Catching on fire, getting hit by a car, having fuel splash up into one’s eyes—these have all happened to pit crews. Many of them encounter challenges like these while on the job yet still find the will to keep on going; they have a job to do and the rest of the team depends on them.
Everyone has their roles and not one of them can fall short. There’s no room for errors. AAMCO Colorado points out that tire changers rely on speed and accuracy. There’s always a Jackman ready to receive and scoop up the car so there’s room to swap out the tires. Another one refuels the car. Then there’s the chief overseeing the team, another one that monitors the vehicle and others integral to the team.
The driver’s success rests heavily on his pit crew. They’re the ones that keep the car running and in top notch shape. Without them, the driver has no shot at competing. While fans often focus on the driver and dwell on his or her safety, few recognize that the pit crew is just as much in danger.
Pit crews, like any job, have rules they have to follow. For a list of those, be sure and check out rules NASCAR pit crew members must follow. Many of them exist for the team's safety, others ensure the team performs at its best. Others serve to preserve the team’s image in front of fans across the globe.
Below we’ll be looking at things pit crews aren’t allowed to do. Some are believable, while others, not as much. Many are relatable, some raise eyebrows. The one thing they all have in common though is an understanding that working in a pit crew is no easy job.
Looking at the process of changing out a tire, it depends on several things to go right. The first step is dropping the tires into the pit box before jumping over. Next up is the actual step of changing out the tires.
There’s a correct side, to begin with first. They say that the right side tires get swapped out first. The reason for this is because it’s the farthest side in relation to the wall crews jump over. A worker can’t start with the left or they’re going to get weird looks from their team.
Not all the tasks involved in being a pit crew member are intense and exhilarating. Some are rather mundane. Take lug nuts, for example, which crews have to glue onto wheels. It’s not as easy as it sounds though.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, there have even been instances where lug nuts fell off and ended up costing teams the race. The management of lug nuts and glue alone sounds like a full-time job, not to mention all the other responsibilities each member has to cover. This may not be a flashy aspect of the job, but it’s important for the crew to be cognizant of.
One crew member got in trouble for taking home a piece of equipment for work. According to ESPN, the tool was a clutch gun. Many can relate to this one, even if they don’t work in NASCAR. Unless it belongs to the worker, they shouldn’t take home anything used on the job.
The worker might have thought he was going to get away with it until he got caught on tape. The worker said he took it by accident. Workers aren’t allowed to take valuable equipment home that belongs to the team or they’re putting their job on the chopping block.
There are special rules pit crews have to follow. One of them has to do with how many mechanics can jump over the wall. Since the recent rule change, five can go over to work on the car.
According to Wired, there’s a small concrete wall that’s not far from where the car parks. If someone jumps over this wall at the wrong time though, or if there’s too many on the other side, then it could be a problem. The last thing a pit crew wants to do is look incompetent or lose the race for a simple mistake.
People work through pain all the time in their jobs, whether it’s at a factory, dealership showroom or behind a cubicle. Being in a pit crew takes a physical toll and an injury can adversely affect one’s performance. That’s why NASCAR has a utility role in each pit crew.
According to Autoweek, the utility role can fill in for someone who has a major injury that prevents them from doing their job properly. Members of a pit crew ought to shake off any minor injuries should something happen, otherwise, they have to step aside and let the utility fill in.
NASCAR rules dictate where and how a driver should park in a pit stop. There’s even a crew member who helps guide the driver into the box so they know they're in the right position. It’s important that the car park in the right spot because no one can work on the car if it’s outside a certain zone. Otherwise, as the same source notes, the crew will have to push the car inside the box.
Not only does this action take up extra time but can end up taking a lot of energy the team shouldn’t have to waste.
The pit crew wants to have as much control as possible during the race. There are times where challenges emerge unexpectedly, however. The key is mitigating whatever problems arise as much as possible. One occurrence that creates a headache for pit crews, as Wired points out, is when tires roll away.
All it takes is a tire landing the wrong way or bouncing at a weird angle to go flying. On top of it all, as My Drift Fun points out, a tire can weigh up to 50 pounds. Pit crews want to avoid wayward tires rolling away at all costs, otherwise, they have to deal with the situation quickly.
Take this next one with a grain of salt. Of course, pit crews are aware of the race and what’s going on, but they won’t have the ability to watch it like a fan. They can’t even watch their driver or the car the whole time. Aside from following their schedules—which we go into greater detail later on—and keeping the pit box clean, they have to communicate with other team members.
