Unless you’re a die-hard NASCAR fan, you probably don’t pay attention to the pit stops during a race. Even then, you probably don’t truly notice a pit stop unless something goes wrong – the car gets stuck on the jack, a lug wrench breaks or maybe one of the crew members slips going over the wall. The racing pit crew is much like the offensive line in football – you generally don’t know their names unless they get called for holding. The simple expectation is that each pit crew member performs his job in a matter of seconds (14 or less) and that he performs it perfectly.
Back in the day, a race team was much smaller than the modern versions. There was a driver and the guys who worked on the race car in the garage, and that was pretty much it. They would all travel to the races together and those mechanics were the pit crew. These guys were not quick or agile, for the most part. When the driver came to the pit for fuel or tires, a guy would just grab whatever was nearest to him and they’d get to it. Pit stops – even in the mid-80’s – were timed in the 25- to 30-second range!
Then Ray Evernham came along, and changed the game.
Ray had a vision for the pit crew. He thought of this as a group of specialists – like special teams in football. He put together a special team of men – some former athletes – specifically chosen for a unique task in the pit crew based on their build. He also used choreography and film study to shave second after second off of those pit stops – and his driver began winning more and more often.
To learn more about Ray Evernham’s revolutionary approach to casting and training pit crews, watch this video. And be sure to keep coming back, as there will be more in the “Ideas That Changed NASCAR” series.
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