CONCORD, N.C. – Every track on the NASCAR circuit has its own set of unique characteristics. One of those features sees three tracks on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule require backwards-style pit stops.
What does that mean? In simple terms, a backward pit stop is just as it sounds: a pit stop that is backward. These types of pit stops occur at several road courses – the Chicago Street Course, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and Watkins Glen International. Unlike the oval tracks where cars enter pit road from the right-hand side, cars on road courses enter from the left.
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In the sixth episode of "Refueled presented by AdvoCare," viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at the choreography that Hendrick Motorsports pit crew athletes practice for these stops. The full episode is available on Hendrick Motorsports’ YouTube channel and below.
"A backward pit stop is a little bit different of a pace being a front changer," Blaine Anderson, who is the front-tire changer for the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team, said. "On a normal pit stop, I wait for the car to get to me, but on a backward pit stop I’m chasing the car. I’m kind of behind at that point to get to the left side. I have a big job to get to the rear as fast as I can, which would be the normal right front."
Not only does the car enter from a different direction, but the movement of the pit crew members also differs. The jackman will run to the car from a different direction and the way the fueler plugs fuel into the car will be different. In addition, the tire changers flip positions, moving the front-tire changer to the rear, and the rear-tire changer to the front.
"On road courses, you get less opportunities on pit road and more falls into that fuel mileage," John Gianninoto, who is the fueler for the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team, said. "We play it out and have a pretty good game plan going into it. We know at practice exactly what we’re looking at. Me, the rear changer and the tire carrier; I’m going to check them up a little bit where I’m going to get out so that they can go underneath me."
This year, the teams visited Indianapolis and Watkins Glen over consecutive weekends, so teams did backward pit stops in back-to-back races. That allowed the crews time to improve the choreography immediately from the previous weekend’s learnings. In 2022, there were two oval races between the races in Indy and "The Glen."
At Watkins Glen, William Byron and the No. 24 team dominated the day. Starting second, Byron took the lead following a strategy call to pit early in the second stage. From there, he scored his eighth stage win of the year and went on to lead 65 of the final 67 laps for his fifth win of the 2023 season. The victory was also his first on a road course and extended Hendrick Motorsports’ streak at the 2.45-mile venue to five straight wins.
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In March, Hendrick Motorsports’ "Refueled presented by AdvoCare," debuted. The series looks at the dedication and discipline of the organization’s pit crew athletes and staff. Catch up on the previous episodes below.
Episode 5: How pit crew athletes persevere through heat
Episode 4: Inside the annual pit combine at Hendrick Motorsports
Episode 3: Behind-the-scenes of the Pit Crew Challenge
Episode 2: In the gym with the pit crew of Hendrick Motorsports
Episode 1: Everything You Got: Hendrick Motorsports prepares for 2023 season
The production follows a member from each of the four teams. Get to know the featured pit crew members, who cover a variety of different positions on pit road and have a wide range of experiences in the sport.
MORE: Overwhelming pride, overseas acceptance sticks with Le Mans pit crew
Anderson is the front-tire changer on the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Hard work and determination to be the best on and off pit road is what Anderson brings to the table after joining the No. 5 team in the middle of the 2022 season. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2019 as a backup crew member.
In his years on pit road, Gianninoto converted from a jackman to the now fueler on the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. The veteran is in his 11th season and was part of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning pit crew with driver Chase Elliott. He also serves as an asset to help upcoming jackmen and the coaching staff, assisting in the pit crew recruitment process.
Patton is the tire carrier on the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet and is now in his 11th season. Prior to being on the No. 24 pit crew, he worked on the Nos. 48 and 88. His leadership throughout the department is highlighted not only through his words of encouragement to fellow members but also through his actions to be a helping hand in any given situation.
Holman joined the No. 48 Ally Racing pit crew ahead of the 2022 playoffs. The 2023 campaign marks the first starting year for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native with the team. His drive and resoluteness to be the best on pit road carries through in his approach.