Over The Wall Pit Stop
Jacks Of All Trades
Lawyers, doctors, engineers and about any other occupation you can name all go over the wall on race day. Weekend warriors can earn anywhere from $300 to $500 for a day's work, an awful lot of excitement and a pretty drivers rush. While the mechanics fine-tune the car, these guys stack tires, lay out squeegees and hoses, roll out the war wagon (The war wagon is a tool chest, a computer, a satellite dish, TV, VCR, storage for the nitrogen bottles for the air guns and a refrigerator - snacks. NASCAR does not regulate what's on the wagon, but it prohibits data transmission to the car and only allows two-way voice transmission.) and whatever else it takes to get the pit ready.
Four tires; 22 gallons of fuel; seven men; 18 seconds. These are the numbers comprising a successful NASCAR Winston Cup pit stop. The media might interview the driver in the winner's circle, but often it's the teamwork of his pit crew that gives him the winning edge.
Seven guys over the wall and four to five behind the wall can do the impossible — preferably in 18 seconds. Moving in sync, stepping a prescribed route depending on whether the car needs gas, four tires or a chassis adjustment. In the old days, crews clenched rubber hoses lined with lug nuts in their teeth. Buckets of gasoline and a funnel covered the fuel stops. There was no speed limit on pit road and the action was hot.
Speed limits on pit road are a result of Mike Rich being pinned between Ricky Rudd's and Bill Aleut's car at Atlanta. The dimensions of pit road determine speeds, from 35 mph at Martinsville to 65 mph at Talladega. The number of crewman was reduced to in hopes of trimming the odds of accident or injury. In 1995, after incidents of cars running over impact guns and air hoses, NASCAR limited teams to 2 guns.
As the car pulls into the pit, the front tire changers and the Jack Man are already onto pit road. They slip around the front of the car and the jack rolls under the car as it comes to a stop. Within seconds, the right-side tires have been changed, the gas tank is filling, and the tire crews are heading to the left side of the car. Refueling is a two-man operation, with the Gas Man and the Gas Catcher.
Midway through the stop, the Front Tire Carrier is able to find some time to clean the grill of debris. To avoid getting in the way, he then waits at the pit wall with a new tire until the Jack Man comes around. Likewise, the Rear Tire Carrier and the Gas Man wait at the wall for the Rear Tire Changer to come around to the rear left tire. NASCAR regulations allow only seven men to work on the car during stops, so the additional support must stay on the wall, unless there is an emergency.
To get the tires on and off fast it requires incredible hand-eye coordination, but there are a couple of tricks the teams use to make things a little easier. When the new tire is placed onto the car, the five lug nuts are already attached to the wheel by an adhesive. The studs are long and have no threads for the first three-quarters of an inch. This ensures that the lug nuts do not get cross-threaded, making it easier for the tire to be positioned.
Each NASCAR pit road inspector has responsibility for 2 stalls. These enforcers assess penalties such as a stop-and-go freeze for running over a jack or dragging equipment from the pits to a one-lap hold for pitting out of the box. Crews that jump the wall too soon, use more than 2 air guns, roll a tire across pit road, have no overflow man while adding gas or have too many men over the wall suffer a 15-second hold. Cars with missing lug nuts must return to the pit.
Essentials of a drivers pit stop? Make sure everything works ... Don't go too fast ... Be smooth & fluid ... Keep the lanes open and yield to tire changers ... Don't lose your cool. Tuning the suspension of a race car can be an exercise in frustration. You make a change to cure one problem, but that change causes something else to go wrong.
If the car was tight going in to the turn, put a rubber in the left front. That increases the split. Sometimes a higher spring rate is run on the left front than the right front, to keep the left tied down. This will help the car to cut, turning the car. If it is loose in, put a rubber in the right front. That will increase the spring rate on the right front and cause it not to want to turn as much. It will tighten up the car.
If you are tight in the middle, put a rubber in the right rear or the left front. Remember, the car works on diagonals. Putting a rubber on the right rear will increase the spring rate in the right rear. This will loosen the car up, allowing it to rotate. Put on the left front, helps you getting in, and the increased spring rate transfers to the right rear.
In a tight-off situation, put a rubber in the right rear. So it will help the car sit down. Putting it on the left rear helps it bite and loosens the car up a little bit. If the car is loose off the turn, put it in the left rear with normal spring rates. It will put more load on the left rear and tighten up the car. NASCAR teams have the ability to transfer weight between the front and the rear of a race car. One of the most common ways to transfer weight is known as a "wedge adjustment". The word "wedge adjustment" comes from the old days when race teams stuck a block of wood into the spring to increase tension and transfer weight distribution on a race car.
This adjustment increases or decreases spring tension, which in turn tranfers weight distribution. Each corner of the race car has a coil spring, and each spring can be adjusted. Race teams make this adjustment by sticking a ratchet and extension through a hole in the back windshield and into a threaded shaft that connects to a plate that sits on top of the spring. The same type of adjustment applies to the front springs. To add wedge (increase tension), turn the ratchet clock-wise. To take wedge out (decrease tension), turn the ratchet counter-clockwise.
The NASCAR rule book says only seven crew members over the wall — period. Well, the truth is, as long as NASCAR gives the OK to a team, it is in compliance. There are certain situations in which NASCAR does allow a team to have an extra person over the wall, say to clean the windshield, but it's completely up to NASCAR's discretion. And usually the officials won't allow for this to happen, unless it's more than halfway through a race. Also the "seven men over the wall" rule doesn't mean that you have to have seven people over the wall. It just means that there can't be any more than seven. Once a pit crew member steps over the pit wall into the car servicing area, he/she becomes one of the seven designated crew members for the remainder of the pit stop. Once a crew member has stepped into the car servicing area during a routine pit stop (a routine pit stop is a normal pit stop in the assigned pit stall for fuel and/or tires and/or minor adjustments), if he/she returns over the wall to the equipment side, he/she may not be replaced by another crew member, and he/she may not cross the pit wall again for the remainder of that pit stop.
Okay, here's the deal. Read this slowly, 'cause it gets a little complicated: After a crew member steps over the wall and starts to perform his duty on a pit stop, he is counted as one of the seven people for the remainder of that pit stop. What that means is, if a tire carrier, or gasman, or whoever, is working on the car during a pit stop, and he has equipment failure, or any other type problem, and he goes back over the wall to the equipment side of the pit wall, then steps back over to the pit box, then he is counted again — even though he's the same person. At this point, NASCAR would penalize the team, even though the person who is being counted as eight, is of the original seven.
Helmets and firesuits are required for crew members going over the wall. (2002 Season) Speeding - in or out - on pit road during green-flag pit stops: a "pass through" pit road at speed limit; speeding on pass through: stop-and-go. The penalty - going to the end of the longest line - remains the same for pit road speeding during yellow-flag conditions. (March 16, 2002)
All cars must enter pit road in single file and passing will be permitted only on the right. This after Jeff Gordon's car spun and hit three members of teammate Johnson's. Violations under caution will result in placement at the end of the longest line. Under green, the penalty would be an additional pass through under pit-road speed. (Late 2003 Season)
New Hand Signals: NASCAR has released a diagram showing the new hand signs officials will use to notify drivers on pit road what infractions have occured and the penalties to be paid. (2004 Season)
Over-the-wall pit crews will now only be able to hand push their car up to three pit boxes down pit road. Also, outside tire changers will no longer be able to send the changed tire back to the pit wall by rolling it. The tire, instead, must be hand delivered to a crew member behind the wall.
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