All-Star Challenge Weekend Pit Note #9
The Kobalt Tools Crew Chiefs Race: Prior to the running of the NEXTEL Open, the fans, drivers and crew members were treated to a race among the various crew chiefs driving Thunder Roadsters in the Kobalt Tools Crew Chiefs Race.
"I think this is great," Jimmie Johnson said while standing on the frontstretch grass just outside of the quarter-mile track watching crew chief Chad Knaus do battle. "It's neat because typically all the crew guys are wound up waiting for our races to start. But today all those guys were standing around joking and laughing. I'm having a good time watching him. I just wish he had a radio on so I could give him a hard time."
When the checkered flag was waved, it was ESPN color commentator and former Dale Earnhardt crew chief Andy Petree standing in victory lane. Petree held off a late-race charge from Knaus who finished second just ahead of Billy Wilburn. "That was a lot of fun," Petree said. "We were out here practicing Thursday night and I knew we had a good car, but I didn't know it was going to be that good. The car was perfect and it was fun to get back behind the wheel again. I tried to talk them into letting me start at the rear of the NEXTEL Open but they wouldn't go for that."
As he was doing his post-race interview, Knaus walked up from behind and doused Petree with a bottle of water. "Chad hit me all night long, I didn't know he was going to get me in victory lane," Petree said with a laugh.
After congratulating Petree, Knaus talked about his debut behind the wheel of a Thunder Roadster.
"I tell you what, that was a lot of fun," Knaus said. "I just wish there wasn't that many cautions because I think I might have been able to get around Andy. I know that had to be a lot of fun for the fans - I know it was for me. I messed up a little bit on that last restart and Andy was able to pull away from me."
Wilburn, who calls the shots for Kyle Petty, agreed that he hadn't had so much fun in quite a while.
"That was a lot of fun, I just wish we had more green-flag laps instead of cautions because I think I could have caught those guys," Wilburn said. "I just hope they do this again next year because it was so much fun. I know I let Kyle down, but I was in every wreck there was. I thought one car was going to turn over."
Wilburn was making reference to the No. 5 of Alan Gustafson who calls the shots for driver Kyle Busch. During one of the two heat races, as the cars exited the second turn, Gustafson's car got on two wheels when he clipped Scott Naset who works on Kevin Harvick's team.