Some of the most thrilling moments is motorsports are the pit stops, when the racecar is not even moving. The duties performed by the pit crew and the speed at which they execute their responsibilities is incredible. As a guest of Lowe’s at this year’s Daytona 500, seeing the pit crew in action from just steps away, one gets a whole new appreciation for these guys. If your son or daughter wants to wrench rather than be a doctor or lawyer, this is is a highly respectable and professional gig. Pit crews are precisely honed athletes able to jack up a car, change four tires, perform safety checks, fuel and clean the car in mere seconds. They fly in before the race from all parts of the country, many of them have other day jobs, but they manage to work together flawlessly.
The typical NASCAR Pit Crew includes both OVER-THE-WALL and ROAD CREW members.
- 4 tire changers – one for each front and rear tire
- Gas man
- Windshield and driver’s equipment
- Jack man
- Tire specialists
- Shock specialists
Yep, pit coaches, plus back-up members for many of the positions, makes for quite an organization. And we wonder why car racing is such a big business… many important people work behind the car and the driver. Just like athletes, they practice. Pit timing is as important as the actual laps around the track. These guys are the consummate professionals, constantly updating and polishing their skills.
Racing and the pit crew have come along way since the early days. Helmets, fire suits, track shoes, maybe a helmet cam are haute couture compared to the early days of a white cotton mechanic’s suit and a pair of lace up leather oxfords. Pit stop times differ from F1, to Indy Car, from NASCAR to the different demands of LeMans races, efficiency and effectiveness at speed is what they all have uncommon. Regardless of race type, the actions of a pit crew are as finely tuned as the cars they service.
While speed is critical, safety holds the pole position. Early this month new rules slowed F1 pit stops increasing the penalties for teams if pit stop incidents occur. Both fire suits and helmets have been a somewhat recent requirement, though clearly a necessity.
To better illustrate the evolution of pit stop crews over time, check out this amusing viral YouTube video. Warning, put down your coffee for this one.
Car racing and pit crews have come a long way. Wouldn’t this be challenging?
Vintage photo via Early Auto Racing