NASCAR modifies pit crew rules for 2018

On Wednesday, NASCAR announced various changes to the pit crews and how stops will be performed across all three national series for the 2018 season.

One of the major changes is the reduction of pit crewmen allowed over the wall from six to five, while worker caps will also be placed on two other categories: organizational and road crew. The former includes team heads such as competition directors, team managers, and technical directors, while the latter features the pit crew, crew chief, and mechanics. Organizational roles will be limited to three members for one- and two-car teams, while those with more will be permitted to have a fourth. In the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, teams may only have one organizational member. Regardless of team size, road crew members will be maxed out at 12 in the Cup Series (though it will be increased by one for the races at Indianapolis and the three road courses), while Xfinity teams will have seven and and Truck teams will be given six, though those will also be given an extra member for ten and five races, respectively.

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In a fashion similar to stick-and-ball sports, members of the pit crew will be assigned numbers and letters. Traditionally, a pit crew will feature two tire changers, two tire carriers, a jackman, and a gasman. With the new rule changes, teams may replace one carrier as part of their strategy. Likewise, the gasman’s duties are reduced, and such a position will not be allowed to make adjustments to the car like its wedge.

Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell explained the goals of the changes are to increase parity among teams and to draw attention to the crews, an often-overlooked aspect of stock car racing.

“As much as we can possibly level the playing field and introduce new winners, that’s really the goal and what we want for the fans,” he stated. “And so, if you look at these initiatives with the over-the-wall crew going to five members, that fits into our overall structure from a roster standpoint. We feel like that again puts the focus on the athletes and also continues down that line of putting the focus on the teams and opening it up to as many teams as possible to continue to win races and therefore put a better product out there for the fans.”

Before each race weekend, team rosters will be released to the public. Such a move can also be compared to teams in other sports leagues posting their depth charts before every game.

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“Those are superstars as well in our industry,” O’Donnell added. “The more we can allow fans inside that window and the media, candidly, to have you handed a roster prior to the race weekend opening up to know who’s on each team and what role they’re going to play for that weekend.”

The move continues the process of decreasing pit crew sizes, one that last took place in 2011 when the catch-can man was removed. The catch-can man assisted the gasman by providing a jug that would catch leaking fuel, though as the gas can has evolved over the years, such a role is no longer necessary. In 2015, the number of officials involved on pit road also saw a reduction as over-the-wall officials were deemed unneeded with the introduction of a monitoring system.

“We wanted to get out ahead of it as quickly as we can, and teams are probably practicing right now. If I know them, they’re already getting ready for Daytona, so that’s something we wanted to get out in front of them, working with the industry.”

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