By: Joe Piette

A subject has recently popped into the NASCAR Pit Crew world that has some folks talking and some wanting to share their opinion. There are rumors and even news floating around about replacing the Jackman for an airjack system. Last year on September 30th I was asked to share my thoughts on a somewhat similar type subject, the rumor about changing pit stops from 6 to 5 people over the wall (To read that article click here). That particular rumor never became reality but it sure did get people’s attention! Ironically, just shy of one year later, this airjack rumor starts floating around and again, it has people’s attention. I have been questioned about this topic by numerous folks, some within the sport and some just fans. One fan actually sent me an email that I found to be interesting, as it definitely spells out one’s opinion. Please give it a read and afterwards cast your vote on the poll questions. Thanks everyone for your involvement and opinions!

“Cy Young, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens. What do all of these men have in common?
You guessed it, some of the most legendary baseball pitchers in history. Now, imagine
taking these “one in a million” individuals out of their industry and replacing them with
robotic, “strike producing” machines. Sounds rather boring right? This would rip the
thrill and excitement right from the core of the all-American game of baseball. Well,
unfortunately, this same concept is on the verge of existing in another competitive
sport, Nascar.

The most recent buzz in and around pit road is the idea of replacing hardworking and
athletic jackmen with a machine that “plugs-in” to produce the “jacking” of a stock car.
However, this is not at all what goes into pumping a race car into the air. This strategy
completely takes the humanity out of the game and the individuals who have trained for
years, uprooted livelihoods, and dedicated years to work towards the fastest pit stop on
pit road. The roots of Nascar are embedded with young individuals who have given
their all to keep the sport alive. In fact, there are multiple institutions and schools within
the greater Charlotte area that provide young athletes with opportunities to train as a
jackman or other pit crew member in hopes of making it into a career path. In addition
to helping athletes jumpstart their careers in Nascar, the jackman position has opened
a door of diversity and cultural shift that Nascar has been severely lacking since its
original beginning. With this newest idea, all of that will completely diminish with an
addition of a machine that actually lessens the power and time of the pit stop.

Secondly, let’s not forget about the individuals who make Nascar what it is, the fans.
Have you ever taken a trip down pit road on a Sunday afternoon? If so, you will witness
thousands of men and women decked out in their favorite driver’s apparel, snapping
pictures and collecting autographs from pit crew members. What are those fans doing?
They are on a mission to see an incredibly fast pitstop. However, the new idea is to
bring in machines and essentially eliminate the fierce men who have consistently
practiced for this stop and could complete it in their sleep. So where does that leave pit
road? This leaves the sport with fans who are not nearly as excited to trek up and
down pit road without being able to stop and watch a jackman launch a stock car into
the air, sprint to the other side, to do it all again, within twelve short seconds. In turn,
why would fans choose to purchase pit road passes without having an actual show to
watch? This would leave the sport with a loss of committed fans. One main reason
Nascar is hoping to implement this concept is to help reduce costs in order to benefit
the sport. However, losing a supportive group of followers and fans will absolutely not
be what Nascar needs in order to stay alive.

Also, let’s remember that Nascar is stock car racing, not the IndyCar Series or sports
car racing series. With these added changes taking place, stock car racing is simply
blending in to look like and model the other racing leagues. The Wood Brothers have
pioneered the concept of faster and more efficient pit stops over the last several
decades. Essentially, the group brought pit crew members and extremely fast pit stops
to the sport. If Nascar decides to take jackmen completely out of the pit stop equation,
the industry is aiding in Nascar becoming just another form of racing that “fits-in” and
no longer stands out. With that, they are throwing out the history, commitment, and
tradition that makes Nascar such a thrilling and electrifying sport to witness.

Lastly, if this change is in consideration because of an issue of safety, then let’s offer a
simple solution. Instead of a lightning fast fifty-five miles per hour speed limit on pit
road, reduce the speed to twenty-five miles per hour. After all, fans at the track and
fans watching on TV are wanting to see the quickest pit stop and race off of pit road,
not which driver reached their pit stall destination in the shortest amount of time.

All in all, more points and validations could be brought forward to defend keeping
jackmen in the industry and on pit road. However, it’s time that Nascar starts looking
into this sport not just as a “money-making” business but what it originally started out
as. Young individuals who wanted to compete, race, and involve themselves in
something that challenged their minds and bodies. Those individuals still exist in the
Nascar world, in fact, they are the ones who are brave enough to jump in front of a
moving race car week after week. Although, if this “machine replacing” concept goes
into action, those individuals are gone. Along with that, the enthusiasm and exhilaration
of Nascar will come to an abrupt end. Sadly, that “spark” is something that cannot and
will never be replaced with a robotic machine.”

Is replacing the Jackman with an air jack a good idea?

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Do you think replacing the Jackman makes pit road a safer place?

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Do you think replacing the Jackman will decrease the excitement of the pit stops?

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