This is a post we ran last year about this time, and because we are racing at Watkins Glen this weekend, we thought it would be fun to revisit this topic. Enjoy!
The Nationwide and Cup Series are heading north this weekend to the Finger Lakes region of New York and the historic Watkins Glen road course. The Glen and Infineon always present unique challenges to the drivers because all of a sudden they need to turn left and right. What you will also see challenge these teams this weekend is the backwards pit stop.
Infineon Raceway’s pit road is situated so that the cars come down like they do at any other track. The Glen’s is not. When the drivers come out of turn eleven, instead of hanging the normal left, they go right. This means the cars are in the stalls backwards.
And when it comes to attacking backwards stops, I feel like every pit crew coach has their own idea about how they should go. Some teams swap and have the front guys on the rear, and vice-a-versa. This is done so that movements around the car are still the same (yeah, I know it sounds weird, but its true). Other teams will keep the normal arrangement, so that their guys are in familiar places and jumping from the wall at the same times.
In terms of the actual pit work, hitting lugnuts and hanging tires is still the same. The only difference for carriers and changers is the movement around the car. Jacking becomes an issue because now the tougher to jack left side is the first side to be completed. Also, now the jackman is coming at the right side jack post from an unnatural direction.
When you show up at the first practice for the week, it normally takes a few stops to get your brain to cooperate with your legs and feet to get you going in the right (which is the wrong) direction. We do many hundreds of pit stops a year, maybe more, between practices and races and our movements become almost automatic. It definitely takes a little focus to convince your body to zag when it’s used to zigging.
If you watch either race this weekend, pay attention to pit road. Doing things backwards will certainly create problems for even the most prepared teams and will make stops noticeably slower then you might be used to seeing. You’ll see a lot more little mistakes, and those little mistakes could affect who comes out on top at The Glen.