It’s no secret that over the last several years, race teams at the highest levels have begun recruiting some serious athletes to become pit crew guys. Up and down pit road you’ll find guys who played college and professional sports that are jackmen, tire changers, tire carriers, and fuelers. The thought is, is that these guys already have the athletic and mental ability to compete week in and week out, all you need to do is teach them to carry a tire. I got an interesting question from reader Grover about this recent trend:
With the push of getting more athleticism among the over the wall crew, how is that balanced with mechanical knowhow? My understanding is that alot of the over the wall crew are not regular shop mechanics. Is that the case?
My answer to this, is that it depends on the team. Team Red Bull, for example, has pit crews that are made up of quite a few guys who do nothing but go over the wall. During the week, their only responsibility to the race team is training. When this happens, the mechanical knowledge of each individual will vary by past experience. Some will know how to make major repairs, while others are only good for beating out fenders.
Many teams though, will have a mix of both types of personnel. They will have some guys on their crews that are full time shop employees and also go over the wall, and others who do nothing but fly out race day and do pit stops.
In the case of Carl Edwards’ team a few weekends ago at Charlotte, there were guys over the wall making repairs that were not on the pit crew. Engine tuners and some mechanics will suit up on race day just for these situations. These guys are specialized and can diagnose problems and make repairs faster then many OTW guys. Its no different then doing pit stops for tires. When service needs to be done right and done quickly, its vital to put the best seven guys over the wall for the situation.
If you see a team on pit road making repairs, one good way to spot the guy who isn’t a normal over-the-wall guy is to look at his helmet. Often times these guys will wear skull caps and helmets like the officials because they are quick to put on, and fit over radio headsets.
So, to reiterate, it really depends on the team. Some crew chiefs want guys who bust off 11 second stops all day and don’t care if they don’t know what a “lower” is. Others want guys who are good, but could still climb under a car and slide a truck arm forward if need be.