For NASCAR enthusiasts and professional mechanics alike, nothing may seem more exciting than to hold the title of a NASCAR pit crew mechanic. The adrenaline rush of the high-intensity pit stop and the satisfaction of knowing that you are one of the main reasons for the success of your racing team have filled the daydreams of countless individuals over the years.
But what is it really like to be a NASCAR pit crew mechanic?
It all depends on what day it is, because each day may hold something different for the NASCAR mechanic. Every day isn't race day, that's for sure. Most days are spent in the shop preparing every detail of the car for the next "big day." Mechanics generally work 12-hour days, and may work six days straight to make sure everything is right.
Showing up at the shop before sunrise is the norm, and although the sport of racing is extremely exciting, fast-paced, and involves a great deal of communication, hours may pass by in the garage without a word being spoken. Everyone has a particular job to do, checklists to go over, parts to dismantle, replace, install, torque, and adjust. Every part of the race car is examined and re-examined - over and over, right up until race day.
Qualifying engines and race engines are built and tested, swapped out, and tested again. You'll never find a lazy NASCAR pit crew mechanic or one that feels the engine has been tested enough before race day. If something doesn't seem exactly right, the entire tedious process, from disassembling to reassembling, to testing may start all over again. There is no room for error here, and there is no room for the pit crew mechanic who has a "good enough" mentality. Like a jury agonizing over a sentence, each member of the team must be 100 percent sure that the car is running at its highest possible level of performance. Everyone must agree. There are 12-hour days of preparation until the race car rolls off the haulers - all for this one moment of truth. When that car hits the track everything the NASCAR mechanics have done during the week will be put to the test.
On race day, the NASCAR pit crew mechanics are responsible for changing out the engines, switching plugs and other parts as needed, checking and adjusting tire pressure, and making weight adjustments as necessary. If the car experiences any mechanical trouble or sustains a crash, lightning-fast assessments must be made along with any necessary repairs or adjustments.
Race day can be an intense and highly stressful day for the NASCAR pit crew mechanic. With long hours worked during the prior week to prepare the race car for this day, many mechanics constantly fight mental fatigue. Endurance and the ability to make clear decisions under pressure are number one on the list of pit crew mechanic "must haves."
After the race is over, the NASCAR pit crew mechanics may get to sign a few autographs, but they don't get to stand in victory lane. They are not the ones whose names are cheered or the ones who are interviewed at the end of a winning race. Although the level of excitement is definitely there for the NASCAR pit crew mechanics; it can sometimes be a thankless position.
An effort to more widely recognize racing as a team sport has been introduced by several, including George Silbermann, managing director of racing operations for NASCAR, who is quoted as saying, "NASCAR racing at every level is a team sport."
A day in the life of the NASCAR pit crew mechanic can be summed up as hard work, long hours, and the self satisfaction of knowing that you are passionate enough about your profession to reach the ultimate goal and highest level possible in your field.