Roswell, GA (May 11, 2011) – Pete Rondeau, crew chief for the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet driven by Regan Smith, has been named the WYPALL* Wipers Crew Chief of the Race following Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, NASCAR’s original superspeedway.
Rondeau’s call for Smith to stay out with worn tires late in the race while the leaders pitted proved to be the critical decision to enable Smith to claim his first career Sprint Cup Series victory. Running sixth, the caution came out on lap 359 of the scheduled 367-lap event. Smith, under Rondeau’s instructions, stayed on track and inherited the lead a lap later when the top five cars pitted for fresh rubber. The green flag fell on lap 363, but two laps later, the caution came out yet again, setting up overtime and a two-lap, green-white-checkered finish.
Smith, leading and on the inside front row along side with Carl Edwards, who had fresh tires, jumped out front on the restart and never looked back, holding off Edwards by .196 of a second to pick up the surprising victory.
“Pete made the right call that won the race for us,” said the 27-year-old Smith, who had his worse qualifying effort of the season – 23rd. “I was going to be mad with him if he didn’t say that (for us to stay out).”
“Sometimes you win ’em and sometimes you lose ’em,” said Rondeau of the gutsy call. “Regan trusts us and he was comfortable with the decision to stay out. We got into clean air and it worked for us. This is what it is all about – winning the Southern 500 at Darlington.”
“It’s tough to win in the Sprint Cup Series, especially if you are a one-car team such as Furniture Row Racing is,” said WYPALL Wipers crew chief representative and FOX/Speed analyst Jeff Hammond. “You have to take chances and that is what Pete did. It was a great call, and Regan drove the wheels off the car at the end against some tough competition, which had fresh tires. It’s a great win for that team (based in Denver, CO), and for the sport in general.”
WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief Results
Steve Addington, Kurt Busch and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team finished 27th after fighting an ill-handling car all night in a backup Dodge. Busch, one of the top three in practice Friday, cut a tire and hit the wall in his primary car and was forced to the backup for the race.
“We threw everything at it – track bar, wedge, shims – you name it, Steve tried it,” said Busch. “Just another bad night at the race track,” Addington added. “We’ll regroup and get this thing turned around.”
Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge of Brad Keselowski had their best finish of the season – third. Like Rondeau, Wolfe had Keselowski stay on the track during the caution on lap 359, pushing him to second on the restart. Only Edwards was able to get by at the end.
“We played the strategy game tonight. That was our only shot,” said Keselowski, who started 10th and then battled back from a lap down. “A good team effort to get a solid finish out of a mediocre day.”
WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief Voting Team
Addington and Wolfe, along with Hammond and Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang, serve as the panel for the WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief Challenge and vote for the weekly crew chief winners.
Each weekly WYPALL Crew Chief Challenge winner will be a guest on Lang’s “Dialed In” program on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90)at 8 p.m. EST on Wednesdays throughout the season.
The crew chief with the most weekly top wins will be honored as the WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief of the Year and will be presented a $10,000 check during the weekend of the WYPALL 200 Presented by Kimberly-Clark Professional Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, November 12, 2011.
About WYPALL Wipers:
Since 2004, Kimberly-Clark Professional’s WYPALL Wipers brand has been affiliated with some of racing’s top teams. Offering heavy-duty to versatile light-duty towels, WYPALL Wipers provides race teams with a number of products providing strength and durability. Defeating the toughest of challenges, from absorbing tough grease and oil to wiping down windshields without leaving residue behind, WYPALL Wipers continue to offer performance and versatility.
The WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief Challenge will continue throughout the remainder of the 2011 season and spotlight the men behind the machines. For more information, log onto www.wypall.com.
About Penske Racing
Penske Racing is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Competing in a variety of disciplines, cars owned and prepared by Penske Racing have produced 332 major race wins, 396 pole positions and 23 National Championships. The team has also earned 15 Indianapolis 500 victories. For more information about Penske Racing, please visit www.penskeracing.com.