Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rookie Stripe: Navigating Pit Road

 


Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
In NASCAR, there’s no doubt they drive on Sundays, but there are no leisurely Sunday drivers. Not even on pit road. 

Pit road is one of NASCAR’s maelstroms; a single stretch of pavement that sits adjacent to the racetrack and garage but right smack in the middle of the action. If you picture a typical oval-shaped NASCAR track, pit road is located in the infield by the garage area, with entry and exit areas to the track. It serves as the hub and workstation where teams perform critical maintenance and repair work during pit stops. Drivers and their crews are assigned a pit stall along the road, based on qualifying results, and each has a corresponding hanging sign to mark the stall.

Pit road can be a dangerous place. It reverberates with the tense pace of a race, and the vehicles themselves are possibly one of the biggest dangers of all. With stock cars, people (pit crew and officials), equipment and lots of moving parts, even the speed limit does little to diminish the frenetic atmosphere.

The actual length and layout of pit road varies from track to track. According to NASCAR.com, pit road at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway is just an extra-long straight line of pavement. But at the paper-clip shaped oval Martinsville Speedway, the comparably winding pit road begins at Turn 3, winds around across the frontstretch, then exits at Turn 2.

Before the race starts, pit road looks more like a chaotic stage of NASCAR pageantry. Pit crews are busy setting up pit boxes as fans with infield passes mill about, cameras in hand, hoping to spot their favorite drivers or the occasional celebrity. It also may play a role in opening ceremonies and driver introductions. But with the drop of the green flag, that lone driving strip becomes the backbone of a race and is a place of work.

One perpetual similarity of all pit roads? Rules, and a lot of them. So many in fact, there is a whole section in the NASCAR rule book on them… but as rookies we prefer to stick with the basics.

General Things to Know About Pit Road

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
  • Each track sets its own pit road speed. Typically you’ll find speed limits between 30-55 mph, with most closer to 55 mph. Speed limits on pit road are for aforementioned safety reasons. Crew move quickly, just inches from moving vehicles, and even a car traveling at that slower pace can seriously injure a person.
  • A cinder block wall standing approximately two feet high by 10 inches wide separates the pit stall from pit road. Crews jump the wall to work during a pit stop, or go “over the wall”.
  • Teams pit a number of times during a race. A typical stop will include changing the tires and refueling, but race cars will inevitably encounter a number of maintenance issues during a race requiring immediate attention.
  • Each car has its own pit crew at the stall throughout a race. These crews work for the team and normally pit for the same driver. Teams can have six crew members over the wall during a pit stop including two tire changers, two tire carriers, a jackman and a gas man. Sometimes a seventh crew member is allowed to work on the windshield. We’ll talk more about pit crews and their role in a future post.
  • Strategy in the pit is extremely important and believe it or not, math is even a big factor. The velocity of a traveling stock car, coupled with a pit stop that can last anywhere from 10-15 seconds (or longer if there are issues), can make or break track position for a car. 
NASCAR’s updates for Pit Road rules in 2015 can be found here.

4 comments :

  1. Great article. I have been watching NASCAR for awhile now, but lots of things I don't know. And I sure didn't know these. Man, the Pit Crew members really have to be in shape!!!

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