the training and conditioning of the pit crews.
"We brought in a whole new approach and almost essentially gutted the culture of our pit department in the last month," Keselowski said Wednesday during the Team Penske stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It's been a rapid turnaround. I feel like we're going to go from being an average pit crew to the best on pit road; that's our goal.
"Hopefully, that will happen in a year's time. Maybe it'll take a little bit longer, but we know the effort's there and the approach is there."
Crew chief Paul Wolfe, who teamed with Keselowski to win the 2012 championship, believes the change in approach will have a major effect.
"We sat down and looked at ‘What were our weakness last year? Where could we have been better? What kept us from making the Chase and competing for a championship, like we feel like we should have?'" Wolfe said. "It was no secret that we had our fair share of mistakes [on pit road], lost a lot of positions and potentially put us in situations whether it's to get caught up in a wreck or to not have the potential to win a race.
"The way racing is right now, pit road is just as important as some of the setup things I might do to the race car. It's hard sometimes to get in that mentality to focus that much on the pit crew, but the pit crew can change the outcome of a race as much as anything we can change on the race car right now."