Possible pit crew change may make things interesting
As AutoRacingDaily.com reported
earlier in the week, NASCAR is considering paring down pit crews from six personnel to five. The move isn’t a done deal, yet, and it may not come to be; it’s just something that, reportedly, is being considering in the name of cost cutting and safety.
Sure, the five employees, regular or contract, would be result in a reduction to the payroll, unless the remaining five get hefty raises. But I’m not so sure five-member pit crews are really safer than six. Sure, there are fewer individuals in the eye of danger — a total of 40 with one fewer person on each of 40 teams — putting fewer people in the dangerous position of being on pit road as cars are making their ways down pit road and in and out of pit stalls. When you get right down to it, though, at least one of the people remaining on each team is probably going to have more on his mind, possibly taking on two tasks instead of one. With more on his mind, will his own safety get pushed toward the back of his brain? It’s certainly possible.
Safer? I’m not so sure on that one. The change, if it happens, would be interesting to see, though, at least at first.
Pit stop choreography would definitely change. Additional pit road rules may dictate who would do what on these reconfigured pit crews, but then again, there may not be additional regulations, leaving teams trying to figure out where routine pit stop responsibilities fall.
Which position would, essentially, be eliminated? The popular thought that’s been mentioned in articles on the subject is that one of the tire carriers would be eliminated. Would that be the front tire carrier or the rear tire carrier? And no matter which spot is eliminated, somebody else is going to have to take on the added responsibility of carrying tires, either around the front of the car or the rear. Which remaining position would take on that responsibility? I’m guessing it won’t be the gas man, as current rules stipulate that the gas can man not do anything else when the gas can is engaged to the car. Heck, he can’t even turn a wrench stuck in the back of the car. And given the danger factor when we talk gas and fire, that’s a rule I don’t see changing.
A tire carrier position seems the most logical to eliminate, but does that mean one of the two changers will start carrying his own tires? Maybe.
Then, there’s also the possibility that some personnel won’t have the same role on every pit stop. What about those pit stops in which only tires are changed and no fuel is added? That would leave a gas man available. On those stops would responsibilities shift, returning to a line-up with two tire carriers? After all, with a non-fuel stop, only five men would go over the wall under the current formation — two carriers, two changers and the jack man.
But if changes were made on the fly, based on what kinds of service are needed, would that get too complicated for pit crews? After all, at least one individual on the team would be performing one duty on this pit stop and another duty on the next. With pit stops expected to be as fast as they are, it may be too much to ask for a crew member or two to go back-and-forth between two different duties from one stop to the next. Granted, some athletes in other sports play two different positions, but that doesn’t mean it would work here. After all, in basketball, a typical possession lasts longer than 11 or 12 seconds.
By the way, regardless of how this is handled, I’m guessing pit stops are going to get a little slower, at least for awhile.
Besides, where would you shift that gas man to for pit stops that, even now, only call for five individuals. Gas men, generally, are big guys, so I’m guessing a tire carrier slot would be out. Jack man, maybe, but then two team members would have to shift, because then, where would the jack man go? I would think a pit crew coach would want as few team members as possible shifting between duties for different types of spots. Even if the jack man did shift to give up his spot to the gas man, jack men are, generally, big guys, too, so I’m guessing a tire carrier slot would be wrong for him, too.
Maybe I’m putting too much thought into this. After all, it may not even happen. This is just an idea being tossed around, from what I’ve heard. Sure, everything that is in effect started as an idea, but there are probably even more ideas that ended up on the cutting-room floor, many that we never even heard about.