Quick, concise pit stops can...
Quick, concise pit stops can meanbetter payoffs at the end of the race. The crew needs to work in total harmony, and equipment failures are unwelcome.
A 16-second pit stop used to be amazing 10 years ago. A low 13-second or 12-second time is almost expected these days. The reduction in time is due to many factors, which include the incredible athletes that make up the pit crews, the efficient choreography designed by the pit crew coaches, and the technology utilized by these teams to make the pit stops smooth and consistent. The technology can apply at any level of racing. For a racer leaving the weekly wars for the traveling series, the pit stop becomes critical.
Mike Lingerfelt is the front tire changer for Robert Yates Racing's No. 38 M&M's(r) car on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit. Lingerfelt has been a tire changer since 1994. He gained national attention during the 2000 Daytona 500. During the fourth pit stop of the day, when he attempted to retrieve a tire at the end of the stop, Lingerfelt was hit by a car while it was leaving the pit stall. Lingerfelt flew into the air and suffered a fractured left femur. He was sidelined from his tire changing duties for over seven months, but since coming back he has earned his place on pit road.
Mike Lingerfelt checks over...
Mike Lingerfelt checks over his gun. The tool is protected in transit and on the job. Regular maintenance ensures that it will perform at its best.
One key to consistent pit stops is making sure the lug nut doesn't get stuck in the gun. Teams try to combat this problem with coated lug nuts. For many years, the lug nuts used throughout motorsports were plain steel. Recently, teams have wanted high visibility and slicker lug nuts, so a yellow Teflon coating has been added. They are lightly coated inside and out, which provides a cleaner release from the socket and lubrication onto the studs.
Some teams take an additional step to use dry graphite spray in the socket itself. Lingerfelt does not use this, but he knows many other changers that do. He feels that it creates an additional step, and the dry graphite gets all over his other pit equipment. Many changers are using a special mixture in the socket. This is a mixture of anti-seize and a product called Ballistol. Lingerfelt feels that anti-seize alone would be too thick, but in a mixture with the Ballistol, the mixture is thinned out and provides additional lubrication.
Once the nut is on the stud, the key is to get it smoothly down the threads. Some teams are using this same anti-seize/Ballistol mixture on the threads themselves. This again provides smooth lubrication on the threads to reduce the torque required from the impact wrench. This has reduced the time hitting the lugs 25 to 40 percent by some estimates. Another benefit to these mixtures is their ability to reduce the sticking of the lug nut glue to the threads of the stud.
Before beginning the day,...
Before beginning the day, Lingerfelt makes sure the gun is in working order. Any race-day lubrication is completed before the command to start engines.
The guns used on pit stops are not your average impact wrenches. They are completely gone through and custom tailored to quick pit stops. These guns, depending on manufacturer, can cost from $800 to $1,300.
Between pit stops and while being transported to the track, the impact guns (the tools these changers use to make money) are kept in protective cases. When they are transported to and from the track, the guns are kept in hard cases. Some of the cases include the hoses and regulators, but, for the most part, these hard cases are to protect these valuable guns. While on pit road, protecting the gun is also very important, but instead of damage from transportation, the guns are protected from sun, heat, and debris. Heat is the largest problem on pit road. The O-rings in the forward and reverse switch can soften and inadvertently reverse during a pit stop. "You can push the button (reverse switch) up and it falls down by itself." Lingerfelt said. "That is one of the worst things that can happen when you are over the wall. While hitting the pattern, you are on the third lug nut and the gun switches-it screws up the entire stop. It is not so bad when the nuts are coming off because you can recover. You can switch it back and finish your pattern off. But when you start tightening down a new tire and the gun switches, you start spinning the lug nuts off the wheel and they fly everywhere. Then you have to get new nuts and your stop is lost."
Hooking up the hoses and regulator...
Hooking up the hoses and regulator gives the crew a chance to make sure all elements are functioning as required.
Most teams are using a pouch with a padded interior and reflective coated fiberglass to keep the gun as cool as possible. Most of these pouches have a Velcro closure to keep out any dirt and debris while the gun is waiting to be used.
Because of the hard work impact guns have to do, they are maintained quite often. Lingerfelt has his gun rebuilt every four to six races or 45 to 60 stops.
Besides the rebuilds, the guns are maintained during the race as well. Lingerfelt will clean his gun after every stop. This includes the socket and the O-rings. After cleaning with a spray of brake cleaner, the socket is re-lubed with the anti-seize/Ballistol mix. Every other stop, the gun is lubricated with 10-12 drops of Marvel Mystery Oil. The gun is then reconnected, and much of the oil is flushed out with a few pulls on the trigger. This still leaves some oil in the gun for lubrication but does not flood the gun and slow down the first stop.
A practice wheel is a common...
A practice wheel is a common sight on pit wagons. You may not have one in a lower level, but it is a simple device that can keep your tire changers sharp.
One last trick that many of the teams use for fast, consistent stops has its origins in the kitchen. The teams will use Pam cooking spray on the grill to reduce the amount of rubber sticking and blocking air to the radiator, but teams have also begun using a quick spray of Pam on the wheel to reduce the amount of brake dirt that resides there. Reducing the brake dust on the wheel (or sticking it to the wheel with Pam) will reduce the amount blown up in the changer's face.
There are many items that affect quick pit stops. The skills of the crewmembers, the quality of their equipment, and communication provide the anatomy of the pit stop. When tenths and hundreds of seconds matter, it comes down to many of the secrets detailed here to make the difference between First and first loser.
These are the chemicals that...
These are the chemicals that can be helpful in getting a quality pit stop.