What happened: The number of pit crew members will shrink from six to five and race teams will only be allowed 12 road crew members (the people who work on the car) starting next season in an effort to standardize crew sizes. Previously, there was no limit on crew members. In addition, NASCAR will distribute crew rosters and put numbers on each crew uniform to raise the profile of team members and emphasize the team concept.
What it means: A few things, but the most notable change for fans is a different look for pit stops. The gas man will only be allowed to fuel the car and nothing else, so that leaves four crew members to service the car — the probable lineup will be a jack man, two tire changers and only one tire carrier. That will slow down pit stops and force teams to innovate on how best to do a pit stop — something NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said was “one of the beauties” of the new rule. In addition, NASCAR’s road crew cap should help with parity — the bigger teams can’t bring unlimited crew to the track anymore — and teams will have to get creative on how they use those slots. Also, expect to hear more about various team members like mechanics and shock specialists and engine tuners (although personally I think NASCAR should put 100 percent of its efforts into promoting the drivers as stars instead of trying to get people to talk about the team. NASCAR needs superstar drivers more than ever now).
News value (scale of 1-10): Five. The number of road crew members will have no noticeable impact for fans, except teams will now save money (although NASCAR emphasized “parity” instead of citing cost savings). But pit stops will be slower — it’s unclear how much — and you would think raise the chance for a mistake, so that’s certainly something newsworthy. Overall, though, it doesn’t feel like this is major news for anyone but the most hardcore fans.
Three questions: How much longer will pit stops take next year, and which team will be the first to come up with the best choreography for the fastest pit stop? Do fans really want to know more about the people working on the cars, or would they rather get more coverage of the drivers? How many people will ultimately lose their jobs as a result of this change?