NASCAR Plans To Limit Pit Crews

HARRISBURG, N.C. - - NASCAR officials have discussed limiting pit crews for the 1999 season in an effort to keep competition costs down. Currently, teams can bring an unlimited number of crew members to the track for a race weekend. Many teams have a group of mechanics that work on setting the car up and a seperate group that handles the pit stops. Under the proposed new rules, that would become a thing of the past. For "The Rainbow Warriors," the new proposals would affect them drastically.

John Hendrick has said that the proposed new rules are obviously aimed at hurting Jeff Gordon's team. "I don't know why they're messing with that anyway, because if a team wants to go to the extra expense of training a pit crew and fly 'em in on weekends, I don't see anything wrong with that," Hendrick said. "It's awfully hard to take a crew to the track to work on the car and then pit the car on top of that. I think it's wrong to try to come up with limits like this. I think they ought to leave it alone."

Currently, Gordon's team brings eighteen crewmen to the track for a race weekend. That includes the crew chief, chief mechanic, engineers, and other mechanics. It also includes the premier pit crew in Winston Cup racing, The Rainbow Warriors. How would the new rule affect them?

Almost all of the pit crew that service the DuPont Chevrolet during pit stops are Sunday workers only. They fly to the track early on Sunday morning and pit the car that day. During the week, they have regular jobs. Should the team be limited to 8 crewmen for a weekend next season, Barry Muse, Darren Jolly, Chris Anderson and others who merely perform pit stops would likely have to be replaced by mechanics. Front tire changer Shane Parsnow is the only pit crew member with a current full time position with Hendrick Motorsports.

Should the proposed rule go into affect, pit stops would likely be slower for all teams. Crew chiefs and mechanics would have to take an active role in the pit stop. Is it fair? No. Here's why.

If NASCAR is so concerned about reducing costs in Winston Cup racing, perhaps they should cancel their failed experiment of racing in Japan. There were a lot of Japanese fans disguised as empty seats at Suzuka Circuitland the last two years. Ticket sales for the November 1998 exhibition race at Motegi have been luke-warm at best. Do people in Japan care that Dale Sr is racing Dale Jr there? Not a chance. NASCAR in Japan has been as successful as Todd Bodine was in the Tabasco car earlier this season. Did anyone really notice it?

Also, mechanics are working longer hours than ever at the shop and the track these days. Twelve to fourteen hour days are not uncommon. Now, NASCAR is asking those mechanics to pit the car on raceday. It worked in the "old days" but this isn't the "old days" anymore. It's an era of specialization plain and simple.

If NASCAR truely cared about reducing costs, they'd reduce the number of races and shorten the race weekends. That's where the bulk of the costs run wild. Instead of arriving at a track for qualifying on Friday, have the teams arrive on Saturday. Practice and qualify that day and race on Sunday. Even with a Busch race thrown in, it can be done.

Hendrick added, "We go to the extra expense of having a guy training all our pit crews. We're trying to be professionals and win races, and you win races, a lot of them, are on pit road."

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