Pit crews that work during NASCAR races may seem able to accomplish impossible feats — they can change scorching-hot tires on a race car in the time it takes you to grab a drink from your cooler. What can these mechanical miracle workers actually fix during a NASCAR race, and what is beyond their abilities?
What Can NASCAR Crews Actually Fix During a Race?
Worn tires, blown tires, tires with holes in them — all of these are common repairs during a pit stop. A really good pit crew can change all four tires, fill the gas tank and make any minor adjustments in just a few seconds, allowing the driver to get back out onto the track as quickly as possible. The record for a full pit stop is about 12 seconds.
There are so many moving parts under the hood of a car, it’s easy for one thing to go so wrong that it causes the entire system to fall apart. Many of these repairs can be — and are — fixable with a simple application of duct tape. In this case, it’s not the same sort of tape you keep around your house. It’s known as 200-mile-per-hour tape, and it’s designed to stand up to the heat of an engine compartment.
The onboard computer of a NASCAR race car is a fantastic piece of engineering. It allows the pit crew to set personal preferences for the driver, monitor the car itself during the race and even facilitates communication between the driver and pit crew. If something goes amiss with the car or the computer during the race, the pit crew can make adjustments to the computer before the car heads back onto the track.
What Can’t They Do?
NASCAR officials only allow five minutes for repairs — if the repair takes longer than five minutes, they won’t allow a car to return to the race. You won’t see a pit crew taking on a more time-intensive repair during a NASCAR race. Blown head gaskets are common on the track, though, so the pit crew keeps products designed to help keep the motor running even after the gasket has blown. If it keeps you in the race, it’s the perfect tool for those speedy pit crews.
Until recently, some repairs also included repairing or replacing body panels or other parts that were damaged during a collision. Unfortunately, many of those hasty repairs made the cars unsafe to drive or unsafe to return to the track. NASCAR officials changed the repair rules to ensure a driver whose car’s repairs take longer than five minutes isn’t allowed to complete the race.
Pit crews really are miracle workers when it comes to keeping these fantastic machines moving, but even miracle workers have their limits. Whatever they can’t fix in five minutes is simply out of their hands — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing everything they can to make sure they can get the car back on the track and race for that finish line!
SONOMA, CA – JUNE 24: Chris Buescher, driver of the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 24, 2016 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)