NASCAR season is well underway for the year! The big Daytona 500 race has come and gone and we’ve already had a couple different race winners in the past few weeks. It’s exciting to see all the racers back in the game and darting around the track in the hopes of winning first place prize. Certainly, these drivers possess an immense amount of skill to maneuver race cars at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. But, in order to keep the cars fully functional during the race, all NASCAR drivers need one other essential tool – a skilled set of mechanics on their pit crews.
The Evolution Of The Pit Crew
In the very beginning of NASCAR, pit crews weren’t as essential as they are today. It wasn’t until the early 1950s when races started to stretch into the 500 mile lengths (with the Southern 500 race) that drivers realized their cars needed to be serviced while the race flew by them. In the early days, the crews used old fashioned bumper jacks and 4-way tire irons to replace the wheels on the car. It wasn’t until closer to 1955 that we began to see more modern air tools and floor jacks come into the game.
Over the years, there have also been a lot of conversations around the speed at which the pit crews work. Of course, a speedy crew is essential to getting back into the race. However, this was not always the norm. The Wood Brothers were the first to make the quick-as-lightening pit crew a reality when they reworked all of their tools and strategies into a choreographed performance. Today, a team of six mechanics can have a car maintenanced in about 12 seconds!
Pit Crew Positions
In NASCAR today, the pit crew consists of six active mechanics, including the following:
- Rear tire carrier
- Rear tire changer
- Front tire carrier
- Front tire changer
- Gas man
- Jack man
The pit crew can also include other supporting members behind the wall to help during the race:
- Crew chief – develops strategy for pit stops
- Car chief – executes adjustments to strategy based on car needs
- Support crew – rolls tires, hands tools, untangle hoses
- Extra man – sometimes aloud by NASCAR over the boundary to wipe the windshield and assist driver
All of these members work as a team to ensure they have the best strategy to keep the driver safe and the car going as fast as possible.
As you can see, the NASCAR pit crews have come a long way from their early days. From changing all the tires to giving the car a full tank of gas, the pit crew is responsible for making sure the race car can to finish the entire race. Because of this, we want to recognize the dedicated pit crews as the unsung heroes of NASCAR.