Guest Author - Debra Lamb
If you are not a NASCAR fan, most likely itís because you donít quite understand all the details and components of racing. The following is a brief glance of a few of the major factors with the cars and Pit Crew and how they factor in to each race.
NASCAR races are games of strategy played at 200-miles-per-hour. Each team of racers will configure its own tactic for winning as they make the speedy trek around the track. These races are more than just a series of left turns. To win, a driver needs to possess skills, smarts, strategy and speed.
A fast car doesnít always guarantee a win. It takes an entire team to manage and balance each carís capabilities and equipment with racing conditions. There are a number of elements that are integral to a racing strategy:
In a race, tires are quick to wear down and they must be changed often. During most pit stops, all four tires will be changed. When a car has four new tires on it, it is generally faster on the track. As the race gets closer to the finish, the crew chief may decide not to swap tires or to only change two. This is what is called short-pitting, which can shave several seconds off of the carís time in the pits.
The crew chief is responsible for tracking fuel mileage for his driver. He can calculate when the driver needs to come back to the pits to refuel. The amount of fuel that is used by the driver is affected by many variables, including average speeds and caution flags. The crew chief must consider all of these variables when calculating fuel mileage. Making adjustments to the driving style of the racer can make the difference between having fuel stretch to the end of the race or having to pull into pit row in the final laps.
Temperature, wind and other factors all play a role in the condition of the racing surface. The crew chief must make any necessary adjustments to chassis weight distribution, tire pressure and spring stiffness to help keep the car at its peak performance level. Over or under-adjusting even slightly can take the car out of the race altogether.
During a pit stop, a race car will have all of its tires changed and be fueled up in under 15 seconds! Seven team members are allowed to jump over the pit wall to handle the car once itís there. Pit stops happen often during a race as the tires become worn and the fuel level drops. Every second counts in a NASCAR race and that is why speedy pit stops are so crucial. Even a single bad pit stop can end a driverís chance at a win.
The people across the pit wall during a pit stop will include:
Tire Carriers: There is one tire carrier for the front and one for the back. They bring new tires over the pit wall to the tire changers, first on the right side and then the left.
Jackman: This member brings out the 20-pound hydraulic jack in order to raise the car up on each side for tire changes, right side then left.
Tire Changers: Starting at the right rear tire, the tire changer takes off and replaces the tire with an impact wrench. The lug nuts are removed and replaced quickly as the changer holds the rim in place. He then moves around the car to repeat the process.
Catch Can Man: A crew member holds a can used to collect fuel overflow as the fuel cell is being filled. He will signal to the other team members once the fueling is complete.
Gas Man: It is this memberís job to fill the fuel cells on the car using two 12-gallon fuel cans, each weighing 81 pounds.
Support Crew: These members stay behind the pit wall and hand over tires and fuel and take back the used items over the wall.
Extra Man: Sometimes an additional member is allowed over the wall to assist the driver or wash the windshield.
NASCAR Official: There is always an official supervising the crew to keep watch for any violations and to help maintain safety measures.
Did you learn something new about NASCAR racing? Who is your pick for best driver? Whatís your favorite track? Share some of your race day memories with us!