Making a pit stop with a stock car is not the same as rolling into your neighborhood mechanic for a tire rotation. The pit crews for the top NASCAR teams are top-notch athletes who train all year for technique and strength – they have to in order to be able to change four tires, fill the car’s tank with gas and make suspension adjustments in 12 to 14 seconds.
“Pit stops are real important during a race,” said Starr. “What makes the difference between wins and losses is how fast you get in and out of the pits.”
For the pit stop to be successful, the pit crew chief has to be on top of things during the race. Starr says it is ideal to pit during a caution, so the pit crew must stay ready throughout the race in case a sudden stop needs to be made. When the crew is ready, the chief will radio the driver and instruct him to drive down the pit road.
The pit road has a speed limit – usually between 45 and 50 mph. A driver caught speeding will be penalized, which can have serious ramifications over the period of a race.
“It is go or no-go for speeding penalties,” Star said. “If you are going 51 in a 50 mph zone, you will get a penalty.”
Because stock cars lack speedometers, the driver must correspond the engine’s RPM (revolutions per minute) with a certain gear (stock cars have four gears and a manual transmission). Get it wrong, and the race may be ruined.
Once a driver has slid his car into the allotted pit slot, the pit crew springs to action. A crew of five to six men sling tires, fuel and wrenches around in a 12-second blur before sending the driver off to do his work.