A full-bore pit stop on the...
A full-bore pit stop on the Winston Cup circuit. Notice that all over-the-wall crewmen are wearing helmets and firesuits. So should you.
Head up, jack at port arms,...
Head up, jack at port arms, Mark Pagent charges around the front of the car during a pit stop last year (before helmets were mandated in NASCAR). The jack weighs around 35 pounds, and it is a must in your pit area.
Tire changers take a lot of...
Tire changers take a lot of abuse during a pit stop. Note this tire man is wearing gloves, a helmet, firesuit, radio and is carrying a gun ... an air gun for the lugs.
Kneepads are a good idea if...
Kneepads are a good idea if you go over the wall. The jack man, who does his job standing, even has a pair on to protect his knees.
The jack man is the most exposed...
The jack man is the most exposed member of the crew in a live pit area. Good peripheral vision helps in this job.
Air guns and hoses are an...
Air guns and hoses are an important part of any pit stop where tires are changed. Keeping the tire carrier from tripping over them is another important factor.
Every warrior has his uniform. Knights of old had suits of armor and modern-day soldiers have their battle gear. Todays pit crewman is a warrior of sorts, and he needs his own equipment if hes going to win the battle of pit road.
Todays over-the-wall pit crewman needs protection, because the enemy in this case isnt carrying a 10-foot lance or a grenade launcher: Hes driving a heavy stock car. In effect, todays pit crewman is like a knight of old in that hes facing a mechanized cavalry charge every time he steps over the wall.
If youre going to do pit stops on a consistent basis, there are essential items you must have in your pit box to be both safe and competitive. Britt Goodrich, who is currently the jack man for the No. 48 Stacker2 Chevrolet driven by Kenny Wallace in the NASCAR Busch Series, came up with a list of essentials that should be in every pit area, no matter the level of racing.
Beginning with what the crewman himself (or herself, as the case may be) should wear while pitting the car, Goodrich first names the helmet. I wear a Simpson helmet, the kind that looks like the Harley-Davidson helmets for motorcycles, Goodrich says. It has straps that make it adaptable to the kind of radios we wear. You could use a racing helmet, but if youre hooked to the radio youd have to spend a lot of money getting a radio kit and fitted earplugs installed. A lot of the guys are wearing skateboard-type helmets and that sort of thing.
Goodrich has to wear a helmet, because NASCAR rules mandate it. He does recommend, however, that all pit crewmen wear one. Anyone who goes over the wall, whether it be to change tires, put gas in the car or jack it up, is strongly urged to wear a helmet, period. Many sanctioning bodies require such equipment, and if yours doesnt, then wear one anyway. The debate on this is much like the one that raged over head and neck restraints, but the facts are simple: You stand a better chance of surviving a pit accident with a helmet than without. You can get run over just as easily at a Saturday-night short track as at Michigan or Bristol. Pit helmets can be racing helmets, but helmets made especially for the pit crew are available from many different vendors.
If you make pit stops where fuel is being added to the car, we strongly recommend wearing a fire-retardant suit, underwear, socks, shoes and gloves. Youve heard it before but well say it again: The wrong time to find out you should have all these things as part of your normal equipment is while youre on fire. Sure, its heavy and it makes you sweat a lot, but consider the alternative. It is part of the condition of the job, so wear it. Wear it every time. This is especially true of the fuelers themselves. If your budget allows, wear a double-layer suit as well as the pit aprons made especially for the job to keep fuel from splashing on your suit all the time. Nobody wants to walk around smelling of racing gas, not to mention the danger of having a stray spark light off your suit.
The gloves, especially among tire changers, can be a hindrance, so the fireproofing isnt often as important as protecting your hands from the bumps and bruises associated with yanking a heavy wheel off and putting another heavy wheel back on. Several companies, including G-Force Racing Gear, Mechanix Wear and Ringers, make gloves that are ideal for this use. For crewmen who work with hot metal (in the engine) or torn metal (on a pit stop after a crash) there are gloves made of Kevlar® knit with rubber pads for grip.
