NASCAR is the most popular motor racing sport in the Americas. After a race, the audience sings praises of the driver and the car. The support staff behind the car and the driver are forgotten. Pit crew members of a team are among the most neglected lot in a NASCAR event. The audience forgets that it is the team pit crew that keeps the car and the driver ticking like clockwork at all the races and at all times.
Those interested in the finer aspects of the sport understand the importance of a NASCAR pit crew. The members of the pit crew are handpicked, experienced and innovative persons. Their job is to keep the car in perfect condition and to the driver’s liking at all times. When the driver is racing the crew get close-up views of the car on television screens and look for any signs of trouble.
The pit crew anticipates the problems the car will likely have when it pits. They have the necessary tools and accessories ready to attend to the fault. They know that even a difference of a fraction of a second can affect the result of the race. When the car pits the crew is ready from what they have seen on television screens and the driver’s inputs.
Besides spares and other accessories, pit crew members have a few must-have tools. This article will list 10 essential tools pit crew members should have with them during the race.
A NASCAR pit box is the most important asset of the team pit crew. All the activity in the pit garage revolves around the pit box. The size of a bit box will depend on the length of the pit garage. The compartmentalised box is assembled as per the length of the pit. It serves as a monitoring centre as well as a store for some of the tools. Pit box is a common tool store for all pit crew members.
A typical pit box has two satellite receivers that update the weather and the track conditions continuously. Several flat-screen monitors give a close-up view of the car as it is racing. Computers in the pit box also allow the team to monitor car performance parameters. The crew see any surface damage on the monitors and prepare for their repairs.
The performance monitoring allows the crew to diagnose a problem with the car. They get all the necessary spares and tools ready before the car pits. The crew can communicate with the driver from the tool-pit using the two-way radio headsets in the pit box. The observations of the driver are carefully studied and preparations are made for any necessary repairs or corrections in the settings.
Pit boxes may be equipped with LED lamps to light up the pit area. They might also have generators to counter rare power outages in the pit. Having a generator also enables the crew to save the accumulated data for future analysis. All this makes the pit box an indispensable common tool for pit crew members.
Several duct tape rolls will be found in every crew member’s tool kit. They are used because they are quick and easy to use. They come in handy just to keep parts in place till the race comes to an end. Time is the prime factor during a pit stop. A quick fix with duct tape helps instead of replacing a part.
A loose panel might seem innocuous to an observer but could severely affect the aerodynamics of the car. Duct tapes come in handy to hold the panel in place till the race ends. They are also used to hold down panels to increase the downforce of the car. They come in handy to repair hoses temporarily and to bind hanging wires.
Duct tapes also help crew members to redirect the airflow to various parts of the grille and increase engine efficiency. Duct tapes are the most user-friendly and essential tool for every crew member.
BearBond was a brand name that is now a generic name for a strong tape also called a speed tape. The tape is made of rubberised aluminium pressure-sensitive tape that is used for temporary repairs on aircraft and racing cars. The tape is water and solvent resistant, fireproof and can reflect heat and UV light.
BearBond tape is used for large body and structural repairs where using duct tape takes time. Large sheets of BearBond tapes are pasted on the tear or fracture to hold it in place. Larger panels are held in place with strips of BearBond tape. BearBond tape has to be handled carefully as once stuck, it cannot be realigned.
The primary duty of the pit crew when a car makes a pit stop is to change tyres and top up the gas. Impact wrenches are indispensable when getting off and tightening lugs on the tyres. The tyre lugs have to be tightened to a certain torque at which the impact wrenches are set. Using an impact wrench, a crew member can replace a tyre in a matter of seconds.
Impact wrenches use compressed air to change tyres speedily. A pit crew can replace all four tyres of a car in under 20 seconds using impact wrenches. NASCAR impact wrenches are powerful and are used in stressful conditions. They need more attention than hand socket wrenches. NASCAR pit crews reassemble their impact wrenches every 60 uses or less.
