Kevin "Rocket" Blanch

Annual Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge Friday Afternoon at IMS

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock knows him as “Rocket,” but race fans know the series’ technical director as Kevin Blanch.

“Rocket” single-handedly has launched more participation and rewards for crews into the One Stop to Start Pit Stop Challenge on Friday on Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Blanch has worked to expand the field for the annual competition and has revived a party for mechanics that includes numerous prizes for mechanics.

The Pit Stop Challenge takes place from 2:30-4 p.m. ET at IMS. About 30 minutes after the competition ends, Blanch hosts a Gasoline Alley party for crew members. Blanch grew the event from $42,000 worth of giveaways to surpassing $300,000 total – over five years.

“It’s just a great complement to the pit stop contest,” Blanch said.

Crew member names are put into a hat, and the drawing begins. The first name picked gets their first item of choice.

There’s a wide array of items, all donated from NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams, manufacturers, vendors, suppliers and more. Items include autographed memorabilia and other gear such as helmets, visors, gloves and more.

But that’s just the start.

Henry provides several items, as does Piloti Driving Shoes. SONAX car care products offers a popular mystery giveaway. Takuma Sato’s manager owns a few True Value Hardware stores and has donated grills. AMR started its donations with one TV and since has expanded to three.

There’s also a bucket that sits on the toolbox in the technical inspection area where personnel drop money in it at any time, all to be part of the giveaways to hard-working mechanics.

“The minimum someone will get would be about $500 worth of stuff, with the maximum probably around $2,000,” Blanch said.

INDYCAR Ministry is supplying a taco bar for the party.

“We join in with each other and eat some tacos, drink some cold beer, give away a bunch of stuff and give each other a hard time,” Blanch said.

Growing this event means a lot to Blanch, an Indiana native and former INDYCAR SERIES chief mechanic with Patrick Racing and Panther Racing before assuming his current role in 2003.

“I've won every award here,” he said. “I've won the race, the top chief mechanic, the pole multiple times. This really means as much as any of that because this is everybody. Everybody pitches in.”

Among the 14 participating pit crews Friday – representing eight different teams – each qualified for this year’s One Stop to Start Pit Stop Challenge in one of three ways.

Crews will compete head-to-head in single-round eliminations for the first three rounds of the competition in which they are required to change four tires and simulate refueling. In the championship round, the last two teams will meet in a best-of-three series, with teams alternating lanes in the first two races.

The winning crew and driver will share a $50,000 prize, and each crew member will receive custom-designed rings from Jostens, a box of steaks from Good Ranchers and a variety of other prizes.

First Round (Team listed first has lane choice)

No. 7 Arrow McLaren (Alexander Rossi) vs. No. 2 Team Penske (Josef Newgarden)

No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Christian Lundgaard) vs. No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with RWR (Katherine Legge)

No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing (Agustin Canapino) vs. No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing (Romain Grosjean)

No. 27 Andretti Global (Kyle Kirkwood) vs. No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing (Alex Palou)

No. 26 Andretti Global (Colton Herta) vs. No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal)

No. 5 Arrow McLaren (Pato O’Ward) vs. No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing (Felix Rosenqvist)


Q1: No. 12 Team Penske (Power) vs. Rossi/Newgarden winner (No. 12 Team Penske has lane choice)

Q2: Lundgaard/Legge winner vs. Canapino/Grosjean winner (Fastest first-round time has lane choice)

Q3: No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon) vs. Kirkwood/Palou winner (No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing has lane choice)

Q4: Herta/Rahal winner vs. O’Ward/Rosenqvist winner (Fastest first-round time has lane choice)

Semifinals (Fastest quarterfinal time has lane choice)

S1: Q1 winner vs. Q2 winner

S2: Q3 winner vs. Q4 winners

Finals (Best-of-Three Series)

S1 winner vs. S2 winner

Team Penske is the juggernaut in this competition, winning 18 times. Last year, Scott Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew beat Will Power’s No. 12 Team Penske crew in the final round, giving CGR its fourth victory in the competition but first since 2018.

The last team to win the Pit Stop Competition and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year was Team Penske in 2009 with Helio Castroneves.

Live coverage of the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge begins at 2:30 p.m. ET Friday on Peacock.

Pit Stop Challenge bracket