Many companies, among them Mechanix Wear, BSR and Ringers make kneepads for tire changers that feature hard plastic shells for sliding to your knees. These are excellent for tire changers, who need something to keep their knee joints from injury while ripping off a four-tire change.
Goodrich says that eye protection is a good idea as well. Eye protection can really help you on a short track, he says. Theres a lot of brake dust kicked up when you change tires, and a lot of the tire guys will wear those bubble goggles like Dale Earnhardt used to wear. If youre pitting in the daytime, they make them in black to keep the glare down.
Tools and Equipment
If youre changing tires, then you need a jack. Goodrich uses a Brunnhoelzl jack for pitting the car and also has a Brunnhoelzl flat jack for getting the car off the ground if the tires are flat or there is damage from a crash. You need a racing jack, but the flat jack is an option depending on your budget.
When your driver is involved in a crash and comes limping into the pits, Goodrich says its a good idea to have a Sawzall or some kind of metal cutting tool handy for rearranging the sheetmetal. A rivet gun or zip gun is a good idea, if your budget allows. Also, if the car has significant damage and you need to get underneath to fix or inspect a damaged part, jackstands are a must. Most sanctioning bodies require jackstands anytime theres a crew member under the car, and its a good idea to leave the pit jack engaged in case theres unintended contact from another car.
If youre fixing crash damage, pre-cut tape patches for the fenders and grille are available from many sources. If you dont want to go that route, theres plenty of racer tape that will get the job done. Working as he does in the Busch Series and Winston Cup, Goodrich says a video camera is an option for teams if they want to record their stops for later discussion. This might not be feasible at all levels, but its a useful tool for reviewing pit technique.
Assorted items like a brush for the grille, a squeegee for the windshield, drink pole and the pit sign are all nice to have, but their expense might be too much for smaller teams. One item that all teams ought to have in the trailer or on the truck is a good broom. Theres all sorts of stuff that is on the ground in your pit stall, Goodrich comments. Lugs, brake dust, spilled fuel, dirt, rubber and trash can get on the ground where you have to work, so a good broom will help you keep that area as clean and neat as you can.
A pit pop-up canopy is a good idea, and you can get them from BSR Products, among other places.
If youre traveling or running extra-distance races on a regular basis, it might be wise to invest in both a car cover and some good tarpaulins for both the car and the pit area. A brief rain shower can make your pit area very hard to work in, so a pit-sized tarp can keep a lot of water off the prime working space. A car cover can help keep the car dry and ease any worries about the electronics getting fouled by Mother Nature.
Some teams have pit boxes, some dont. If youre traveling a lot, a pit boxsometimes called a war wagoncan make it easier to do, because it holds so much equipment. If you dont have or need one, you can still pit effectively without it. Nitrogen bottles and regulators are necessary to power the pit guns, and so are hoses, so you need at least two for that purpose. Spares are a good idea. Tire racks and gas can racks are luxuries, but can be useful in an open pit area with no inner wall. Its always a good idea to have as many spare parts as possible, especially spare body panels and suspension pieces, in the pit. If the trailer is not handy, then it becomes a necessity to have the bare minimum in spares arranged where you can get at them.
In terms of comfort, for both the driver and the crew, a stout cooler with plenty of ice is a handy thing to have in the pits. Cold drinks for the crew go a long way toward keeping everyone fresh, and the driver needs a drink now and again, especially if he doesnt have a water bottle in the car.
Much of what is essential in a pit area depends on the type of racing you do. Every pit needs basic toolswrenches, screwdrivers, air pressure gauges, etc. If youre a Saturday-night racer with a limited budget, compromise is the word of the day. Figure out, based on what you know to be true and what your experience tells you could happen, the absolute bare necessities for your form of racing and work from there. Weve given you the basics from a top-level team, so load the trailer, snug down your helmet and go racing!