NASCAR air compressors use compressed Nitrogen and are used in many functions of the pit crew. Nitrogen is compressed with great pressure and when released comes out with equal force. This force is used to power impact wrenches and other tools used in the pit.
Nitrogen is used because it retains its properties in varying humidity and temperature conditions. It expands or contracts very little under extreme temperatures and humidity. This ensures that the pressure of compressed Nitrogen is consistent in both cold and hot weather. The pit crew is sure that the tools will not malfunction when using Nitrogen.
NASCAR pit crew members face several difficulties when changing tyres not faced by drivers of streetcars. They use innovative ways to lift the car and quickly at that. Some of the tools used to change tyres are listed below.
A jack is an essential spare carried by any car whether it is competing in NASCAR or driving on a road. Jacks are invaluable when it comes to changing tyres as the car has to be lifted before a switch. NASCAR races extend over a distance of 850 to 875 km and need several tyre changes. The changes also have to be done in real quick time.
As tyres changing time is of the essence, NASCAR crews use specialised jacks. These jacks can lift a car to the desired height with just one pump of the handle. NASCAR jacks, made from Aluminium, are relatively light and easy to manoeuvre. The person responsible for raising the car, the jack man, will raise one side of the car while two tyres are changed.
A NASCAR car sees many types of mishaps. The car may come into the pit with a torn side or behind, or it may come in with a flat tyre. The jack man may find it difficult to get the jack in below the car. In such cases, the piano bars come in handy to lift the car and give access to the jack.
Piano bars are long sturdy levers that a crew member uses to lift the car off the ground. The slight lift enables the jack man to slip the jack under the car’s chassis and raise the car to a sufficient height. Piano bars are simple in structure and use the principle of leverage to lift the car off the ground.
No car is going to drive for over 800 km, particularly a weight-sensitive NASCAR car, without refuelling. When to refuel a car forms a key part of the race strategy. If the tank is filled to the brim the added weight of a full fuel tank will slow down the car. But leaving the fuel tank with very less fuel will call for an unnecessary pit stop. A good race strategist times the pit stops so that tyres can be changed and the car refuelled at the same time.
Every crew member is conscious of the race strategy. NASCAR fuel cans have a spout and can weigh about 40 kg each. The gas man carries the fuel can to the car. A smaller can, carried by the gas catch man helps collect any fuel spills. The fuel is poured directly into the car’s fuel tank and the car is set to go. Fuel spillage is frowned upon in NASCAR.
What have baseball bats got to do with NASCAR racing? The question does immediately spring to mind. When a car gets a dent, the change in the shape of the car’s outer body affects its aerodynamics. This in turn affects the speed at which a car travels around the racecourse. This can only be set right with the use of hammers, baseball bats and saws.
Replacing a panel takes valuable time. Most of the dents are repaired with the use of hammers and saws. Any portions that need to be added are fixed by BearBond tape. Larger dents on a curved portion of the exterior are set right using baseball bats. The bats are softer than a hammer and make for a smoother finish.
NASCAR stipulates that no more than 5 crew members can come over the pit wall when the race is in progress. Only five crew members cannot service a car in quick time when it pits. This is where crew members use extension poles. Extension poles do a lot of maintenance from behind the wall.
Extension poles are used to pass over tools that were not foreseen as needed over the wall. They are used to clean windows without a crew member going over the wall. Besides cleaning a dirty car side, extension poles are also used to hold flags that indicate where a driver has to stop. This innocuous tool, often called the lollipop because of its shape, helps save time.
10 Essential Tools of NASCAR Pit Crew Members – Conclusion
NASCAR pit crew members have to be prepared for all eventualities. No team has abandoned a race for the want of a tool, however simple it may be. NASCAR crew members are intelligent and innovative. They will fix a problem with a car come what may. That is why NASCAR crew members are highly valued within racing circles.
The above list of essential tools is by no means exhaustive. These are some of the common essential tools that crew members use. Many other essential tools like personal hand gloves and safety helmets are in the crew members’ tool kits. Spanner and other small tools are stored either in the pit box or in other cabinets around the pit.