CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeff Gordon believes his new front tire changer can improve his pit crew and give Hendrick Motorsports some inside information on the competition.
Nick Odell, considered one of the best tire changers in NASCAR, was released from Joe Gibbs Racing after the opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He was immediately pursued by nearly every top Sprint Cup team, and settled on Hendrick Motorsports.
Odell made his debut Sunday at Dover with Gordon's crew, and Gordon believed the pit stops were improved.
More important, though, is the knowledge Odell allegedly possesses about the air guns being used at JGR. The Gibbs crews have consistently been among the best in the sport, and many have attributed their success to advanced technology in their air guns.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. estimated teams are spending $1 million annually to develop the air guns, and Gordon admitted that Hendrick lags behind in its equipment.
"I feel like we've been off," Gordon said. "We train guys. We have very talented individuals, but it goes further than that. Now we're starting to see where these pit guns are a crucial part of pit stops. It's something we've been working on, and adding Odell helps us take it to the next level.
"He brings a lot of things. He's very, very in tune with all that equipment and was a big part of that at Gibbs."
Odell was put on Gordon's car as the four-time champion completes his final season before retirement. Gordon's previous tire changer, Scott Brzozowski, was moved to Earnhardt's car, and both drivers noted improvement in Sunday's pit stops.
Kyle Busch said he didn't want to lose Odell, whom he considered "one of my best friends" and acknowledged that Gibbs' work on air guns will eventually be seen at Hendrick.
"Certainly being a part of Joe Gibbs Racing and the development work and everything that we've done into those air guns, obviously, Nick was a part of that and knows some of that stuff," Busch said. "I'm sure it'll take six, seven, eight months for those guns to appear, but we'll see them next year, and we'll be competing against them."
The signing of Odell brought the total to five Chase teams that have made pit crew changes during the playoffs. In addition to Busch, Gordon and Earnhardt getting new personnel, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski also made moves.
"You're just always trying to find out where you need more strength and what can make you better," Gordon said. "Track position has become so important. The aerodynamic power and combination we have, it's so difficult to pass once you get the green flag and get strung out."