Like a lot of kids born and raised outside of Kannapolis, N.C., Justin Edgell always wanted to be involved in racing.
"Everybody knew somebody or had a cousin related to Dale Earnhardt," Edgell joked. "Loud fast cars -- oh yeah, you wanted to be part of it."
As a teen, Edgell helped friends with their go-carts at nearby dirt ovals Woodleaf and Millbridge Speedways. Growing up in the heart of NASCAR country helped foster Edgell's need for speed.
"We'd always go to Charlotte Motor Speedway every year in May for the NASCAR races," Edgell said. "I loved every minute of it."
After graduating from West Rowan High School in Salisbury, N.C., Edgell attended 5 Off 5 On Performance Instruction & Training in Mooresville, N.C., and soon landed a spot on a Hooters Pro Cup late model stock-car team performing pit stops on Saturday nights.
In 2007, when Roush Fenway Racing held open pit crew tryouts, 21-year-old Edgell got an opportunity to get in the door.
"I attended tryouts and did a bunch of pit stops over several weeks," Edgell said. "Finally, I landed a position on the No. 6 Nationwide team."
Five years later, Edgell is the rear tire carrier on Greg Biffle's No. 16 Ford. Nicknamed the "Pit Bulls," Edgell and his teammates recently earned third-quarter Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew honors, an award voted on quarterly by each Sprint Cup Series crew chief with an overall year-end award going to the season's top-performing pit crew.
"We strive to be the best on pit road," Edgell said. "This award is not something you luck up and win. It's something you earn. It's pretty neat they're paying attention to us."
In addition to Edgell, crew chief Matt Puccia's pit crew consists of jack man Sean Meckelson, front tire changer Kevin Novak, front tire carrier Bryan Huitt, rear tire changer Curtis Thompson and gas man Justin Reissmann.
The No. 16 crew's consistency is the reason it passes a lot of cars on pit road and deserves recognition, said Andy Ward, Roush Fenway's pit crew coach.
"Very thankful to Mechanix Wear for recognizing these guys because they really do sacrifice everything to do this," Ward said. "The pride point for me is that it's a peer award, and other crew chiefs recognized this group for their performance.
"It's not a popularity contest. Everybody knows who's doing a good job, and to be recognized by your peers is the ultimate accolade."
For Edgell and company, a lot of effort -- and plain hard work -- goes into pulling off fast pit stops.
The No. 16 group goes through a grueling four-day conditioning, cardio and weight-training regimen, in addition to meetings and daily two-hour pit stop practices.
Edgell said having a state-of-the-art pit practice infrastructure, complete with video analysis, goes a long way in helping the team train.
"We have an awesome facility for practicing pit stops," Edgell said. "There are no excuses. Whether it's raining or snowing, we can go practice anytime."
During pit stops, Edgell's role is to make the adjustments -- right side wedge, left side wedge, track bar and so forth. There's a lot riding on those adjustments, as well as a lot of pressure to make sure he gets it just right.
"Could be your greatest week, could be your last week," Edgell joked. "We [the 16 crew] have been together a few years now, so we understand what everyone is going to do during the stop. We just go out there and do our job."
The No. 16 crew's performance this season helped cement Biffle's Chase for the Sprint Cup bid with two poles, two wins, 10 top-fives and 15 top-10s. Currently, Biffle sits in ninth, 33 points out of the top spot, position with eight races to go.
"Every week there's pressure," Edgell said. "But I couldn't choose five other guys I'd rather jump the wall with every Sunday."