Pit stops in Winston Cup can make or break a team's race. Consider that one second saved in a pit stop equates to 279 feet of track position at 190 mph, and it's easy see why so much attention is paid to efficiency and overall pit stop speed.
One of the best pit crews in Winston Cup racing is the #18 crew of Bobby Labonte. Led by crew chief Jimmy Makar, the team has become a force on pit road. In 1999, the 14-member crew won top honors in Unocal's Pit Crew Contest, and Labonte's Second-Place finish in the point standings was fueled by lightning-quick pit stops.
When the car pits, seven people stay on the inside of the wall, and seven others go over it and actually work on the car. Take a look at what goes on with the seven people who go over the wall. The players are Jeff Chandler (front tire changer), Barry Cook (rear tire changer), Jason Lee (jack man), Todd Meredith (front tire carrier), Scott Hewitt (rear tire carrier), Peter Jellen (gas man), and Derek Jones (catch can).
This scenery is courtesy of Lowe's Motor Speedway, October 1999. Follow along as we trace more than 19 actions that must happen flawlessly between seven-plus crew members. The following is a basic four-tire and fuel pit stop, which took just 15 seconds and some change.
The Pit StopBobby must stop within inches of the markers in the pit so everybody can pounce on the car as planned. Seven crewmembers go over the wall, and two stay behind to provide assistance. Once the car is stopped, the gas can and the catch can go in the filler. The right side is worked on first; the jack man raises the car. Meanwhile, the windshield is cleaned (from behind the wall), and water is given to the driver.
Right-side wheel lug nuts are removed and the wheels are taken off. The tire carrier swaps the old wheels for new wheels, then cleans the grille (sometimes from behind the wall). The right-side wheels are positioned, lug nuts get installed, and the jack man lowers the car.
The tire changers, the tire carriers, and the jack man sprint to the left side of the car. If anyone misses their mark, then chances are that someone will get plowed over by another crewmember. Meanwhile, more gas is needed, so another gas can is handed over the wall. The jack man raises the left side of car, and the left-side lug nuts are removed by the tire changers. Left-side wheels are removed, tire carriers swap old wheels for new ones, which are installed and tightened with lug nuts.
The gas can and catch can are removed, the jack goes down, and that's Bobby's signal to let the clutch out and punch the gas. Bobby accelerates to the pit road speed limit as fast as possible.
So, what did you accomplish in 15 seconds today?