SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — When it comes to racing, a lot of focus is on the drivers, but what about their team in the pit?
A pit crew is an essential part of a successful racing team. They have to be quick, consistent, and cautious.
It takes a lot of focus and skill to keep a car on the track for 500 laps going over 200 mph.
“You have to just pay attention to everything that is going on. Not just your car coming in. Because there are wrecks that happen in the pits and guys do get hit and hurt it is just kind of one of the risks you take when you go over the wall,” says pit crew member TJ Thompson.
Six people make up a pit crew team, each with a different job and only a few seconds to do it.
“My personal best in a race is a 3.77, I actually did that at Circuit of the Americas in Texas this year,” said Thompson.
He is responsible for the inside front tire of his team’s car.
A pit crew is just as important as the driver when it comes to winning a race: “You can make up a lot of time or lose a lot of time in the pits,” said Thompson.
Each pit crew member is an expert when it comes to the team’s car. There is very little room for error.
“You definitely know when there is a bad stop and everyone is kind of hanging their head and everything. But when there is a good stop, everyone is around fist-bumping and when we are gaining spots, it kind of amps everybody up all at once,” Thompson said.
But all that celebration also comes with risk as the pit crew climbs over the wall.
“I was helping on one of our inside tire changers, and it was a little bit of a slick track and Graham came in and he kind of slid the front tire and almost took our guy out. So both of us kind of flinched for a second. That was one that got your heart racing for sure,” said Thompson.
When he first heard hundreds of thousands of fans screaming at IMS over the roar of the engines, he felt something he had never felt before.
“It is definitely a big adrenaline rush and that kind of takes over and, really, by the time you get back over the wall, you don’t even remember the last 7 or 6 seconds since you went over the wall. It all kind of just blacks out and you go into that game face mode,” Thompson said.
Thompson said pit crews practice just like drivers do to make sure they stay on their game. The team members will even compete against each other to see who gets to be on the track.