At this point in the season we have dusted off the cob webs. Teams are starting to establish their identities on pit road and on track. The newness that everyone experienced in Daytona is gone and now its crunch time. To the casual observer we are just a hand full of races into a 38 race season (36 point races). However, to the teams every point matters every pitstop is critical.
When you sit down on a weekend and watch a race or even better get to experience one live you come for the whole event. You have to fight the traffic, navigate through a sea of other fans, and spend money for that one hat or die cast that no one else has. To us its like a scene from the movie Gladiator! Ok maybe not that extreme obviously no one is gonna get stabbed or eaten by a lion, but put yourself in our shoes for a minute. We walk amongst the crowd getting praised and booed, treated like celebrities one minute and then ridiculed the next (depending on the fans favorite driver). Ultimately we end up in our own colesium with 43 roaring beast to contend with! This is the first big battle in a war for a championship.
In the past few weeks there has been some spectacular racing and pit work. However, there has been quite a few mistakes on pit road. We have seen an epedimic of lug nuts falling off and even a few air hoses getting run over. On friday the 13th in Texas I got a tire so wedged in the fender on the right side of the car I almost needed a crow bar to get it out. What Im getting at is no one is immune to mistakes, especially with the level of competition on pitroad these days. Pit crews are like place kickers in football. We are called upon only a few times per race but you either get it through the uprights or you miss, there is no gray area.
When the spotter or crew chief says the caution is out or we are gonna pit soon its a Pavlovian Effect. Just as the dogs mouths watered at the sound of a bell our hearts race at the sound of “caution is out” or ” we will be pitting in 10 laps”. As a tire changer you go through a mental check list, how does my air pressure look on the regulator? How does the gun feel in my hands? Is it vibrating or smooth? All of this goes through your mind before you even set foot on the pit wall. Now you stand on the wall, everyone has their own technique for getting focused. Some are a thousand miles away while others are so focused on what lug nut they are going to hit first they couldnt tell you what town they were in. Now the cars are on pit road, a thundering herd like a sheetmetal stampede. You pick out your car, the same hood you’ve seen time and time again. You jump off pitwall and stride to the far edge of the pit stall, there is no turning back at this point. Once the car slides to a stop you key up your gun and hit your knees making contact with the first lugnut…..