Air Force, NASCAR teams compete in 'reverse pit stop'

  • Published
  • By Dave Thurston
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Elite teams of highly skilled professionals from NASCAR and the Air Force faced off on the flightline here Sept. 19 in a unique competition dubbed the "reverse pit stop." The purpose of the three-hour event was to demonstrate the many similarities and contrasts between the two organizations and to allow each team to experience something of the other's maintenance challenges.

The Air Force team consisted of six C-5 Galaxy maintenance people from the 436th Airlift Wing here and six award-winning enlisted members from other Air Mobility Command bases. As the "home team," Dover Air Force Base provided the arena and a massive C-5 cargo aircraft and associated equipment to demonstrate Air Force skills.

The Wood Bros. Racing Team that fields the Air Force-sponsored No. 21 Motorcraft Ford represented NASCAR. Owners Eddie and Len Wood came to the base with nine crew members, two show cars and both the primary and back-up cars for the MBNA "All American Heroes 400" at Dover International Raceway on Sept. 22. The cars are painted Air Force blue with pictures of B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft on the hood and both sides.

"NASCAR crews and Air Force maintainers share an incredible number of traits," said Col. Scott E. Wuesthoff, 436th AW commander. "Both must be highly trained and skilled, both must practice constantly to achieve great precision and teamwork, and both must have a tremendous winning attitude.

"Our people do that everyday in the War on Terrorism," said Wuesthoff. "This event provided a much-needed break for a few of our troops as well as an opportunity to meet some legendary NASCAR stars."

After initial instructions and safety reminders, the air was soon filled with the roar of the Ford's engine and the smell of racing fuel and burning rubber as the NASCAR team demonstrated a typical pit stop. After a bit of training and two low-speed practice runs, the Air Force team got to try their hand at a timed two-tire pit stop. The first attempt was something of an eye-opener, but subsequent pit stops were completed in respectable times of 18 to 20 seconds.

Then it was the NASCAR team's turn to try something new as they learned about maintenance on a C-5. As they scrambled over the pit wall with jack, tire and 22-gallon gas can in hand, the Air Force team waved them off and showed them the huge C-5 jack, 28 massive tires and 55,000-gallon gas truck required to service the C-5. Even cleaning the windshield required a trip up four flights of steps on a maintenance stand to reach the front of the giant aircraft.

The day was filled with friendly dialogue between teams, and comparisons of procedures, tools and techniques. At the conclusion, Wuesthoff presented the No. 21 team with Air Force flight suits to wear during the Sept. 22 race, and the Wood Bros. gave each Air Force team member a Motorcraft racing cap. Everyone found the time well spent and look forward to a return match during race week at Dover next year.

Dover AFB participants from the 436th AW included C-5 crew chiefs Airman 1st Class Alleem Humber and Tech. Sgt. Charles Smith, Jr.; jet engine technicians Airman 1st Class Karen Stypa and Tech. Sgt. Stephen Russell; hydraulic technician Staff Sgt. Kane Swaney; and communication-navigation technician Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowen.

Command award winners participating included Master Sgt. Craig Limkeman, production superintendent, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan; Tech. Sgt. Jamie Lanier, jet dispatch expediter, 60th Component Repair Squadron, Travis AFB, Calif.; Tech. Sgt. Robert Zalenski, production superintendent, 729th AMS, Lajes AB, Portugal; Staff Sgt. Patrick Griffin, quality assurance inspector, 61st Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Ark.; Staff Sgt. Christopher White, EC-135N flying crew chief, 6th Aircraft Generation Squadron, MacDill AFB, Fla.; and Staff Sgt. David Vollmer, vehicle maintenance specialist, 355th Transportation Squadron., Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.