Throwback Thursday; The Pit Stops

 We’ve all seen it, and become accustomed to it. Pit stops that change 4 tires, on the fly adjustments to wedge, 17 3/4 gallons of fuel, down from a former 22 gallons, removing a windshield tear off , and cleaning the grill in about 12 seconds. Also needed is a flag man to let the driver know where his pit stop spot is.

  Now, remove the air guns that zip off and on 5 lugnuts in about 5 seconds, remove the quick rise floor jacks, and remove the flagman, the driver will have to find his own pit stop spot, unless you can find someone brave enough to stand in the spot with other cars going by( with no speed limit in the pits) to hold a sign to tell the drive where to pit. Remove the quick flow gas cans that can put about 8 gallons in  about 3 or 4 seconds. Sometimes the driver would come in and replace left side tires, go back on the track, come back in, replace the right side tires, just to stay ahead of the pace car and stay on the lead lap.

 Now, replace the quick rize floor jack with a bumper jack (you may not know what these are if you’re not old enough, but it too was hand-operated and seemed to take forever to work) replacing 1 tire took as long as 1 minute using a 4 way lug wrench. Forget the window tear off, a crew member had to manually wash the windshield for you with one of those squeegees that you find at the gas station. Also instead of having 6 crew members come over the wall, 3 crew members would do all this work.   I’m just guessing that a pit stop could take as long as 4-5 minutes, vs 12 seconds.

 It is said that the Great Smokey Yunick had a truck repair shop and decided to bring a couple of floor jacks to a race to save some time on tire replacements.  NOW the “race” begins with developments to cut precious time on pit stops. Gluing lugnuts directly to the wheel, air wrenches changing tires.   Teams started using cameras to help find issues with every stop.  Using cameras behind pit wall didn’t help much because it limited the view to one side of the car.  Using long lens cameras in the stands didn’t help much either.  Finally someone came across a small pocket-sized camera and affixed it above the car as to see the entire pit stop from one camera. That someone was Andree Petree and no one knew how they were getting their stops quicker, until somebody notice that little thing was a camera.  This was in 1993, and it took until almost the end of the year before the little camera was noticed.

  With the use of the camera, many things about how the pit crew moved together or got in each others way could be fixed.  Now pit crews move in a choreographed movements.  It’s almost an art, if you will. Starting on  the right side, the jack man raises up the entire side of the car in 1 or 2 pumps and after those tires are changed, he runs around, (usually) the front of the car and before he has the car in the air, the lugnuts are loose and ready for tire replacement. At the same time the fuel man is filling the fuel tank, an extra crew member may be allowed to service the driver with a fresh cool drink and pull the windshield tear off, off the car for a better view . As the car comes down after tightening the left side tires, the left front tire carrier checks and cleans the grill to keep the engine from over heating. When the car hits the ground, the car is GONE.

 Now, that’s done with 6 people dancing around each other; 2 tire carriers, 2 tire changers, 1 gasman, and 1 person to pull the tear off.  All the while other drives are coming in and out, all tools and tires must be maintained under control. And a new rule as of 2016;  When the gasman has the fuel can engaged to the car, he cannot perform ANY other duties. ANY.  Early in 2016 Matt Kenneth’s team found out, and so did everybody else, he cannot do ANYTHING except fuel the car.  During a race the gasman set the wedge wrench tool on the car while fueling the car. This broke the rule and showed everyone how serious NASCAR was on this rule, since a spark or a static shcok could ignite a fire.  Now had the gasman put the wrench on the car prior to engaging the fuel can, everything would be ok.  However, Kenseth was punished and had to start at the back of the longest line.

 The pit crew practices many times per week so the get their movements perfect.  I’ve even seen part of a wheel bolted to the teams “war wagon” so the tire changer can practice during a race with lugnuts.  The team not only practices, they work out to be in great shape to move heavy items like quickly the  tire changer lifting the wheel and tire putting it in perfect place while on his knees in unison with the tire carrier working together.

 You may have asked what is a “War Wagon”.  This in itself is a beautiful piece of art. Tools are placed perfectly in a specific drawer (so it can be found at a moments notice). The practice wheel, spots up to for the crew chief, car chief and engineer can sit and talk via headphones to each other and crew members, the spotter and the driver. This Wagon will also have several computers to help dictate fuel mileage, wind speed, radar to check for rain in the area, and more. Oh, it also holds that little camera 😉

Some people say that NASCAR is not a sport; lets give a person from the general population a chance at darting aroung 800 horspower cars, running from side to side of the car wand performing the same job on the left side of the car, all in 12 seconds, because tenths of a second can win or loose the race.  I havent even mentioned the driver who has to be in perfect shape to drive 500 miles while being confinded in a moving rocket of a car, sending them into multiple G-forces in every corner, while the car temps reach – oh lets say 130 degrees.  Oh Mr.General Population, where did you go?



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