Cars Have Hit New Low And Crews Must Cope

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 23 2019
With ride-height rules abolished, new problems have popped up for the guys in the pits. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

HAMPTON, Ga. – With no ride-height rule this year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the sides of the cars almost scrape the ground and Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Andy Papathanassiou says that has created a few unique problems.

Since the cars are lower Papathanassiou says it makes it more difficult for the person jacking the car to get it off the ground. It also means the tolerances for the tire changers are tighter, making it more difficult to remove and replace old tires.

“A car that you get low and keep low doesn’t really want to spring back to life, so to get the tires out of the sides of the car is very difficult,” Papathanassiou said.

That has resulted in some subtle changes in the way the crew members perform their duties.

“For the jackman, it’s the way the jack is inserted underneath the car, the way the handle needs to be pumped, the way the carriers go in with the tires, where the tires are positioned on pit road to make the transition going into the hub a little bit easier,” Papathanassiou said. “All of those things are small adjustments that we have made all around the process.”

During pre-season practice, pit stop times were initially in the mid 13-second range due to the change in the car’s ride height. That was higher than those recorded last year during a race, which were in the 12-second range. Papathanassiou said the objective this year was to return the times to the mid- to low-12-second range.

Even though the adjustments are small, Papathanassiou noted there was a greater potential for inconsistency.

“For example, because the car is lower and because the jack has a tighter opening in which to get through, if you get it through there and start getting the side of the car up it looks like normal,” Papathanassiou said. “But it’s harder to do it. Sometimes that jack doesn’t get in there quite right and then you’ve got a disaster on your hands. It (the car) would either fall off or you would have to take the time to reposition it; so it’s lending itself to more inconsistency. That’s why we’re adjusting our techniques and choreography.”

Papathanassiou said he began working on the new pit stop strategy as soon as NASCAR released the 2019 rules last fall. Pit stop practices weren’t increased due to injuries that sometimes occur; instead, Papathanassiou provided more film review and break down of the stops. Pit stop practice was held daily during the week in the off-season, primarily in the mornings. Once the season started that changed for those pit crew members who travel to races on the weekend.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 23 2019
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