What Happens in a NASCAR Pit Stop?
Just thinking about the number of things that have to happen during a typical NASCAR pit stop can be mind-boggling. NASCAR has the greatest pit crews in the world, with people who can change tires, fill the gas tank, perform safety checks, and clean the outside of the vehicle all within seconds. To the outside observer who’s never worked in a pit crew, all that bustling around the vehicle can look like chaos. But in fact it’s like an intricate dance, with each pit crew member playing a very specific and important role.
The pit crew’s job is so important that they train fulltime and are an indispensible part of the racer’s game strategy. In the months leading up to the NASCAR season, pit crews often get together and start working on their routine even before the drivers arrive for practice.
Then, once the season starts, the leaders of the pit crew are involved in designing a pit strategy for the driver to use. Understanding that just 10 seconds in a pit stop can set a driver about a quarter of a mile behind, crews have to plan carefully the number and frequency of pit stops. Of course, cars that are serviced mid-race often do better than cars that are not, which also goes into the decision-making process.
In NASCAR there are 8 main roles in pit crews. They can vary from crew to crew, but there are of course rules governing the makeup of pit crews. These are the 8 main types of crew members allowed under NASCAR rules:
1. Crew chief: The crew chief is essentially the manager of the pit crew. Along with the pit crew coach (who is not active during the races), the crew chief is in charge of making sure that everyone is performing to the best of their abilities and that the pit stops go smoothly. The chief also oversees the crew equipment and procedures to make sure everything is done according to NASCAR rules.
2. Car chief: The car chief is in charge of determining the schedule of training and preparation for the pit crew, and he’s also required to check the car in the lead-up to the race to ensure that it meets all of NASCAR’s requirements.
3. Jackman: As his title suggests, the jackman is the guy in charge of jacking up both sides of the car so that the tires can be replaced. Once he has lifted the car, he may also help with one of the tires, and he usually double checks to make sure that the lug nuts are properly tightened. Then, after he lowers the car, he is the one who signals to the driver that it is time to go again.
4. Tire changers: The tire changers are in charge of removing the lug nuts of the old tires, replacing the old tires with new ones, and affixing new lug nuts. This is an especially important job in NASCAR given the fact that tires are required to have five lug nuts rather than the single nut often seen in other types of racing.
5. Gas man: The gas man is in charge of filling the gas tank. Since the gas man often finishes before other members of the pit crew, he may pitch in with other tasks.
6. Catch can man: The catch can man is sort of like an assistant to the gas man. He catches fuel overflow in a smaller gas can. He may also be tasked with adjusting the track bar and taking out the wedge during the stop. He is usually responsible for signaling to the jackman that refueling is complete.
7. Tire carriers: The tire carriers bring the new tires into the pit and place them on the studs. Then, they’re responsible for carrying the old tires out.
8. Utility man: The eighth man is not permitted to be in the pit until the second half of the race. He’s in charge of cleaning the windshield and providing the driver with water, but he’s not permitted to work directly on the car.