Lance a lot: Warren-native Munksgard pit crew coach in second straight Daytona 500 win
It was a Daytona 500 repeat for Warren-native Lance Munksgard – only with a different driver.
Just a few short months since being part of a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with driving legend Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, the Warren Area High School graduate was part of yet another Daytona 500 victory.
Munksgard is a pit crew coach for Hendrick Motorsports and the Johnson’s No. 48, as well as Daytona 500-winning Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team.
Last year, Johnson and Earnhardt finished 1-2 at Daytona, and this year Earnhardt led the final 18 laps in a race that ended under caution at 11:18 p.m. Sunday, nearly 11 hours after it began because of a rain delay of more than six hours.
“It was a long day,” said Munksgard. “You spend so much time getting ready for it. The last couple laps I was sick to my stomach. You don’t want to get too excited until the end of it.”
As proud as Munksgard is of last year’s Sprint Cup championship for the No. 48 team, his No. 88 pit crew was named “Pit Crew of the Year” last season in a vote of crew chiefs.
He said he had a feeling Earnhardt might win this race.
“It just makes all the hard work that those guys put in pay off,” Munksgard said of every team he’s involved with, including Regan Smith’s No. 7, which won the Daytona Nationwide Race on Saturday for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister Kelley, and Rick Hendrick. Jimmie Johnson was 5th at the Daytona 500.
Munksgard said the weekend was long, but the teams have been preparing for the season even before Christmas.
“We spend a lot of time preparing for the season,” said Munksgard.
That’s what makes all the phone calls, texts and Facebook messages so special when the wins come.
“If one (driver) wins and we can say from a pit crew standpoint that we gave both drivers every chance to win a race then we’re satisfied,” said Munksgard. “Last year was the best scenario as Jimmie won it and Dale finished second, because we finished 1-2.”
Munksgard said everything went smoothly on the long rain-delayed day, because the teams were prepared.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said. “It’s special no matter when it happens. There’s not a lot of people in the industry to win it twice.”
Previous to Hendrick Motorsports, Munksgard worked with the former Red Bull Racing with drivers Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne. In his first nine years in Sprint Cup (formerly Winston and Nextel), he was part of three Sprint Cup victories and he has more than doubled that total with Hendrick Motorsports.
Sunday was the third time in the last six years that a Warren County native has celebrated in Daytona Victory Lane. In 2008, Eisenhower High School graduate Kiel Woodburn was a rear end mechanic for Penske Racing’s No. 12 entry driven to victory by Ryan Newman.