NASCAR has a lot of rules for every aspect of the sport. They do all they can to ensure that competition is even for everyone. Pit road is no different. Today’s pit stops are done just about as fast as they can be within the current rules. I’ll go over the major rules that affect us as crews but forgive me if I leave one or two out, I don’t have a rulebook in front of me. I’m also not going to go over the new rules for 2008 because I wrote a post on that a little while back. Click here to see that post.
The current breakdown of a pit crew is two tire changers, two tire carriers, a jackman, a fuel man, and a catch can man. The reason this is, is because NASCAR says we are only allowed seven guys over the wall for a pit stop. In some rare instances, NASCAR will allow an eighth man to go over to either service the driver (like a water bottle or ice), or to clean the windshield. At no other time are you allowed more then seven people over the wall, even if you are fixing damage.
The major rule that affects the tools we use, is NASCAR only allows two air tools over the wall for a stop. If one gun breaks, the crew must finish the stop with the one functioning gun. If we bring a third across, we will be penalized.
You will notice when watching a race that pit crews jump off the wall only when their car is close to their stall. The actual rule says that we can jump off the wall when our car is one pit stall away. What this means is that when our car crosses the back line of the stall behind ours, we can step off the wall. A few Cup teams have been penalized for this rule this season. The usual offenders for this rule are either the jackman or the front changer. The rear guys don’t normally jump early just because it isn’t an advantage since they have to wait for the car to pass by anyway.
Another rule that you will see NASCAR officials call teams on is pitting outside the box. A car is legally in the pit stall if both left side tires and the right front tire are inside the box. The right rear can be outside the stall and still be legal. Also, the nose of the car can’t be over the front line, and the rear tires can’t be over the back line of the stall.
NASCAR not only wants a level playing field, they also want safety on pit road. That is why they require all crew members to wear helmets, fire resistant suits, fire resistant shoes, and gloves over the wall. Also, fuelers must wear fire resistant underwear and an apron. And trust me, the officials will check periodically to make sure we are wearing the correct gear. The other major safety rule is that there is a pit road speed limit. Usually the limit is between 35 and 55 depending on the track.
The last rule I’m going to talk about is the dreaded lugnut rule. The rulebook says that there must be five installed lugnuts per wheel before the car can leave the stall. If one pops off, the crew must put it back on before the car can leave. Since it isn’t the officials job to determine if the lugs are actually tight, as long as there is a lug on each stud, the official will allow it. If the car leaves with less, it must return to pit road and have the lugs put back on.
Some of the rules can be a bit confusing, but I hope I was able to clear some of them up for you. The next time you are watching a race, pay attention, because pit road rules infractions happen, and they can be very costly. The series continues tomorrow with an expose (ooo, neat word) on pit boxes.