News Analysis: NASCAR limits crew member sizes, shrinks pit crews for 2018

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?

31 Replies to “News Analysis: NASCAR limits crew member sizes, shrinks pit crews for 2018”

  1. I think this will be interesting when you include that teams will use the same guns.

    How does declaring pit crew members effect situations like JRM a couple weeks back when the crew did not make the race?

  2. They are standardizing pit road air guns as well, correct? That should also play into how fast pit stops are next season.

    Your last of “Three Questions” is the biggest point, I think. Lost employment. How will that affect the industry? The individuals pushed out of the top three series will now have to go somewhere else. Will this allow lower performing teams to pick up some crew members let go by upper echelon teams?

    And the cost saving to teams due to the lower amount of traveling employees will probably be spent on R&D to get pit road stops faster again, or on some other facet of the team performance. I don’t think we’re going to see less money spent.

    I hope the racing next season will take care of the “star driver” problems. Imagine if Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, and Eric Jones all win within the first several weeks. That would be a good thing for NASCAR. Better than if Kyle Busch won three and Martin Truex Jr. won two, which seems more likely at this point.

  3. From the perspective of someone who works in the infield for a track with a small infield, I welcome the news. The number of team vans, the amount of guys standing outside the garage at 7 AM (completely blocking the road) and the attempts by sneaky individuals to pass themselves off as crew members should all go down with a limit and higher visibility of the road crews.

    I’m just glad I’m not the crew chief or pit crew coach for any team, as they will probably be eating turkey in their conference room trying to figure out the best strategy to test when the pit crews assemble for Monday morning meetings.

  4. Exceptions will need to be spelled out as well. In addition to the emergencies John_s has pointed out, what happens if a crew member becomes ill, has a domestic emergency, etc.

    Will teams be able to borrow from other teams? When will rosters be finalized? Will it be annual? Monthly? A specific time period before each race? 24 hours? Will we have “understudies” on a team who will be trained for all positions?

    As always, I suspect the multi-car teams will continue to have advantages.

  5. I suppose motor heads care about the pit stop crew but I care about the race. TV does a poor job of showing and mentioning drivers in the entire field. Each driver needs, and deserves
    coverage. How else are all drivers able to develop new fans? Twitter??? Come on.

  6. I’ll be curious to see if this impacts strategy of two vs four tires. The difference in the amount of time between those two strategies in theory should be larger so maybe we’ll see more teams risk two tire stops for track position near the ends of races. Watching races from the early 90’s that strategy was used a lot more back then than it is now.

  7. Yes this fan wants to know more about team members. It’s a team sport.

    Does NFL only talk about QBs? MLB only talk about pitchers?

  8. From a competition standpoint, I like the changes (along with the air gun switch). However, I have friends and neighbors on NASCAR teams, and worry how this will affect their jobs. I worry that the higher ups in the sanctioning body make these decisions, but forget that they impact the regular guys and their families. They don’t have millions of dollars to fall back on.

    1. Yes they are not trying to standardize anything. Just put more dollars in big cats and Nascars pockets.????

  9. Now all they have to do is only allow crews to only work on their own cars and not help teammates at the track because this is a big disadvantage to smaller teams now more than ever.

  10. Once again, NASCAR will shoot itself in it’s big floppy foot. Q: Does anyone care who carries the batts and the balls to the game, or the shoulder pads to the field? What is important to me? 1. Manufacture. 2. Driver. 3. Sponsor. 4. Car owner. and a distant fifth, commentator.

    1. Respectfully, your analogy isn’t entirely apples and oranges. “Who brings bats and balls to the game” is different than “Catcher, center fielder, first baseman, etc” and some of us fan would find it interesting to follow other team members too.

      I think I’m going to like this idea!

  11. I personally think it sucks. The road crew might be OK but the pit crew needs to stay. And yes I’m in the minority, I would love to know more about the guys/gals who work on the cars. After all where are the ★ driver’s without the little guy behind the scenes.

  12. Yes, I care about the over the wall guys and the mechanics. I look forward to hearing more about them. But the driver is still the quarterback and that is the guy that is going to sell. I think pushing and show casing the team aspect will help some none fans that tune in 1-2 times a year because it’s a big race or they are bored get it. Will it make them hardcores? I don’t know, but I think it will help legitimize the sport to a larger mainstream.

    I like the limiting of road crew. I like having rosters printed and distributed. I do NOT like that they are getting rid of a member over the wall. I think pit stops will look nothing but clumsy for atleast half the season or more. I think 6 was a good number. It just made too much sense, 1 man to fuel, 1 man per tire per side and one man to hold and index the tire.

    Also assuming the crash clock stays, only 5 members is not enough to fix a car in 5 minutes. As I have said from day one clock needs to be 10 minutes. Make good repairs, and not throw it together and hope to make it good enough to run one lap at speed so the clock goes away and then hope you get a yellow, or end up having something rubbing and be the yellow. But now; 5 people isn’t enough to make good repairs to a car damaged in more than one spot. More men or more time when the crash clock starts.

    The only other question that remains, are they for sure going to standard pit guns, jacks, etc?!

  13. Fewer men over the wall = slower stops = more time over the wall = more exposure to danger. I thought the top priority was safety?

    1. I think the tire carrier is the one most likely to be injured. He now has to carry 2, 40lb tires. That’s going to be hard on a body!

  14. I like the change. I might even go further. I know the pit guns are standardized for 2018, but I’d make them off the shelf IR guns. I’d mandate standard sockets, not specially cut sockets. And I’d outlaw tire carriers, so that the tire changers carry their own tires. Then the fifth man would be the designated adjuster/mechanic. Pit stops would be slower, more time for adjustments would be available and more elaborate adjustments would become practical. Back in the much lauded ‘good old days’ of the 80’s pit stops were much slower and real adjustments could be made. Lets do that again.

  15. So now will we just have 3 mega team alliances per manufacturer, but still separate entities.. all the teams for each manufacturer / or maybe engine shop pooling together into one? It’s going to be “Team Toyota”, “Team Chevy”, and “Team Ford” for pooling/sharing the non-pit crew resources ?

  16. Respectfully, your analogy isn’t entirely apples and oranges. “Who brings bats and balls to the game” is different than “Catcher, center fielder, first baseman, etc” and some of us fan would find it interesting to follow other team members too.

    I think I’m going to like this idea!

  17. The impact of this will be nearly non existent on the overall competitive results. It’s a “business” decision spun to be a “competition” improvement. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, NASCAR will very soon have to go through a massive change to to the tech and processes it brings to the track. To stay relevant and useful to manufacturers, sponsors, and fans. Yes, teams use cutting edge technology to produce what they bring to the track. The problem is that what they make with that tech is comparable to what manufacturers where selling in dealerships in the late 90’s. And race processes are just a mess. This change won’t amount to what their making it out to be.

  18. Are those listed as the 5 pit crew guys the only ones that can go over the wall. If there is something to fix, can one a road guy still go over as long as only 5 go over. Will you still have an extra guy who can service the driver – tear offs and water. Does that have to be someone using a road crew slot?

  19. I don’t think it will save money, the team’s will invest the savings into other pieces of the perfect puzzle. I agree with Jeff Gluck they should promote the driver’s. The teams are a very important art of the program.

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