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Explaining NASCAR pit stops before the 2023 Chicago Street Race

Before the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, learn about how pit stops work in NASCAR

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Much like a Broadway show or dance routine, NASCAR pit stops are choreographed to a tee.

Four new tires and twenty gallons of fuel are added to a vehicle in about the time it takes to tie your shoe. Not only that, there are other cars driving at highway speeds while crew members complete these tasks in the blink of an eye.

Things will be a bit different for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race this weekend, but how?

Here’s a breakdown of everything to know about NASCAR pit stops, including the roles, speed salaries for crew members and more:

What is pit road in NASCAR?

Each track on the NASCAR circuit has a pit road, which is an area off the racing surface where cars drive at reduced speed before stopping for adjustments.

Pit road is different lengths depending on the track, but you typically enter pit road just before the start-finish line and exit just beyond it. While on pit road, drivers are required to run at a reduced speed – anywhere from 30 to 55 mph, based on the size and width of pit road at a given track. The pit road speed for Chicago is set at 40 mph.

Pit stalls are located on the inner part of pit road, with each driver having their own “stall,” or “box.” Crew members from each team stay situated at their box throughout the race, waiting for their driver to stop for tires, fuel and adjustments.

What is a pit stop in NASCAR?

Pit stops happen throughout a NASCAR race when drivers are in need of more fuel, fresh tires or have been damaged.

Drivers pull down pit road, adhering to the designated speed limit, and then pull into their pit stall and come to a complete stop. The car must be stopped inside its box for the crew to begin working on it. Crew members must stand on the inside pit wall as the car approaches, and they are only allowed to jump down into the stall when the car is one stall away from entering, for safety purposes.

During a pit stop, the pit crew completes a number of tasks. They are allowed to change either zero, two, or all four tires. The gas man is responsible for fueling the car. Teams can also make adjustments to the car, which can take more time.

In addition to servicing the car, pit crews service the driver by ripping away the windshield tear-off, which is essentially a giant clear sticker that covers the entire windshield. Teams will remove tear-offs from the windshield throughout the race so the driver has a clear view of the track. Pit crews also can give the driver fresh bottles of water through the window, if necessary.

What are the positions for a NASCAR pit crew?

Just like with any sport, NASCAR crews have designated positions with specified roles. Here’s a full breakdown:

Crew chief: If you’re looking for a “head coach,” this is it. The crew chief sits atop the pit box and essentially runs the show – deciding on car setup, adjustments when to pit and frequently talking with the driver over the radio.

Car chief: If a crew chief is the head coach, the car chief is the top assistant. Car chiefs work with crew chiefs on all of the aforementioned tasks, as well as overseeing mechanics and ensuring the car passes technical inspection.

Tire changers: There are two tire changers – one who changes the front two tires and one who changes the rear two tires. When the car approaches the box, tire changers run to the opposite side of the car and get into position to change the first tire. Using a pit gun, they loosen the lug nut, then remove the old tire, put on a new one and retighten the lug nut before running around the car to repeat the process on the other side.

Tire carrier: Only one tire carrier is allowed over the wall. Different teams have different choreography, so the carrier will sometimes carry one or two tires at a time. The tire carrier can also be responsible for helping either remove the old tire or placing the new tire.

Jackman: The jackman’s role is to prop up the car while the tires get changed. This position is crucial, as the jackman can’t let the car down until both tires on a given side are completely changed. If the car is dropped too early, the tire changer might have trouble securing the tire on. As soon as the jackman drops the car, that is the universal signal to the driver that he is free to drive away.

Fueler: During a pit stop, two full cans of race fuel can be added to the car. The gas tank is located on the side closest to the wall, so the fueler just takes a few steps and packs the car full of fuel. Once the first can is empty, another full can is passed over the wall to finish the job.

Utility: Six crew members are allowed over the wall during a pit stop, but the sixth – a utility man – is not allowed to service the car. This position is only allowed to rip off the windshield tear-off and give water bottles to the driver through the window.

How fast is the average NASCAR pit stop?

Pit stops have only gotten faster in recent years as crew members become more athletic and stops become more choreographed. Additionally, the Next Gen car – introduced in 2022 – only has one lug nut on its tires, compared to five lug nuts on previous NASCAR vehicles.

Throughout the first 16 races of the 2023 season, average pit stop times range from 10.518 seconds to 14.879 seconds, according to Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet. Pit stop times continue to improve with each week, with several crews posting sub-10-second stops last Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway.

How much money do NASCAR pit crews make?

Salaries for crew members are dependent upon their position.

According to Sportskeeda, a utility member earns $500 on race day. That salary increases with each position, with tire changers and carriers reportedly earning $1,500 per race, jackmen and fuelers earning $3,000 per race. With 38 race weekends throughout the season, that allows pit crew members plenty of opportunities to earn money.

Crew members can earn additional bonus money, too. Denny Hamlin, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, has publicly said that he gives his team bonus cash when they win. There’s also a Pit Crew Challenge before the All-Star Race, which awards the team $100,000 in bonus money to share.

Where is pit road for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race?

Pit road for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race will be located on South Columbus Drive, running along a two-block stretch across from Buckingham Fountain.

Drivers will pull off to their right to get onto pit road, just after exiting the 12th and final corner of the course. When they exit pit road, drivers will be nearing the entrance of turn one.

Here’s the full track map with pit road noted in gray:

NASCAR
A map of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race course for 2023 (image courtesy of NASCAR)
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