A Look Over Pit Road Wall

Nikki HechtCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I had this idea for a series of articles.   Everyone knows all about the drivers of NASCAR Teams but what about those guys and girls that are behind the scenes? 

Those unsung heroes that are the first ones to get the compliments for the fast pit stops and the first ones to get yelled at when something goes bad out on pit road.  Yup I'm talking about the crew guys.  I have a very soft spot for the crew guys and gals.  After my dad decided he was a horrible driver he worked on the pit crew for some local racers for years.

So when I was trying to decide who to write about first there was only one name that popped into my head and when I looked at the list of potential people to write about his name was number one on that list.   Ryan McCray front tire carrier for the 38 Yates Racing Team.

Why McCray you might ask? Well why not? He's my age, just a handful of months older than I am and he's a nice guy. He's gracious enough to take Claire B Lang's phone calls on Dialed In when I in a panic send her emails asking about his health (he tore his ACL and had to have surgery at the end of last season).

If he's still on the No. 38 team since Jayski doesn't have him listed on their over the wall pit crew charts. (For the record, according to Claire he's back at the track, "Going over the wall and as fiesty as ever")

Ryan "West Coast" McCray was born October 17, 1979 and hails from California.   His last name might be very familiar to people who have watched the sport for years.  His father is Rick McCray.  Rick had 24 Cup series starts, several Craftsman Truck series starts and ran the Winston West Series.  

His sister Toni served as the public relations guru for Erin Crocker when she ran the Craftsman Truck series and now she races at Iriwndale Speeway.  His former father in law is Ron Hornaday.  It's safe to say that racing is in his blood. 

Ryan got his NASCAR start working for his dad's truck team and later on became a tire carrier and mechanic for Ultra Motorsports.  That led him to his job at Hendrick Motorsports in 2002 as a shop mechanic and an over the wall front tire carrier. (He was the guy out on pit road that had "Lowe's Blue" hair and bleach blonde hair). 

In 2003 Ryan was working on Pit Road at the race at Loudon New Hampshire. He and fellow team mate front tire changer Cory Quick were hit on pit road by their own boss.  Jeff Gordon hit them and sent them flying over the top of his car.   Both escaped with only minor injuries.  

In 2005 Ryan left the 48 team to go to work at Yates Racing on the No. 38 team which at the time was being driven by Elliot Sadler and now David Gilliland.  As apart of the "Chocolate Thunder" Pit crew they scored pit crew of the race at Talladega and competed and beat the 48 team at the Pit Crew Challenge.

When he left HMS it was on very good terms.  The reason he opted to leave despite the 48 team's monster success was so he could be closer to home and spend more time with his kids Tori and Slater. 

The Yates shop in Mooresville is closer to his home and his children than he was when he worked at HMS.  (All the women out there say it with me... Ahhhh)  He wanted to be able to work on his son's go kart more often and spend more time with them  being a dad and still being able to do a job he loved.   He also wanted the chance to move up and eventually become a crew chief.

Ryan said in an article in 2005 from his hometown paper,

"We had an awesome team there," he said of Johnson's crew, headed by crew chief Chad Knaus. "You work there for three years and you get a bond, and that showed.

"It was hard to leave. It was a real good deal, all young guys who got along. It was one of the tightest teams I've ever been on.  A week after I left, they tried to get me back."

A few months ago Ryan was on Dialed In with Claire B Lang.  He said that when Mike Lingerfelt left the 38 team at the end of the 2007 season and went to the 48, Ryan was going to go with him but after having to take time off for his ACL he wasn't able to go back to the 48 team.  Here's hoping that in 2009 West Coast will be reunited with his fellow 48 guys!