CONCORD, N.C. – Watkins Glen gets circled on calendars every year as a race to watch. With its unique layout and challenging quirks, it requires lots of preparation.
That’s especially true for pit crew athletes, who essentially have to reverse their jobs at the track.
“We started to prepare around two weeks ago with our players ahead of time,” said Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Jonathan Carvin. “As a coaching staff we were looking at it a month in advance just to make sure when we got to the players, we were prepared and not just winging it. We had an idea of what we wanted to do and what we wanted to accomplish as well on Sunday.”
Pit crews practice all year long to perfect pit stops so they can be as fast and efficient as possible on race days. But, when the Watkins Glen road race comes around in the late summer weeks, they have to change how they operate around the car.
Cars enter pit road at the race course from the opposite direction as every other track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
“Their tasks when they are sitting in front of the car or waiting to put the tire on, that’s the same,” Carvin explained. “Hitting the lug nuts, jacking the car, the movements around the car are what’s different. Luckily, we have tremendous athletes on our pit crew, so we like to think our guys are the most capable of adapting to the fact that the car is just positioned differently in the pit stall and it comes in differently and leaves differently. The jobs are the same, just the movements entering the car, around the car and as the car leaves are a little different.”
During the week leading up to the race, the pit crew is joined by the road crew at practices so all teammates involved are able to simulate what a pit stop on race day will be like.
“Not only is it different for us but it is different for the road crew as well,” the coach said. “For instance, the fueling that typically takes place on the right side of the pit box is now on the left side. That whole operation has to move from one side of the pit box to the other side of the pit box.
“The little small details of what tire am I catching, from what direction the hose is pulling, which is all so critical for us over the wall. We’re lucky our road crew cares 1,000 percent about how they do their behind-the-wall jobs, and they always do them on a very high level, which allows us to play at a very high level. Getting them down here with us so they feel confident in what they are doing, and our pit crew feels confident in what they are doing as well, is why they come down for practice.”
The crews will be in action at Watkins Glen International this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.