Mark Winterbottom has loyally defended his pit crew aftertheir bungled pit stop almost certainly cost him victory in the third race ofthe Austin 400.
The Ford Performance Racing driver pitted from the lead ofthe 100km race ahead of BJR’s Fabian Coulthard for the mandatory tyre change,but the crew had to make two attempts at replacing the right rear after crossthreading the lock nut.
To add insult to injury a 20-lap old tyre was put on the PepsiMax Ford Falcon FG, slowing its performance in the rest of race. Winterbottomrejoined in eighth and finished seventh.
This was the latest in a series of pit and mechanical issuesfor Winterbottom this year that have left him winless and languishing eighth inthe championship, 356 points behind leader Jamie Whincup.
But while admitting his frustration, Winterbottom also refusedto blame his crew for his plight.
“I would never blame the boys, they are working theirbacksides off,” Winterbottom said. “But we have to look at procedures andequipment.
“I feel sorry for the guys too, because I don’t knowgenuinely know whether it’s an error putting the wheel on or if it isequipment.
“It’s a job that I wouldn’t want to do. I wouldn’t want tobe a pit stop bloke.”
Winterbottom, who turns 32 today (Monday May 20), acknowledgesthere is plenty of time to claw back the points deficit to the Red Bull HoldenCommodore driver VF Whincup, but he isn’t confident of his chances.
“We are making too many errors,” Winterbottom said.“Regardless of our good speed, you can’t give points away. They are bulletproofthose blokes at Triple Eight, they are just bullet proof. So we are no chanceat the moment.
“You just have to go and try and race. You think about ittoo much you don’t enjoy it. It happens a few times and it brings you down abit.”
He admitted his chances of winning the race, even if he hadrejoined in the lead, would have been compromised by the old right rear tyre.
“I fought hard to get to the lead and Coulthard couldn’tpass me, so if I had had a good pit stop and got back out in front I may wellhave been able to maintain it with the right tyre on. But you never know.”