At speeds approaching 200 miles per hour, NASCAR tires are submitted to a lot of heat and friction, which will wear them out quickly. But when they become worn and need to be replaced, they do so in what seems like seconds, leaving many fans wondering how NASCAR tires are changed so fast.
NASCAR tires are changed so fast because a well-trained crew removes worn tires, rims, and lug nuts using a pneumatic torque wrench, then replaces them with a matched tire and rim that have been pre-balanced together in a well-coordinated operation. NASCAR pit stops often take as few as 12 seconds.
There are several factors, from the number of people allowed in pit lane, the design of lug nuts, and some time-saving methods involved in such speedy NASCAR tire changes, and below we’ll discuss all of these factors in more detail.
Most NASCAR pit stops take between 11 and 15 seconds to complete for all four tires. They can change just 2 tires at a time which decreases the time to around 6.5 seconds, but this will increase the frequency of pit stops. Adding fuel will take more time, so the average is about 13-15 seconds.
Each team member on a pit crew takes care of several things during every stop to ensure their team has the best chance of winning the race and the series. Along with changing tires, they may check the level and temperatures of the various fluids in the car, refuel, clean the windshield, and give the driver some water.
There are 8 people who make a NASCAR pit crew but only 5 are allowed over the dividing wall. They all have to work together as a team and perform several roles each to ensure the pit stop goes as smoothly as possible.
Pit stops can make or break a race for a crew, so they practice frequently during the week to ensure they stay at their best. There are various roles in a NASCAR pit crew, with the most important being the crew chief.
The crew chief makes racetime decisions like what lap to pit on, and how many tires need to be changed. They also communicate with the driver during the race to get feedback on the car.
The car chief is responsible for ensuring the car is road-worthy for the race. They make changes to the car and try to improve how it feels to the driver.
The jackman operates the jack, which weighs about 22 pounds. They jack up one side of the car at a time and assist the tire changer with the rear wheels. They also signal the driver when it’s safe for them to go.
Tire changers use a pneumatic wrench to remove the lug nuts and replace the wheels, which are pre-balanced and mounted on the rims. There are two of them on a crew, and one does the front wheels while the other does the rear wheels.
The tire carrier carries the new wheels over the dividing wall to the car and moves the old wheels out of the way with the help of the jackman. They also hold the front wheels in place so the tire changer can install the lug nuts.
The gasman is prohibited from doing any work to the car other than refueling. He can also aid the rear tire changer if the car doesn’t need any fuel.
A utility man is only able to go over the pit wall in the latter half of the race. He offers the driver drinking water or other necessities.
The lug nuts are designed to hold together strongly with a fast-drying, strong adhesive, and can be removed quickly so as to not impact the outcome of the race. The modern era of NASCAR design uses a center locking hub where there is only one lug nut in the center of the wheel (there used to be 5).
The lug studs are rounded on top to aid the wheel setter in aligning the wheel, and ridged, not threaded, to ensure the adhesive has a positive bond. The lug nuts have adhesive applied to them to ensure they don’t come loose when they aren’t supposed to.
How Do They Keep Up With The Lug Nuts?
Since the beginning of the 2022 season, there’s only one lug nut per tire in NASCAR. The lug nuts are removed with such speed that they don’t keep up with each nut, and instead the lug nuts remain in the socket, meaning they can use the same lug nut throughout the race without having to worry about keeping track of them.
There can be as many as 4-6 tire changes in a NASCAR race, but it all depends on the track itself and the conditions. Some races might see 2-3 pit stops, but others may see 10 pit stops if there are lots of caution flags or if there is extremely high tire wear.
During an event, which includes qualifying and practice laps, NASCAR teams can have between 8 and 10 full tire changes. Crew managers have to balance tire changes with conditions of the track and split tires between qualifying and practice laps and the main race. With most races running for 3 hours, if not longer, tire management is extremely important.
The tires that are used are very grippy to handle the high speeds, but the trade-off for that grip is severely increased tire wear. While regular car tires can last for many several thousand miles, NASCAR tires only last for about 100 miles, depending on how aggressive (how quickly and sharply a driver takes turns) the drivers are.
NASCAR uses Goodyear tires. In NASCAR the tires are referred to as racing slicks. These types of tires look as if they are bald, but they offer the highest amount of grip for the space that the tires touch to the track’s surface, called the contact patch.
Racing slicks don’t have treads like road tires do on regular cars. While tread is important on road tires for allowing them to keep grip in a wide variety of conditions, rain or shine, on a stock car, treads are not needed because they stop the race in the event of rain.
Race cars also need to maximize grip in optimal conditions to maintain as high a speed as possible, and to do that the whole width and length of the tire must be used to contact the road as completely as possible.
Each NASCAR tire costs between $350 and $450, and interestingly these tires aren’t bought but are instead leased from Goodyear by the individual teams on race day. Goodyear has been the sole approved provider of tires to NASCAR since the 1997 season when Hoosier ended their contract.
NASCAR tires are changed so fast as the pit crews train very regularly to ensure each pit stop is carried out like a well-choreographed dance. With 5 crew members allowed over the wall, a NASCAR pit crew can change 4 tires and add fuel to the car in less than 15 seconds.
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