No doubt about it. A NASCAR race is a competition and in a competition the best wins. This holds not only for the driver but for the pit crew, as well. A pit crew can either win or lose the race. Never downplay the significance of the NASCAR pit crew.
The average pit stop lasts 12-16 seconds. And, quicker times means getting back on the track faster. A faster pit stop can gain a valuable position on the track. In fact, in many races, the faster pit time determines the winner. Oppositely, a mistake in the pit can cost a lap or two. In a race of cars nearly equal in speed, the pit stop makes the difference.
With so little time to get things done, the pit crew needs to move with precision. Everyone specializes in a specific job. Even more, everyone moves in a specific manner to do what needs to be done most efficiently. Crews practice, train, and review performance to improve their precision.
Additionally, a pit crew must have accuracy. Mistakes can be costly. For example, pit crew performance is monitored by race officials through video recording. If a violation is discovered, the racing team is penalized. This fine can be money or time.
Finally, pit crews affect the safety on and off the track. The reason behind pit crew monitoring is safety. Many accidents can occur on the pit row. For example, flying lug nuts is a hazard. Also, pit crews may be hit by a car pulling into pit road. Even at speeds of around 45 mph, this will create injuries. Even more, the potential for muscle tears or joint injuries from repetitive motion exists.
A Change in the Importance of the Pit Crew
Because of all these factors, race teams have changed their approach to pit crew members. They are more than just mechanics. Many are athletes that have been head-hunted specifically for a specific spot in the crew. Moreover, they train like athletes in training facilities.
After all, the difference between being better and being the best means the win. It’s competition even in the pit.