Pit Crew U Calls the Stops for NASCAR Rookies
There are physical feats a NASCAR pit crew manage multiple times in every race that most people can’t appreciate until they try to replicate them.
For this 6’3”, 260 lb. lummox, they included carrying two tires to a car and rolling two tires away from a car while trying to keep your oversized fire suit pants on while crowds of onlookers root for you. I assume they were rooting for a good pit spot time and not just that I kept my pants on throughout the exertion.
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While promoting the Germán Quiroga and Red Horse Racing Team, NASCAR Truck Series sponsor Net10 wanted to introduce the reporters to an element of professional racing that casual fans don’t consider as important as the superstar drivers who take the podium. Pit crews and their blazing fast maintenance work are just as essential as the guy at the wheel if any NASCAR team is going to excel.
Athletes Crewing the Pits
Pit Crew U stands within walking distance of Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it’s no amusement attraction. While the school does offer experiential, one day schools and corporate events for NASCAR friendly organizations, its primary function is to recruit and train professional pit crew works for full-time racing teams.
While that search used to lead only to old drivers ready to get out of the car or locals who grew up in the racing scene, recruiting now looks to major college sports and the professional ranks of the NFL or baseball to crew the teams responsible to get a race car refueled, setup for track conditions and re-rubbered in less than 15 seconds.
And there’s no “settling” for such pit crew work. Many of the athletes who transition to NASCAR teams make six figure salaries, training in gyms worthy of any franchise in the other major sports.
Rookies Give the Pits a Try
To demonstrate how hard the athletes work on its own NASCAR Truck Series crew, Net10 broke a group of journalists into four teams and put them to work training as pit crews. While the pros crank out a stop in as little as 11 seconds, the writers released into the racing pits were looking to pull off a four tire change and refueling in less than a minutes.
Each team included a jack operator, a fuel can carrier, two air gunners to remove and refasten lug nuts and tire carriers to get fresh rubber to the car before hustling the used slicks away.
Once it was a go time, the team had to work in unison to get the car refreshed and back on the virtual track as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
The coaches saw me and quickly assigned my bulk to a beast of burden duty — carrying tires. It was my job to work with my air gun partner to carry a tire, position it for bolting, get the old tire out of the way and repeat.
A Metal and Rubber Ballet
My team didn’t pull out a win in the time trials, but we improved steadily throughout the practice sessions. Early on, individual screw ups set us back, but by the fourth rehearsal, I began to see patterns and choreography.
I knew to let my air gun man get out a few steps join front of me before I produced the tire. I learned to trust him to get the tire positioned himself while I got rid of the used rubber. Before bringing the second tired to the opposite side of the car, I developed a sense of when to duck to get out of the way of the jack as it switched sides of car with us.
While we never sniffed anything under 45 seconds, I at least gained a sense of how strong, fit and skilled men and women could come together to get a car back out onto a racetrack in just over 10 seconds.
As for the pants incident, I went a size down for our actual time travel so I didn’t have to use my non-tire hand to keep my britches high. In addition to my new pit skills, I have a refused appreciation for proper in-race tailoring.