A pit stop is a mechanized dance choreographed with one result in mindgetting the ca
Tire changers must have excellent hand-eye coordination. You have to hit all five lugs
A full-on stop at speed requires coordination among all over-the-wall crewmen. Note the te
The car doesnt always arrive square in the pit box and exactly on the marks. Train t
The gas man has to have upper-body strength to wrestle an 80-pound gas can. The catch-can
Heres how its done: Everyone works in concert with each other to perform mecha
Being a pit crew member in todays motorsports world is much akin to being a professional football player. Making a pit stop is seconds of frenetic activity, punctuated by long periods of inactivity. There is always the possibility that an unscheduled pit stop might crop up, so you have to go from a complete stop to full speed in a matter of seconds.
With this in mind, there are many ways pit crew members can train for any eventuality, both physically and mentally. This information applies to all pit crews, whether it is a full-blown Winston Cup or Busch team, a touring Late Model team or a team at the local short track.
Britt Goodrich, who handles the jack on pit stops for the No. 48 Stacker 2 Chevy driven by Kenny Wallace in the NASCAR Busch Series, has been a crewman for nine years. He has worked with Morgan-McClure Racing, PPI Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Ultra Motorsports/Mattei Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports and Robert Yates Racing as both a jack man and a tire carrier, so hes been there, done that and has the T-shirt. Hes also coordinated pit crews, so he knows how to make yours better.
Its Just Like Football
There are a lot of similarities between playing football and being a pit crew member, Goodrich says. The equipment is heavy, tires are heavy and you have to be quick. You expend a lot of energy over a short period of time, and you must have good hand-eye coordination.
Another thing about being on a pit crew is you have to remain focused on what youre doing, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, he continues. There are other cars around you, hoses on the ground, your teammates are on the ground and you have to do everything quickly. The cars relationship to the wall is different every time, so you have to factor that in too, and you have to be ready to react to whatever comes up.
Goodrich, who played major-college football at North Carolina State University, says that since the NASCAR season in particular is so long, being in good shape is more important than building a gym rats physique.
You need to have endurance and be in condition, he stresses. Youre at the track all day, doing whatever your assigned job is on the car and then pitting the car during the race. You get tired from being on your feet all day, and when you are tired, your body is more susceptible to injury. Flexibility is also very important, because of the stresses you put your body through.
Variable Training Regimens
In this era of pit crew specialization, different specialties require different training regimens. The gas man needs a lot of upper body strength to manhandle the 80-pound gas can from the wall and into the cars fuel filler valve to engage the dry-break system. He also needs to pay attention to the muscles in his back and legs, which can be abused if the can is ripped out of his hands when the driver leaves early or if he doesnt have the proper leverage when lifting the can. The catch-can man cant be Milton Milquetoast, either; it is his job to hold the can in place as the gas man turns for the second can from the wall.
A jack man has to be strong to lift the race car off the ground in two or three pumps, but he does the most running of any pit crew member, carrying a 35-pound aluminum jack. He must have overall body strength, quick feet and hands and an eagle eye for trouble. His hand-eye coordination must be spot-on to get the nose of the jack under the lift bar in the side of the car. Once the car is in the air, hell reach down and hold the rear tire on the hub while the rear tire changer is buttoning up the lug nuts. Then its a quick turn of the jack to release and off he goes to the other side of the car to perform the same duties.
Tire changers have to have upper-body strength too, because a racing tire weighs a lot more than many people realize. Carrying an air gun with the hose attached while sprinting around the car in a crowded pit area is more of a natural talent than an acquired skill, it seems. Just getting to the tire without snagging the hose can be considered a victory to a novice. Hand-eye coordination is very important in a tire changer: Any delay in getting the five lug nuts off and the five new ones back on will cost the team spots on the track.
One training method many teams use involves a cardboard representation of a racing tire and a marker. While on his knees, the tire changer takes the marker and touches it to the dummy lug nuts in the pattern he has to use with the air gun just as fast as he possibly can. This reinforces the pattern, improves concentration and gives the tire changer a significant amount of muscle memory for the next full-bore pit stop.
Rest is Important In order to maximize a crewmans capabilities, more teams are keeping their over-the-wall gang at home until race day, Goodrich says. Theres not much time to train if you are a regular employee, so the teams have started leaving the jack man, gas man and the tire changers/carriers at home more, he says. That way they get in more of a routine.
Goodrich says a professional-caliber pit crew needs two or three days of lifting weights and strength training, two or three days of pit practice and a couple of days of cardiovascular training to be at peak efficiency. With the schedules in professional racing being what they are, the luxury of training every day is hard to come by. That would be the ideal, according to Goodrichfive days of non-stop pit work and physical trainingbut as usual, the ideal is very far away from reality.
In terms of actual pit practice, there are many ways that teams approach getting the most out of their simulations. Most upper-level teams have an area built just for pit practice, which has a wall of the same height as most pit walls and all the equipment ready for use. Most teams have a crewmanor in some cases the driver himselfassigned to drive a car for pit practice, so you have all the noise and heat you would have on race dayminus 42 other cars, of course. The stops are then videotaped for further discussion, which is somewhat akin to the practice of taping football games to study techniques and tendencies.
Adaptability is key One aspect that Goodrich says teams often miss is the fact that pit boxes at different tracks are not all the same. For instance, according to Goodrichs own research, the pit box at Bristol Motor Speedway is around 366 square feet. California Speedways pit boxes are in the neighborhood of 800 square feet, or 1.5 times as big as Bristols.
That is one mistake teams often make, Goodrich explains. At Bristol or Martinsville, for instance, you can just about guarantee that the car is not going to be on the marks at any time during that race. That car will be crooked on every stop, not because of anything the driver is doing wrong, but because of the fact the pits are so tight. When we practice, Ill tell the driver to hang the back end out or come in crooked, and we wont tell the other guys, just to change it up.
It is recommended that local racers always know how big the pit box is at your tracks. It can change from track to track.
Realistic parameters for training translate well into competition, because if you learn to react to how the car sits in the pit box, you wont get caught short when the driver slides it sideways into the pit box.
All Goodrichs experienceincluding jacking the winning car in the 2001 Daytona 500 (Michael Waltrips No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet)has been at the top levels of NASCAR. However, the techniques and advice he has picked up in nine years as a crew member can be applied to every level of racing. The principles are the same for all types of pit stopsquicker is better than slower, and the more time you gain on pit road the less youll have to gain on the race track.
If you do pit stops, you had better be in shape. Training regimens tailored to your specific duties will help, and it cant hurt to have high endurance levels. Dont get wedded to the idea that the pit stop is always going to happen the way you have it planned. Sometimes the pit stop happens the way it wants to happen, and you have to adapt quickly to whatever conditions present themselves.
Realistic practice techniquessuch as the cardboard tire example listed abovecan go a long way toward shaving seconds off your times, and there are plenty of exercises around to help you focus on your job and seal out all the distractions. If everything goes right, youll have at least two or three chances per event to help your driver gain track position and potentially win the race. Its all about getting out of the pits faster than the other guys, and training and preparation are the keys to unlocking that success.