There’s even a member that monitors the car’s status in case they need to make any adjustments the next time the driver pulls in for a tune-up.
NASCAR pit crews have to master the art of working with what they have. USA Today reports that as of the 2018 season, there are five pit crew members allowed (as opposed to the previous six). While it means there’s one less person in the way, it only makes the responsibilities greater for those involved.
Wired points out that it tends to take about 12 seconds to get a car tuned up and ready to go. With such little time, it’s important that the team rushes without bumping into each other. Getting in someone’s way could delay the pit stop and even cost the race.
A race track is full of distractions. There’s no relaxing in the pit box. That’s where all the magic happens. It can also be where things go very very wrong. That’s why it’s important for crew members to be alert, focused and ready at all times. It might sound exhausting to outsiders, but unless a pit crew works fast, they won’t have what it takes to beat other racers and their pit crews.
According to Inc., there’s just as much a mental component as there is a physical one, so the pit crew needs to be mindful if they want to succeed.
As alluded to earlier, cleanliness is key for a pit box. With so many personnel, tools and factors involved, it’s hard to keep everything in an organized state. A clean work area is pivotal to servicing the car each stop though. If they fail to pick up a part that’s lying around in the open, it could end up being detrimental, even if it seems harmless at a glance.
Aside from gluing lug nuts on tires and performing other tasks, as per Inc., the pit crew makes sure that the area is clean. There’s never a dull moment in a pit stop.
Every pit crew has a list of rules to follow. They shouldn’t have any problems adhering to the forced dress code. To forego wearing one's jumpsuit while in the pit box can actually put one’s life in danger.
According to Motorsport Safety Foundation, these suits help to protect against fire. With so many risks involved in this job, it’s one of the easy ways one can take measures to protect oneself. With that being the case, they can’t just waltz into the pit box on race day wearing whatever. On top of that, they’d look really out of place alongside team members.
Every pit crew makes plans before a race. They have to prep all their equipment, suit up and remember the schedule. The Motorsport Safety Foundation notes that a team’s planned schedule lays out all the times they can expect their driver to make stops. A team’s job is all about timing, so having these stops planned out helps set them up for success.
If someone forgets the schedule, then they’re going to risk lagging the entire team behind. Imagine if a car stops for a tire change and only four mechanics jump over the wall because one of them disregarded the schedule.
Slackers have no place on a pit crew. Some of the best drivers today, such as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, expect the best out of their teams. Anything less and they’ll get the boot. With speed being one of the most important attributes a pit crew can have, it’s important that no one takes their sweet time changing a tire, filling up the car with gas or performing another task.
Pit crews have to always strive to get an edge, even if it’s mere fractions of a second; there’s no reason for anyone to take it nice and slow.
Working a pit crew job is like working out. There’s lots of lifting, squatting, jumping—all things that require the team to be in shape. That’s why a lot of them work out in their free time. In an interview with Motorsport.com, a jackman for a team said, “I hired a regular trainer so those guys would be fit, eat right and not be tired out during races.”
One of the key takeaways is eating well, not junk food. One could argue it’s not even acceptable for the team to do while they’re not on the job, which could compromise their ability to work.
When someone turns on a NASCAR race, they might see the pit crew for a moment and think the job looks easy. “Hey, look at the jackman,” they think. “All he’s got to do is jack the car up and move out of the way.” Little does one realize that it’s a coordinated and precise effort for all those involved.
That kind of work can become taxing, which leads to fatigue. No matter how stressful it gets though, pit crews can’t afford to get tired. Whether it's showing up tired or getting tired on the job, neither are welcome on a team.
Some pit crews do all they can to get a competitive edge, even if it means paying lots of money. There was a tool some teams made custom versions of but NASCAR decided they couldn’t use them anymore.
According to ESPN, teams use Paolo air guns to swap tires and have since made standard issue versions across the sport for teams to use. They can no longer make their own. The same source notes that some teams would pay millions of dollars to make their own. Workers have to use NASCAR’s tools at work, at least when it comes to these air guns.
Sources: AAMCO Colorado, Autoweek, USA Today, My Drift Fun, Wired, Inc., Motorsport Safety Foundation, The Virginian-Pilot, Motorsport.com, Popular Mechanics, ESPN