Our “Pit Crew” Fills a Vital Need

My family’s Eastern North Carolina roots meant I grew up with NASCAR in the background on TV. I barely paid attention, and outside of being able to tell you that a man named Richard Petty drove a race car, I couldn’t have told you a thing about the sport until I attended my first race in the fall of 2014. I was lucky enough to learn a little bit about it from a former NASCAR pit crew member who patiently explained it to me. There’s much more to it than cars going fast around a track. My favorite part may have been watching the pit crew at work. It is fascinating.  As much as winning the race depends on a great car and a talented driver, it also depends on the performance of the pit crew, who can either shave off or add thousandths of a second to a car’s time. Those thousandths of a second could win or lose a race. If you watch a pit crew in action, seven members function like a machine, completely in sync with one another. In a span of fewer than 15 seconds, cars are jacked up, four tires changed, windshields are cleaned, gas tanks are filled, shocks are adjusted, and mechanical adjustments are made to the car. They do it all with a limited number of tools: two wrenches, one jack and two cans of gasoline. Today’s pit crew members have to be in top physical condition and even train like athletes. In fact, NASCAR actively recruits conditioned college athletes as pit crew members. Winning is the goal. This past year,...