Hope you all enjoyed our little joke earlier, we certainly had fun doing it. This is my real post for today, and don’t worry, none of this is an April Fools prank.
If you will remember, at the start of this season, NASCAR introduced a new style fuel can for the Truck Series that eliminated the need for a catch can guy (See the fuel can in action here). Because of this new can, NASCAR limited the number of over-the-wall crew members in the Truck Series to six: two tire changers, two tire carriers, a jackman, and a fueler. Teams could still technically use a catch can guy, they would just have to eliminate one of the other positions.
We are hearing now that NASCAR is seriously considering bringing this new style fuel can to both the Nationwide and Cup Series for the 2011 season. If this happens, it would mean the elimination of the catch can man for both of these two series as well.
I’m not 100% certain about NASCAR’s rationale for the change, but I’m guessing they would say it is a safety issue and will save the teams money. It basically removes 43 people from pit road and means teams don’t need to bring (or pay) a catch can guy.
In my opinion, I don’t think this change would really accomplish anything. If teams aren’t spending that little bit of money on a catch can man, they are just going to spend it somewhere else. It isn’t like a NASCAR team is going to be broken by the few thousand dollars it takes to have a crew member catch gas during a pit stop. When we are talking about $15-$20 million budgets, what is a few thousand?
As for the safety issue, I’ve heard some say it’s more dangerous for the catch can man, because he has his back to pit road during the pit stop. But to be honest with you, he is not really in any better or worse position then the rest of us over the wall. When I’m hitting lugnuts, it’s not like I’m looking around to see if I’m going to get hit by another car. I’m focused on my job. You could make the argument that tire carriers and jackmen are put in much worse spots.
On top of that, it isn’t like we’ve seen a recent outbreak of catch can guys getting hit on pit road. I can’t honestly remember the last time it even happened. So this couldn’t be called a reactionary change by NASCAR.
From a competition stand point, the rule with the fueler in the Truck Series is, that he cannot make any adjustments during the pit stop. I would imagine that NASCAR would carry this part of the rule over to Cup and the NNS. If you watch stops in the Cup and NNS Series, you will often see catch can guys making track bar and wedge adjustments. Teams build extra long adjustment wrenches specifically for this.
If the catch can guy goes away, pit stop times will be affected considerably. Any adjustments will now have to be made by tire carriers, which will slow stops down. It will certainly give crew chiefs fits, as the question becomes “do I lose time on the stop and get the adjustment, or leave the car as it is, and take the track position.”
We will keep you posted as we know more about this rule change.