If you’re anything like me, then you probably assumed the only thing going on in a NASCAR pit was fuel and tires. To find out for sure, I watched the Xfinity PowerShares QQQ 300 race from inside the pits. This is the race that takes place the day before the famous Daytona 500, and with every bit as much action.
As I first entered the pits, I was greeted by dozens of tires; no real surprise there, right?
And the teams were practicing their speed on the impact gun. While the apparatus bolted to a tool box was kind of cool, it still seemed obvious that they would want to warm up their trigger fingers.
There were hundreds of tires that had to be prepped, which meant organizing them in stacks and gluing in lug nuts.
This guy was carefully marking each wheel with a Sharpie to designate its position on the car.
The track safety crew was getting suited up too.
These guys rock full fire gear, always prepared for the worst.
Before the race, the cars are all lined up on pit row. But the festivities wouldn’t last long.The Green Flag Drops
It wasn’t long before the track went hot. We didn’t have much of a vantage point from inside the pits, but the energy was nothing short of incredible.
As the pit crew mechanics stood at the ready, I realized there were quite a few other jobs being done too.
For one thing, the different gear gave it away. Helmets for some guys, fireproof aprons for others.
The part I found most fascinating were these rolling tool boxes, which doubled as command centers. Sitting on top were key personnel for each team, plus the wives and children of the drivers. They had monitors and headphones, no doubt coaching the drivers through the race. Notice which way everyone is looking though?
While we had a front row seat from the pits, it was only of the start/finish line. To see what was going on around the rest of the 2.5-mile track, we all had to turn around and watch the Jumbotron in the infield.
There was definitely a VIP vibe behind pit wall. We even spotted Cuba Gooding Jr.!
I worked my way down pit row and back, looking for a shot of the track. It was no use however, as with such a limited field of view there weren’t many shots to be had.
No matter though, there was plenty to see inside the pits so I just sat back and waited for some drama to unfold.An Inside Look
Before long I found myself in the right place at the right time, as the #20 car of Erik Jones pulled in with significant damage. Notice they’re still adding fuel and making suspension adjustments with a crank handle in the rear as the rest of the team yanks at the bodywork to make tire clearance.
It was quickly determined that the alignment was off, so over the wall went a big aluminum gauge. Now I was intrigued.
They spanned the gauge between the front and rear wheels on the far side, and adjustments were made in mere seconds. Notice the official carefully watching over this procedure. This was all over in less than a minute, and it was amazing to see how quickly they could work under pressure. Just another day in the office for these guys.
Midway through the race the fuel cans started coming out. Notice Joey Logano’s name on this jug. He was one of several big-name drivers to run both races, back to back on Saturday and Sunday.
Between stops the crews kept their bit of the track clean.
Leaf blower or broom, I was impressed with the pride they took in their respective chunks of pit row real estate.
Of course, you have to look when the field thunders by.
After seeing the first pit repair, I was keen to see more action. I’m just a nut for intricacies like this. I wanted to see exactly how these guys tackled problems on the fly.
I saw another damaged car arrive, but wasn’t able to get there in time. Then I realized the guys were still working on a solution even after the car was back in the race.
Out came the self drilling screws and duct tape.
The team either had the piece of bodywork that broke off the car, or a replacement panel they were planning to fit.
I carefully listened in; they were discussing where to sink the screws so it wouldn’t interfere with the tube chassis beneath.
They also planned out which way the replacement panel would overlap, then applied a large swath of tape so the new tin (okay, it’s probably carbon fiber) could be affixed as quickly as possible. I might have been missing the battle on the track, but I was enjoying these behind-the-scenes realities more.
I continued to observe, and realized that someone on the team had to keep detailed notes of what was done to the car and when. Makes sense, right?
This was another common sight. As the tires came off the cars, a propane torch and putty knife were used to clean off the the wear dots. I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to see, but everyone followed the same ritual.
Tire position on the car is paramount, as I would imagine different pressures and tread life have an impact on strategy and performance.
Just like the fuel carts seen earlier, everyone seemed to be rushing around with a stack of tires now; it must have just been that point in the race. Check out the flat spots on this set.
These tires carried a different type of wear, with the sidewalls completely separated.
I had so much fun watching the action inside pit row that before I knew it the 300-miler was over. So just like this pit crew, I packed it up and headed out.