The Pit Stop; A Symphony In Motion

(diagram courtesy

Imagine filling up your car and changing all four tires in less than 15 seconds. That’s exactly what happens during a pit stop. As a race progresses, cars need to be refueled and worn tires need to be replaced. That’s when a pit stop is needed.

Because seconds are so critical in a race, fast pit stops are important — all it takes is one bad pit stop to move a potential winner to the back of the pack. Prior to 2011, NASCAR allows seven team members over the pit wall to service a car during pit stops.  However starting in 2011, the catch-can man has been eliminated in favor of the self venting fuel can.

Tire Carriers — Starting on the right side of the car and repeating the process on the left side, two tire carriers (one each for front and back tires) carry new tires over the pit wall and hand them to the tire changers.

Jackman — The jackman carries a 20-pound hydraulic jack and raises the car on both sides (first right, then left) to allow the tires to be changed.

Tire Changers — First removes and replaces right rear tire using an air-powered impact wrench to loosen and tighten five lug nuts holding the tire rim in place. He then moves to the opposite side of the car to change the left rear tire.

Catch Can Man — This crew member holds a can that collects overflow from the fuel cell as it is being filled and signals the rest of the team when the fueling process is finished.

Gas Man — The gas man fills the car’s fuel cell with two 12-gallon cans of fuel (81 pounds each).

Support Crew — Behind the pit wall, other crew members help by passing fuel and tires and collecting items used by the “over-the-wall” crew.

Extra Man — Occasionally, an eighth man is allowed to clean the windshield or assist the driver as needed.

NASCAR Official — Each crew is supervised by an official who watches for rules violations and helps maintain safety.

Beginning with the Daytona 500, there will not be a catch can man to catch the spillage of the fuel and open the fuel vent valve with the catch can.  The fueling system used to need the overflow vent to be opened, and thusly, allow the fuel to flow out the gas can much more freely.  In 2011 NASCAR has mandated the change to a new self venting gas can that now eliminated the necessity of that position.

However, that causes an additional problem with the orchestrated pit stop!  The catch can man was the person also responsible for making chassis changes during those 13 second pit stop.  The catch can man would be the person who would make changes to the suspension via a track bar change or wedge adjustment.  Now the pit crews have to re-invent themselves and figure out just who and how that adjustment will take place with one less person over the pit wall during pit stops.

NASCAR’s idea of eliminating one person on the pit crew was thought of as a money saving and safety improvement.  However, with change comes expense and the race teams have had to figure out just how are we going to implement this to the best of our ability?  That is where the race teams  are currently located and it is causing some concern and confusion on their part!

Notwithstanding, the Daytona 500 should make for some interesting pit strategies that will undoubtedly unfold throughout the race.  Additionally, there is no doubt that the first few races on the 2011 season will be trial and error for all the pit crews as the sort out their “symphony in motion”!

What do you think about the new fuel can and its ramifications?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.