DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WGHP) — The Daytona 500 is this Sunday. And while the drivers get most of the attention, the pit crews can make a huge impact on whether that team ends up in victory lane.
FOX8’s Danny Harnden is at the Daytona Speedway with the story on the guys who are some of the most incredible athletes at the track.
Pit crew members have muscles on top of muscles. Many are former college football players, and linebackers seem to be a great fit.
And one thing about college athletes: they are used to handling pressure, and Sunday in front of 130,000 fans and millions more watching on TV, these pit crews will be facing pressure.
FOX8 caught up with the guys on the #3 car of Austin Dillon.
Racing is a true team sport, and the pit crews are so incredibly important.
When the car comes in, it’s showtime.
“When that yellow flag comes out, I don’t care how long you’ve been in this business … you get that little jolt and that drop when the yellow flag comes out,” said Paul Swan, an RCR tire changer.
And business in the pits will be different this season in the Cup Series since the tires have just one big lug nut instead of five, the air gun is heavier, and the tires are wider but lighter.
The times will be the best they’ve ever seen in this sport. At the shop, this RCR crew is doing 4-tire stops in nine seconds.
That’s a huge change from the usual 30-second pit stops in the 1970s and the 20-second stops in the 1980s. They even blow away the famous rainbow warriors of the 1990s.
“I like to say those 1970 guys, they’re the trailblazers for us,” Swan said. “And now most teams have found that former college athletes, especially football players, can make excellent pit crew members.”
An example of how every second counts in the pits: Kyle Larson’s pit crew did a 12.34-second 4-tire change, their best of the season, on the final pit stop in the final race of the year, which pretty much gave him the cup championship.