The Art of the Pit Stop

Most of us feel like we’re driving fast whenever we go over 80 mph (130 kmh) on the freeway. Professional drivers put those rookie numbers to shame. A Formula 1 car can go over 230 mph (375 kmh), an Indycar can also go over 230 mph, and a NASCAR can reach speeds of 200 mph (320 kmh) – all three go 0-60 mph (90 kmh) in under 3.5 seconds. To be able to handle such intense speeds and handle them through the sharpest of turns (while other drivers are just inches away from making contact with them) undoubtedly shows that these are some of the most talented individuals on the planet.

Would you believe if we told you that professional motorsports require just as much – if not more – teamwork than any other professional sport though? There can be hundreds of members on just one racing team. These integral positions range all the way from executives to engineers and tire changers. Believe it or not, these people are just as important to a successful season as the person behind the wheel. An example of that which we see in every race is the grueling work of the men and women in the pit crew.

In most motorsports, drivers need to temporarily pull off of the track to refuel, change tires, etc.. It is the job of the pit crew to make sure the driver gets back to the race as soon as possible. Most races finish with a differential of less than one second, and those seconds can easily come from a pit stop. Here’s a look into the extremely high-pressure jobs of pit crew members in three of the world’s most popular motorsports:

Formula 1

In F1, refueling hasn’t been around since the end of the 2009 season because of safety concerns. So, naturally their pit stops are going to be the quickest (because they don’t need to refuel). On average, they are in and out of the pits in around 2 seconds, with the all-time record being 1.92 seconds. This can be done so quickly because F1 pit crews are permitted to have many people in the pit lane at once. During an F1 stop, up to 20 people are permitted to help with the operation.

One person in the front and one in the back lifting the car up, two in the middle balancing it in the air, three replacing each tire, two cleaning and adjusting the wings, and then a fire extinguisher man (in case of a fire), and a starter man (to restart the car if it shuts off). All of these people move in perfect harmony to get the car back on the track as soon as possible. It looks like this:

Indycar

People often confuse Indycars with F1 cars. This is because of their similar appearance, however, when watching an Indycar pit stop, the difference is clear. In Indycar, only 6 people can work on the car during a pit stop. One person in the back to lift the car, one per tire doing the removing and replacing, and one refueling. It all takes about 8 seconds. Check it out:

NASCAR:

The most chaotic pit stop in motorsports easily belongs to NASCAR. Their car’s design requires the person operating the jack to run around each end of the car to lift it. Additionally, they can only have 5 crew members over the wall. 1 for refueling, 1 for the jack, and 3 for tires. To make matters worse, rather than drilling off one lug nut like F1 and Indycar drivers, a NASCAR’s tire has 5 lug nuts that need to be removed and replaced. This is amazingly all done in about 15 seconds. Here’s a peek inside the insanity:

The hard work of the pit crew is far too often overlooked. We hope this article got them some of their deserved credit! After all, wins can be earned in the pits just as often as they are on the track!

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