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Woody: Tanks For The Memories, Catch-Can Man

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 11 2011

Fare thee well, old catchers of Sunoco fuel drips. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

He was racing’s un-sung hero, reeking of gas fumes and laboring in obscurity, and now he’s no more.

We’re talking, of course, about the catch-can man, for decades an integral part of every NASCAR pit crew. Starting this season he goes the way of the passenger pigeon and the do-do bird.

If our grandkids want to see a catch-can man they’ll have to go to a museum and look at one stuffed and sitting in a glass display case.

Someone in a fancy office – some corporate big-wig who probably never had spilled-over racing fuel sloshed on his fancy Italian loafers – decided to do away with the catch-can man’s position. So now he’s out on his, well, can.

In fairness to big-wigs, the catch-can man was a victim of changing technology. NASCAR is going to a “new, self-venting gas can” that prevents the problem of a tank that runneth over.

The fancy new fuel-can may be more efficient, but it can’t slap you on the back before a race, pass along the latest garage gossip or tell you a naughty joke.

As is the case with most underappreciated folks who perform important tasks, the catch-can

Leonard Wood of the Wood Brothers Racing team high steps a pit stop old school style. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

man did a lot more than hold a can to catch run-over gas during fill-ups. He was responsible for making track-bar wedge adjustments during pit stops.

Try telling the bright new fuel-can to take a bite of wedge out of the left rear on the next pit stop.

Also, the fuel flows more slowly out of the new can. Which means slower pit stops. Which means a crankier driver. Which means more tension on the team. Which means more mistakes. Let’s hope the fuel-hardy decision to dump the catch-can man doesn’t cost some team the Daytona 500.

They way things are going it’s just a matter of time until we have a Fully Automated Pit Crew – robots with shop rags that service the car with a press of a button when it comes to a stop on pit road.

That will be a sad day for a lot of us sentimental old-timers. As little kids we used to hang around the neighborhood filling station watching Gus and Joe pump gas and fix flats and dream about someday joining a NASCAR pit crew.

The sport evolves and the race goes on. But old catch-can men are like old soldiers – they never die, they just dribble away.

At least they’ll always have their scrapbooks and fuel-soaked tennis shoes.

Goodbye catch-can man, and tanks for the memories. It’s been a gas.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 11 2011
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  • RA Eckart says:

    Who’s the most famous catch-can man? We all know Chocolate Meyers on gas & Jimmy Elledge on tires. What about catch-can?