As we look at the West Coast in the rear view mirror, we focus forward to one of the greatest short tracks of all, Martinsville Speedway. At just a mere 128 miles North of Charlotte NC, most race teams will give their pilots, flight attendants and airplanes a rest this weekend but the 12 passenger vans will be fueled up and ready to go. Many pit crews will be doing double duty at Martinsville, pitting a Truck on Saturday and a Cup car on Sunday. This happens a lot when the tracks are within driving distance from home. Why would pit crew members want to work both on Saturday and Sunday this weekend, because this track may be the most challenging of all to do fast pit stops and practice makes perfect. Why is this pit road so tough you ask, great question…
Challenge 1) Martinsville is only a .526 mile track and its shaped exactly like a paperclip. Have you ever tried to fit 40 pit stalls, 14 feet wide and 28 feet long into a paperclip? Unlike any other track we race at, Martinsville’s pit road starts in turn three, goes around turn four, continues down the 800 foot front straight away then bends around turns one and two. This means that approximately half of the pit stalls are in the turns and are actually curved. Being curved is one thing, then add that just outside of the outer pit box line, pit road makes an elevation change that conforms to the 12 degree banking in the turns. When you pull a Right Front or Right Rear tire off and stand it up but don’t want it to roll away, well good luck!
Challenge 2) The crew chiefs and engineers are always finding ways to make the race cars lower to the ground and when something is low, it takes an extended effort to raise it up and get the tires off the ground. Due to the relatively small amount of banking, the cars do not travel as much like at other tracks therefore allowing the chassis to be lower than most places we race. This puts added pressure on the Jackmen to get the cars as high as possible in the shortest amount of time. You will see tires dragging the pit stall surface when being changed.
Challenge 3) The racing action on the track is always hot but I’ve got two words for you…BRAKE HEAT! With two drag racing type straightaways that each lead into very tight turns, heavy braking will be at a premium, thus the brake heat generated going into each turn is very very high. I have personally experienced the brake rotors still glowing cherry red during a pit stop at Martinsville. Cherry red rotors equal somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, it doesn’t take long into a pit stop to realize that everything you touch is really hot! In addition to the heat, brake dust will be plentiful. Tire Changers will find themselves hitting lug nut patterns without the luxury of actually seeing the lug nuts!
Challenge 4) Space! Being the smallest track we go to, space is limited and pit road is no different. As a crew member, you really need to pay attention to who is pitted in front and in back of you. At any given time, there can and will be another car trying to get into or out of their pit stall and you will likely be in the path they are wanting to take. I’ve used the words “self-preservation” when describing pitting at Martinsville, it’s just really tight on pit road and you have to stay alert at all times!
Good luck to all the crews at Martinsville this weekend. Everyone stay safe on pit road and don’t eat too many Hot Dogs!!