Trip Bruce is one of the unsung heroes on pit road. He's worked hard, paid his dues, and is finally getting the recognition he so justly deserves.
During the Ford 200 at Homestead last Friday night, he made two gambling pit calls that have made him a champion-winning crew chief.
Bruce began racing at 18, racing both Late Models and Grand Stocks at Southside Speedway in Richmond, Va. There, he worked for car owner, Don Beverly in 1989 as both a mechanic and fabricator.
Over the next few years, Bruce moved on to work for several NASCAR teams: Richard Childress Racing, Bill Davis Racing, and Ultra Motorsports.
He's currently in his second tour of duty with Bill Davis Racing. The first time, he worked for them from 1999 to 2003, where he was the car chief for Ward Burton's No. 22 in Sprint Cup.
In 2004, Ultra Motorsports, chose Bruce to lead its effort in the Camping World Truck Series. The team posted one of its best seasons ever with Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne. In five races, they compiled 1 pole, 3 wins, and 4 top five finishes.
In 2005, Bruce again would move on joining, Evernham Motorsports as it organization's team director. He would lead Evernham's NASCAR Nationwide Series program, with eight drivers, compiling 2 poles, 1 win, 2 top fives and 7 top ten finishes.
Bruce in 2006, led both Kasey Kahne and Scott Riggs to 1 pole, 2 wins, 2 top fives and 5 top ten finishes and he was named the series Crew Chief Of the Year.
Bruce would return to Bill Davis Racing in 2007, to be Johnny Benson's crew chief in the Camping World Truck Series. The two clicked from day one, in fact the first time they met was at Benson's garage and Bruce knew it would be special.
He knew he saw a car guy just like him and liked what he saw.
"I knew right then, I had met a true car guy," Bruce said. "I'm a mechanic and a car guy and I knew this would work. I've got a lot of respect for all the drivers in this series and every series, but [Benson's] got my heart and soul. He's got my passion." (scenedaily.com)
They scored a second place at Daytona in their first race together. In 2007, they finished third in the points, compiling 4 wins, 12 top five and 19 top ten finishes in 24 races.
We all knew the special year Bruce and Benson had in 2008. They fought Ron Hornaday all year, swapping the points lead five times. It would take 25 races for the teams to battle it out to the checkers on the last lap of the season.
Benson and Bruce compiled 5 poles, 5 wins, 14 top fives and 18 top ten finishes in 25 races in 2008.
It came down to Bruce, making first a two-tire call and then to stay out with 10 laps to go made the difference for Benson to win the championship.
I thought it was awesome to see the deciding factor to who won the championship came from calls made from pit road.
Johnny Benson describes it best with this comment what Bruce did to win the championship.
"Thank you so much for your dedication, your wit, gambles on races and giving us as a team the confidence to go out and do things we like to do best and that's go racing," Benson said. (scenedaily.com)
Only Ron Hornaday and Rick Ren have been better over the last two years, since Benson and Bruce paired up, and looks like that pairing will be going their separate ways now.
But don't be shocked to see Benson and Bruce together in 2009, on another team still in the Camping World Truck Series and defending their title. Now that's a story I'm re-working and will be publishing shortly.
Sources for article: are billdavisracing.com & scenedaily.com Photo Credit: CIA Stock Photography