PIT STOP at PIR:
Have every really thought about the importance of the PIT CREW and PIT-STOP? When NASCAR came to Phoenix on March 12th, I was fortunate enough to have access to several Xfinity pit stalls right near the checkered flag. It was very exciting to watch the intense, high-powered pit crew get to work during pit stops.
There are parts of the pit stop that could change the outcome of a race for a team. Pit Stops are done for a variety of reasons including changing tires, filling the racecar with racing fuel, cleaning the racecar, making minor changes/adjustments to the racecar and evaluation of racecar if involved in a caution. The pit crew must be able to complete a stop in as little as 12 seconds.
First you must know who makes up a PIT CREW.
- CREW CHIEF: Assumes all responsibilities of the team and crew. He assigns all the jobs of the team and creates a go to strategy. He is responsible for everyone on the team including driver, owner and pit crew.
- ENGINEER: This person is the brain behind the team. He is responsible for racecar set up, building and decision on what shock to use, and calculations of the tire pressures
- CAR CHIEF: Works closely with the crew chief. He is responsible for the executions of the decisions of the crew chief.
- SUPPORT CREW: This member assists with rolling tires, fuel, air hoses, and wrenches
- NASCAR OFFICIAL: Makes sure all the NASCAR rules are followed and maintains pit lane safety.
Now for those pit crew members that GO OVER THE WALL. NASCAR rules say that only seven members of the crew are allowed over the wall at one time. Pit crew members going over the pit wall are required to wear SFI-approved firesuits, gloves, head socks and underwear. These pit crew team members must wear a head sock that covers head and mouth, helmet with chin straps fastened, and fire-retardant underwear that covers neck to ankles.
- REAR TIRE CARRIER: This is the pit crew member that carries the right tire over the wall and assists the rear tire changer. He may also adjust the rear jack bolts.
- REAR TIRE CHANGER: Removes and replaces the right rear tire’s five lugnuts with an air-powered impact wrench. He then moves to the left side and does the same thing.
- JACKMAN: This member uses a 20 pound hydraulic jack to raise and lower the car for tire changes. First the right side is elevated and then the racecar is dropped. He then repeats the process on the left side.
- FRONT TIRE CARRIER: He carries the right front tire over the wall and then assists the right front tire changer. A typical wheel weighs about 27 pounds. It’s a 15″-diameter wheel that is 9-1/2″ wide
- FRONT TIRE CHANGER: This member removes the five lugnuts and then replaces the right front tire using the air-powered impact wrench. He then moves to the left side and does the same.
- GAS MAN: This pit crew member wears a special face shield that must be closed during fueling. He also wears a Fueler Apron that must be worn on the outside of his firesuit. This member is responsible for emptying 12 gallons of Sunoco Green E15 racing fuel from a dump can that weighs 81 pounds each into the racecar.
- EXTRA CREW: This sometime seventh man is an extra person allowed to clean the windshield and assist in driver comfort as needed.
Here is a PIT STOP at PIR:
Let me tell you that these pit crew members are top athletes! I t was important because in today’s world having the best pit crew is as important as having the best crew chief and engineers. Having top athletes is crucial. Many top collegiate and professional athletes are now highly recruited by top racing teams because of the team camaraderie, training work ethic and physicality. Top teams have built new weight rooms in part because of this. Athletes are used to the pressure of competition. Pit crew members need to make split second decisions on what to do when a racecar is coming in fast. Some need to leap over the wall carrying a 45 pound jack! Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew team can do a pit stop in 11.8 seconds moving a team up several positions. “Penske Racing hired former Carolina Panthers strength coach Shawn Powell four years ago and, a few months ago, unveiled a new 3,500-square-foot state-of-the-art workout room on par with many NFL facilities to train pit crew members for both NASCAR and Indy Car.”
Another thing to know about these pit crew members is the amount of education they need. Candidates who want to be a Pit Crew Member specializing as a Mechanic are required to gain a complete understanding of auto engines, mechanical technology and transmission problems. This knowledge can be gained through experience or by attending a vocational or technical school like Universal Technical Institute and Hedgecock Racing Academy which offer an intense short program. But more and more the educational requirement of a PIT CREW member depends on the focus the member wants to specialize in. For professionals Pit Crew Members specializing in Mechanical Engineering, candidates must complete a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in that specialty. Only a handful of university and college programs offer Mechanical Engineering courses specializing in the automotive profession.
Let’s not forget the PIT BOX. I like to think of these as “Transformers”. You may have seen these boxes that are pulled by the crew and then reach the pit stall and become the command center. A typical pit box has two satellite receivers to monitor weather and track conditions. Pit boxes can contain several computers where crew can anticipate and diagnose problems. They also carry a flat screen monitor for close up views of the car on the track. Pit boxes contain a general assortment of tools along with a wheel and axle-assemble to practice tire changes. These boxes also contain a generator. Pit boxes also unfold to create a second tier with seats for crew chief, engineer and VIP’s. Pit boxes also contain a canopy that is set up from the box. These boxes are a race shop on wheels that can be set up and folded and gone within minutes.
Many things affect the dynamics of a pit stop. Considerations of a crew chief during a pit stop are strategy, race length, cautions, racecar adjustments, fuel mileage, number of tires and tire wear. Each second of the stop is a highly choreographed dance.
Although you may not pay much attention to RACING PIT CREW members, they are a well-educated athletic machine that work their butts off to support the entire racing team. Pit crew members get very little credit even though they are an integral part of the NASCAR team and it’s victory. Let me hear what you think of the PIT CREW.
Other good reads on Pit Crew and Pit Stop:
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Cassie Gannis – Race Car Driver, Animal Lover