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.
Auto racing is a passion for many people, and like most popular sports a specialized language has grown up around it. This is common in situations where technical terms are often used, and those unfamiliar with the science of racing often shorten these words and phrases through frequent use.
Are you unsure of the meaning of the word “chicane” or other racing related terms? The Glossary at Autoracing.com is your online dictionary to the language of racing, providing you with a useful list of specialized words and terms relating to auto racing, along with their definitions. Use the Glossary at Autoracing.com as a handy reference tool. The terms have been listed in alphabetical order for your convenience. Why not bookmark this page – should you come across an unfamiliar term you can return here for quick reference.
Apex – The part of a turn at its center where the car is turning most sharply. The apex is usually the slowest part of the turn; the car slows down into the apex and then accelerates out of it.
CART – Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) is the sanctioning body of the FedEx Championship Series.
Chassis – The basic frame/structure of a racecar to which all other components are attached.
Chicane – A sudden sequence of serpentine turns found at the end of a long, high-speed straightaway that forces drivers to reduce their speed so that the car can be maneuvered into the next part of the course.
Crew Chief – The lead mechanic who makes decisions or implements changes to the car before and during a race.
Displacement – The total volume of air-fuel mixture that an engine is theoretically capable of drawing into all cylinders during one combustion cycle.
Drafting – The relative vacuum left in the trail of any fast-moving car that can often “pull” trailing cars forward by reducing the drag caused by wind resistance. Drafting enables a trailing driver to save fuel.
Drag – A term used in auto racing that relates to anything that causes wind resistance or affects the aerodynamics of air flow over the race car.
Groove – The unseen “line” that provides the fastest way around a racecourse or racing circuit. The groove is not a fixed point or “trajectory” as it may change during a race. The groove may depend on such factors as temperature and moisture, as well as oil, water and rubber deposited on the track during a race – all of which impact race conditions to various degrees.
Horsepower – A unit that measures the relative strength or pulling force of an engine. In its simplest terms, one horsepower equals approximately 33,000 foot-pounds per minute.
Methanol – Pure methyl alcohol used as fuel in all Indy Racing League cars.
NASCAR – The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body of American stock car racing. The three racing series currently overseen by NASCAR include the Sprint Cup Series (formerly the Winston Cup Series), the Camping Word Trucks Series and the Nationwide Series.
Pace Car – A Pace Car is the car that leads the field of auto racers around the track prior to the official start of the race. Typically modified and decorated production cars, pace cars sometimes feature celebrity drivers who either ride in the pace car or on occasion drive it.
Pit Stop – During a race, a driver may leave the race track and enter the off track area known as the “pit lane”. Once the car is stopped at the team’s designated location, the car may be repaired, examined, adjusted or refueled.
Pole Position – The favored position when the race begins. The pole position is located on the inside of the front row. The driver with the fastest qualifying time is awarded the pole position and the cars are lined up from the pole in order of the fastest to the slowest qualifying lap times.
Yellow Flag – The Yellow Flag signifies “caution” during a race and is usually waved to signal that an accident has taken place or debris (such as gasoline, oil or parts) remains on the track after a crash. Cars are required to slow down and not to pass while the hazard is being cleared.
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