In NASCAR, achieving the all-important first place win can boil down to a gap of just milliseconds. The pitstop decisions made by the crew chief may be the only difference between the top drivers and the cars they race. All NASCAR Teams aim to achieve the fastest pitstop possible to keep their driver on the track and racing.
Prior to the standardization of the air gun NASCAR pit stops were running in the mid 10 second range. Following the introduction of the Paoli air guns these have become more commonly 12 to 14 seconds. However, in the 2021 NASCAR season, Kevin Harvick’s at the Charlotte Motor Speedway was the fastest at 11.61 seconds.
Unlike Formula1’s sub 2 second pitstops, NASCAR pitstops may seem slow. However, as you will read in this post, the barriers and punitive rules placed on NASCAR teams make achieving a sub-13-second pitstop quite incredible.
The Fastest Pitstop in A NASCAR Race Was 11.618 Seconds
Considering the stringent rules under which NASCAR pitstops are carried out, the average pit stop time of +- 12 seconds is quite remarkable.
The basic NASCAR pitstop rules are:
- NASCAR wheels have five lug nuts that must be removed to change a wheel.
- Mechanics are only allowed to enter the area (go over the wall) once the car has come to a complete stop in the pit box.
- There are eight pit stop crew members, but only five mechanics are allowed over the wall.
- Only seventeen mechanics can be in the entire pit crew.
- So that each team operates on a level playing field, teams can only use NASCAR-approved tools, which they cannot modify.
- If the driver does not stop in the correct spot, penalties will be incurred.
- If the driver moves off before all the used tires are returned over the wall, he will incur penalties.
To show just how remarkable a NASCAR pitstop is, in a four-tire pitstop, the team of only five mechanics has less than 13 seconds to:
- Jump the wall to the car
- Move the tires over the wall to the car
- Get the 20-pound jack to the car
- Jack the car up
- Undo all the wheel nuts
- Remove all four wheels
- Remount all four wheels
- Replace the wheel nuts
- Lower the car
- Add fuel
- Change the grill tape
- Give the driver refreshment or meet his other needs
- Remove the windscreen strip
- Carry the used tires back over the wall
- Get the jack back over the wall.
- Get themselves back over the wall.
While a successful pitstop can make the difference between first and second place, a delayed stop or mis-timed one can deny a driver victory. With so many races being won by less than five seconds, and racing being so very close it the modern era a slow pitstop can lose drivers more than just a podium, it can push them out of the serious points completely.
Pits stops are rehearsed repeatedly, with crews becoming well-oiled machine capable of performing their duties with muscle memory and instinct. It is classed as important as pole position in most teams.
So that they have the athletic ability to complete the stop in under 13 seconds. NASCAR teams frequently recruit ex-professional or college-level athletes as the mechanics who perform the pit stops.
What was the longest Pitstop In NASCAR?
Well, its difficult to find information on this as teams don’t tend to be very keen on sharing where they messed up! However, 5 minutes is given to teams to repair damage to a NASCAR car if needed in the pits. After that the car is removed from the race.
So the longest Pitstop in NASCAR is 5 minutes. This is considerably shorter than the 43 hour 15min long pitstop by Valtteri Bottas in 2021 in a Formula 1 race at Monaco. That’s how long it took to remove the front wheel after the threads were shredded.
How Many Pit Stops Are There In A NASCAR Race?
There are considerably more pit stops in NASCAR in the modern era than at the beginning of the sport. Races have increased in length dramatically and both fuel and tires need to be refreshed and replaced. Early races rarely went above 100 miles, which cars, even back in the 1950s could do without needed to refuel. As the races lengthed the need to incorporate pit stops developed.
What is the Average Number of Pit Stops in a NASCAR race?
The average number of Pitstops in a NASCAR race can be between 4-12 stop. Multiple factors affect the final number. Oval or road tracks, weather and temperature, number of cautions, damage and more. One constant is the aim to pit under a caution (yellow) flag to maintain as much track position as possible.
What Is Allowed During a NASCAR Pit Stop?
NASCAR, like so many aspects of the sport, has strict rules and procedures surrounding the things that can be done during a NASCAR Pit Stop.
- Nascar Fuel: How long this takes depends on how much is needed of course, however the gasman can get 12 gallons into the car in about 8 seconds
- Changing the tires: for all 4 sets, as you can see from the fastest ever, it can be done in under 12 seconds. However 13-15 is considered a good time.
- Damaged car: This will take longer, there is a 5 minute limit imposed by NASCAR on any pitlane repairs, after that the race, for that car, is over.
