I was watching a NASCAR race yesterday and wondering why the pit crews always push the car out of the pit. You know the scene: pit work is finished and the crew pushes furiously on the rear and sides of the car as it leaves, as if it needs help getting out of the pit. Sometimes you even see one crew member in position, ready to push, while he waits for the other crew to finish.
It doesn’t seem these super charged cars need any help pulling away, so I’m wondering if this pushing is just a useless byproduct of adrenaline and team spirit. Maybe it feels wrong to just stand there while the car pulls off. And it looks cooler to push, of course.
The only other explanation I can think of is that if the car stalls, which they sometimes do in the pits, a push can be helpful so they’re always ready for that eventuality. But I’m not even positive a push is helpful in that case.
NASCAR race cars are geared high. They don’t need a low gear for quick acceleration as much as they need the higher gears. They really don’t need any fast acceleration below about 30MPH road courses and I would guess much higher at the oval tracks. They could take off on their own, but the push out of the pits saves the clutch.
At yesterday’s Talladega race, the entire track had been recently repaved. As part of the repaving/reconstruction of the race surface, they also made changes to the pit road area. They did talk about it a bit in the pre-race, but if you’re not following closely, it would have been easy to miss.
Among the changes was a new concrete surface for the pit boxes, one that included “ridges” in the surface.
This surface gives extra grip to the tires. In most cases, grip is good, but in this case, the massive power possible out of one of these engines (even restricted, and geared “tall” for track speeds of 193-198MPH), can cause undue stress to be applied to the rear axel mounting points if too much “oomph” is applied at the back wheel. This is especially likely if the tires spin leaving the concrete pitbox and heading onto pit road (most specifically on this particular pit road), due to the “start/stop” nature of the spinning tires gaining & losing traction.
The push helps get the car moving (the hardest part w/ this gearing), and minimize the time under throttle on the surface of the pitbox.
It’s also good for morale.
It also gives the fuel guys an “extra 1/2 second” to pack the gas tank full.
It does help with the “stall” issue, more than a few cars stalled leaving their pitbox yesterday. If they’re moving, they can “pop the clutch,” which works better than the starters on a hot motor.
Thanks for the explanations. But re the Talladega pits, I’m confused: So they created new pit surfaces with ridges to give better tire grip, but this is actually bad and can damage the car, so the crews push the car off the new surface? Huh?
Did the good folks at Talladega not know how race cars work?
I think it’s about pushing the envelope. Race cars break in many different ways much more than street cars do, because the technologies are pushed to the limit. If the better grip is going to result in faster times, then they’ll risk it. Manually pushing the car is just minimising the risk as much as they can.
Like any physical substance, the traction will decrease over time. The roughness of the surface material (concrete) will wear down by action of tires, equipment, feet, and weather.
Many tracks, following construction, or repaving, have had the exact opposite effect on the cars. Prior to repaving, there were multiple “grooves” or lanes of racing in which passes and competitive lap times could be achieved, post-repave, it loses grip, and causes a “single groove” track condition for a while, while rubber gets laid down on the track, and the surface “ages.”
Single groove example - all cars run on the inside line near the apron. Slip up the track, and lose your spot, causing you to fall back in the field until you can get “back in line”. Bristol, while old, is a good example of this type of racing. New Hampshire International Speedway [Louden] was also like this for many years, but has improved, with an addtional groove working in higher up the track. These are two VERY different examples of this phenomenon, and caused by different reasons.
Kansas would be a good example of a track that age has opened up multiple grooves, allowing drivers the space, and grip, to seek a line which works best for their car at a given stage of the race.
That said, the actual track at ‘Dega was resurfaced really really well, and the racing was phenominal… until Vickers hit Johnson on the last lap. I still don’t think it was Vickers’ “fault,” but it was amazing racing, and an amazing letdown for the fans of the #8 (myself included, and it screwed up my fantasy picks for the week!).
Earnhardt took it like a gentleman racer.
Johnson whined like the California moonbat that he is. (No offense meant to our Liberal racing friends ).
Vickers got his first win, but not the way he wanted to. 3 wide at the finish would have been an amazing thing to see.
The most important thing that a grippier surface offers is improved braking. This is the most critical thing in the pits. The surface will improve this, and greatly enhance safety. Acceleration issues come second to great braking when charging into your pit spot. People are actually right in front of you performing service when you need to stop on a dime.