Racing may look simple—flip the ignition, mash the gas, make four left turns and get back in a hurry—but in recent years NASCAR has become more complex than any stick-and-ball sport. Brad Keselowski's victory on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup represented the culmination of thousands of hours spent by scores of engineers, mechanics and technicians to build a single car capable of racing for three hours at speeds approaching 200 mph.
"The difference between being happy and being mad at the track is a tenth of a second," says five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who took second, 3.171 no-doubt-maddening seconds behind Keselowski. "There's just so much that goes into winning a race. The technical aspect of our sport now rivals NASA's."
On Sunday the small army of minds and wrenches that prepared, analyzed and adjusted Keselowski's number 2 Dodge celebrated in Victory Lane. Next week, things could change. Fast. For now, though, with nine races left in the playoffs, here's a look at the driver, crew chief, pit crew and organization that, thus far in 2012, have best shown how to find that elusive tenth of a second.