What can you do with an automotive degree in NASCAR? The answer is simple: work with a racing team and aim to become a member of the pit stop team. The NASCAR Nation explains that only six crew members have the opportunity to work on pit stops during a Sprint Cup series race. A seventh crew member remains on stand-by; if he is allowed to join the crew during a stop, he has the job of swiftly cleaning the windshield.
The more common tasks performed during these hurried stops include the change of all four racing tires and a fuel tank top-off. How much time is allotted for these tasks? No more than 13 to 15 seconds; any NASCAR pit stop that goes beyond this time frame is considered to be a problem. In extreme cases, an inexpertly conducted pit stop can cost a team the race.
So how does an automotive degree figure into the equation? Considering that the maintenance tasks are not particularly involved, it would make sense that anyone trained in basic car care could serve as a pit stop crew member. Then again, remember that the automotive degree enables the crew member to make split-second decisions – based on professional training – that can turn a good pit stop into a great one. In fact, NASCAR history shows that there are a couple of amazing stops along the way – even if they only took up seconds.
Case in point is Sterling Marlin’s 2002 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 pit stop. Speeding in the pit lane, although not by choice, should have led to a 15-second penalty. Because of an error on the part of the racing officials, the driver never received the penalty and instead won the race by 1.163 seconds. The quick work of the pit crew, which may have prevented the officials from quickly realizing their errors, undoubtedly factored into this memorable NASCAR pit stop.
In fact, 2002 was the history-making year for the pit stop. At the Sprint All-Star Race XVIII, a final pit stop strategically planned by Jeff Burton’s racing team might not have been enough for Victory Lane, but it led to a change in NASCAR rules. The final pit stop, just 100 yards away from the finish line, propelled Burton into an advantageous position and earned him an extremely short time in the pit. Recognizing the unfair advantage that this stop represented to other drivers, current NASCAR rules now stipulate a target lap for each pit stop.