Top Ten: Tricky NASCAR Pitroads
Few people understand the challenges behind pitting a NASCAR car. Our crews are specialized and speedy when it comes to changing tires, adding fuel, and making adjustments to the cars. If a 3,400-pound racecar barreling at you on pit road wasn’t tricky enough, our crews face unique challenges presented by the pit road configuration at each speedway. Remember, these people are skilled athletes who practice nearly every day to develop habits and techniques. When races are won and lost on pit road by tenths of a second, even the slightest change to the rhythm of a stop can have adverse effects.
So what are the 10 trickiest NASCAR pit roads? We asked our crew members just that. Let’s start with No.10 and see what they said:
10. Watkins Glen
Racing on a road course, with its left and right turns is a challenge to the drivers and teams. It also makes things interesting for the pit crews who have to pit a car facing the opposite direction than they are used to. NASCAR races are usually run in a counterclockwise manner, but not at the Glen. Because pit stops are all about rhythm and muscle memory, reversing the choreography can cause delays. It can mean that the jackman has to hold the heavy jack differently and balance in the opposite direction as he quickly runs around the car. Same for the gas man. In fact, this year our Cup Series crew chiefs asked each of our pit crews to pit cars in the Nationwide Series the day before the big race in order to get plenty of practice for Cup race. Additionally, certain pit boxes near the end of pit road at the Glen are on a slight downgrade.
9. New Hampshire
The one thing about New Hampshire that our crews mentioned was the shorter-than-average pit wall. The tire changers perch themselves on the wall and leap from it as the car screeches to a halt. The shorter wall means different timing and less of a leap.
This famous speedway was originally built for Indy Cars that require a much longer pit box. Unfortunately for our crews it’s width, not length that is important. A driver needs to position the car with enough distance from the wall for the jackman to lower the handle on the jack. At Indy, this might mean a tight squeeze for the pit crew running around the right side of the car in the shadow of traffic speeding by.
The wall at Kentucky is thinner than usual and taller than usual. This makes things tricky for the changers leaping off of the wall, but also for the carriers who must take hold of the new tire waiting for them and mount it on the hub at ground-level.
This action-packed short track has a pitroad that can be unlevel in different places, in addition to its tight pit boxes. Add to that, the noise, and the constant need for body-repairs and you have a track that doesn’t afford the crews a minute of rest.
One reason Darlington and other tracks made the list is pit boxes located in turns. Crews must rely on the spotter to give them a heads up on how far the car is from hitting the pit stall. The car numbers are also painted on the wall to give the drivers directions to their box. In addition to possibly pitting in a turn, Darlington’s pit wall juts in and out in certain areas along the front stretch. This creates a blind spot in some stalls and also means the driver might have a harder time parking the car straightly.
The road course in Sonoma, CA also has a peculiar, divided pit road (though it is a lot better than it used to be!) The dogleg in the center of pit road could mean a blind spot for crews if you happen to be in the stall immediately after the break. A few years ago, Infineon actually had two separate pit roads. The second, smaller pit was known at “Gilligan’s Island” because it was located in the middle of the final turn.
The pit road at Dover is tight and treacherous. It’s not very wide, the boxes aren’t very big, and the cars come flying off the track very quickly.
2. Las Vegas
Probably the most elegantly designed and decorated track on the circuit, Las Vegas is also home to the slickest pit road. The cars don’t have as much of a problem as our tire changers do. In 2010, the problem was exasperated by NASCAR’s new rule which outlawed the use of chemical adhesives on the pit box. Some crews were even pouring Coke and sugar on the pavement to increase grip.
Small pit boxes, a very narrow pit road, and pit stalls in turns are the major ingredients of a tricky pit road. Martinsville is home to all of these challenges. Furthermore, this track is very hard on brakes, which creates clouds of brake dust that can make it difficult for a tire changer to see the lug nuts