NASCAR Crew Chief: The Ultimate Technician

In-car cameras have added a new dimension to watching automobile racing on TV. TV cameras, firmly secured at locations around the track, follow drivers’ maneuvering for position and other drama that makes automobile racing the most popular spectator sport. Action in the pits gets its share of air time during NASCAR events, too.

For many this is the most interesting part of the race. How fast can the car pull in, get fueled and, occasionally, a new tire and send the driver on his way again? Fast pit action often helps win a race. Conversely, just one blunder can cause a driver to drop back from number one spot to eating others’ dust.

The crew chief orchestrates the action. In fact, he’s involved in every aspect of a race car’s life from what goes on in the shop in preparation in the shop for practice right through to Victory Lane. The crew chief and the owner determine what type of equipment is needed, from power tools to dynamometer, when and how to improve braking performance or engine cooling.

Understanding the technology is demanding, considering tire sensitivities from one track to another and at widely varying temperatures. Decisions need to be made about what type spark plug, which also can vary from race to race, steering and suspension adjustments which determines how the car maneuvers and many more judgment calls combine to make pit crew action a fascinating aspect of automobile racing.

As technology changes, becoming more complex, decisions once made by crew chiefs often are being made by engineers with highly specialized talents and experience. Meanwhile, the crew chief is responsible for coordination of all of the input for peak performance.

It’s no exaggeration to say a NASCAR crew chief is as competent an automotive technician as one might find anywhere. No spokesman could be better qualified than a crew chief to get the Be Car Care Aware message out for NASCAR. Many aspects of car care maintenance, if neglected, could jeopardize not only the car and driver. And at race speeds and proximity to other cars, it could affect many other drivers on the track.

Some race car drivers will tell you they feel safer driving on the track than on the highway. They’re confident that their cars, as well as others in close proximity, are in safe mechanical condition. They also don’t expect other drivers to make any stupid moves.

A vehicle’s drivability and handling characteristics in fast moving traffic can be every bit as critical on the highway as on the track.

As for performance, any race technician will agree that the factors that affect a race car can affect the family car.

“You can’t drive with your fingers crossed, hoping you won’t have to make a panic stop,” says Larry McReynolds, host of NASCAR Performance and former winning NASCAR crew chief. “The slogan ‘Be Car Care Aware’ works for every driver and mechanic in whatever type of vehicle that’s involved.”