As race cars zip around tight turns at up to 200 miles per hour, their tire rubber burns and their gas tanks empty. This is where pit stops come in. In NASCAR, they are manned by six-person teams, known as pit crews, and can take as little as 11 seconds.
During this time, a gas man fills up the car's fuel cell while the jackman raises up the car so the two tire carriers and two tire changers can outfit the vehicle with four new tires. Although these are the only six people allowed over the wall that separates the staging area and the car, other team members support the crew from behind the wall.
Luckily for Matthew Donley, his team works well together. He is the front tire carrier for Richard Childress Racing on the No. 27 Chevrlot SS for Paul Menard in the Sprint Cup Series and on the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro for Brandon Jones in the Xfinity Series.
"There are no bad apples on the team," said Donley. "Everybody really gets along. Everybody does pull the rope the same way."
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This is important, he said, because the crew works in the middle of the chaotic and deafeningly noisy track infield. Although all the hectic action was once was distracting, the 33-year-old said that after 10 years in the pit crew, staying focused on the task at hand is now easy. He said that everything from the pit box set-up to the stops during the race and the break-down at the end is fun.
He acknowledged, however, that the pressure is still intense, as did many other pit crew members.
"I still get really nervous when a pit stop is coming," said Caleb Hurd, 39, the gas man for the No. 11 Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin. "The driver's been out there for however many hours fighting his guts out and comes down pit road and we got 12, 11 seconds to do whatever we do and you'd really hate to mess up the whole night."
Hurd, once a special teams player for Virginia Tech's football team, has been working in pit crews for 15 years and said that although NASCAR is quite different than his former sport, it still feels good to be part of a team.
"Winning is nice," he said, "but when you contribute to a win, when we get to really feel like we're part of the win, that's the best part."