Guest Author - Debbie Lester
The Sylvania 300 in New Hampshire marks the beginning of the ten race chase to see who will become the 2008 Sprint Cup champion. Twelve drivers will not only try to maintain the pace they have kept so far, but to also exceed what they have done to surpass the others and win the Championship.
As we have seen in many races along the way sometimes it comes down to pit stops. The decisions made about what to do to the car are very important, but people who perform those tasks are sometimes the key to a drivers victory or defeat on pit road. The pit crew is an integral part of the workings of a NASCAR team. The speed and agility of those on the pit crew can help to maneuver drivers into position to win or sometimes to lose a race.
Seven members of the pit crew are allowed over the wall at one time. Some specific jobs are, the Jackman (who raises the car so the tires can be changed), front and rear tire changer, gas man, catch can man (who catches the fuel overflow) and front and rear tire carrier. An eighth person can be added in the second half of the race but their only duties are to clean the windshield and provide fresh water for the drivers.
Pit Crews have to be responsible and the driver has to trust them to do their job as well as possible in the pits. Pit crews are very proud of what they are able to accomplish on the race track. Each year the Pit Crew Challenge showcases the talents of the top 24 pit crews in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. This year the No. 83 team of Brian Vickers came out on top.
Those who are on the pit crews of NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have to be in good shape. It’s not always the safest place to be when 43 cars come roaring down pit road, determined to be the first car off. In 1990 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Ricky Rudd’s car spun coming onto pit road and hit Bill Elliott’s car as the members of his pit crew were servicing it. 32-year old Mike Rich was fatally injured. We have sometimes seen pit crew members hit by other cars, parts of them ran over, tires and equipment flying around. Racing is not only dangerous for the drivers but their pit crews as well.
NASCAR pit crews may only be seen on Sunday’s but they are a huge part of the success or failure of NASCAR teams. Some say that the standard for pit crew was set by the Wood Brothers, refined by the Flying aces (Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s pit crew), and polished by the Rainbow Warriors (Jeff Gordon’s pit crew). Today it’s hard to choose who the best pit crew’s are. I guess we’ll just have to watch and see.