- Refreshments to the driver: We go into this in more details here, but it get very very hot and sometimes a driver will need to hydrate during a long race.
- Windscreen Tear offs: These are removed to improve vision, however both this and refreshments are only permitted during the second half of the race.
- Taping the grill: This is done by the tire carrier if needed. Duct tape, probably the least expensive part of the car can be added to block air during qualifying, and get the best handling and speeds, and removed during the race to allow more air and reduce the chance of an overheating engine.
What Pit Stop Equipment do NASCAR Teams use?
Just like NASCAR Race cars, well parts of them anyway, some of the Pit Equipment and tools are standardized to give each team a level playing field. Some of the equipment used is listed below.
- Extension Poles: Used for more than just telling the driver where to pit, these long sticks (its what they are) can be used to clear the windshield and give drinsk to the driver. One of theitems in NASCAR racign that doesn’t cost a fortune.
- Duct tape: No home is complete without it and no nascar pit crew is either!
- Hammers: a Dent in the car change the aerodynamics, a hammer helps to solve that.
- Bear bond: Will be used to fix large panel problems in the car, for the fixes duct tape cant handle.
- Fuel Containers: Doesn’t really require much explanation except that these make the car go.
- Piano Bars: These are designed to slide under a low car, if the jack doesn’t fit these can be used to leaver the car up enough so it will.
- Jacks: Are used to pick the car up high enough to remove and change the wheels
- Air Compressors: These power the air guns to make sure the tires and wheels can be changed quickly.
- Air Guns: Paoli Manufacture these for NASCAR and then 3 are given to teams. The use is strictly watched with uniform air pressures. Some adjustments are allowed, grips etc but other parts a sealed to stop tampering. These guns have to be returned to NASCAR an hour after the race.
Who is in a NASCAR Pit Crew?
Each team member has a very specific purpose and function. A short pit stop can only be achieved if each crew member is entirely focused on their duties. A typical NASCAR pit stop crew will consist of the following members:
1. Crew Chief
After the driver, this is arguably the most critical position in a NASCAR team. The Crew Chief shouts instructions at the top of the box. The crew chief is responsible for creating and executing the pit strategy with the race engineers.
He is responsible for the pit crew’s training and adjusting the car’s setup. He also oversees the manufacture of the new race cars. As the de facto leader, he keeps the team focussed and aims towards winning races.
2. Car Chief
The car chief is the operation manager of the team and is responsible for the team’s operation at the factory. The car chief controls the day-to-day operations and prepares the crew for transport to the track.
Car chiefs are responsible for ensuring that the cars pass all five inspections before a race at the raceway. They oversee any changes to the car, which the driver or crew chief requests.
3. The Jackman
The Jackman is responsible for and carries a 22-pound (10 kg) jack. As the name suggests, the Jackman jacks up each side of the car to change the tires. As the rear tire carrier position has been removed, the Jackman must also help the rear tire changer.
When the pit stop is completed, the Jackman will lower the car and signal the driver to go.
4. Tire Changers
Two tire changers are responsible for changing the tires. They use NASCAR mandated air wrenches and will remove the lug nuts on their assigned tires on each side of the car one at a time. Once the nuts are off, they remove the tire.
The tire carrier (front) and the Jackman (back) place the new tires on the car and bolt them on. All 5 lug nuts must be fastened correctly, or they will risk a penalty.
5. Tire Carrier
The tire carrier gets the new tire over the pit wall and carries them to the wheels. As highlighted above, the Jackman assists the rear tire changer, and the tire carrier assists the front tire changer by helping to swap and install the new tire.
The tire carrier must maintain control of the tires during the stop. If any tires roll away, the team will incur a penalty. The last action they are responsible for is applying tape to the grill (for heating, cooling, or removing debris) when needed, and the car will be allowed to leave.
As the name implies, the gasman refuels the car; this is their only function as the rules do not allow them to do any other work on the car.
If the car does not need fuel, they are allowed to assist the rear tire changer.
7. Utility Man
The utility man’s only job is to remove the windshield tear-off and provide the driver with drinking water and other necessities. They are only allowed over the wall in the race’s second half.
While a sub thirteen second NASCAR pitstop may not compare with a sub 2 second Formula One pitstops, this is an incredible achievement with the restrictions placed on NASCAR crews.
While Kevin Harvick’s 11.611-second pitstop was incredible, what is more, noteworthy is that the average pitstop for Kyle Larson’s team was 13.7204 over teams in the 2021 NASCAR seasons 44 racing events and Kyle won the championship that season! That level of consistency was quite remarkable.