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Prep work helps pit crews thrive under pressure

Ingersoll Rand

Hands in the air and a confused look on the face: It's the last thing a NASCAR pit crew coach wants to see from one of his team members during a key moment of the race.

"That's when you know you're in trouble," says Mike Lepp, who is the senior athletic advisor at Joe Gibbs Racing and oversaw the pit crews for the organization as the team's longtime athletic director.

In the era of the 10-second pit stop, even the slightest moment of indecision can cost a team the lead ... a win ... or quite possibly the championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Therefore, pit crews go to great lengths to make sure their tools are not only reliable, but also in the right place -- and that they fit comfortably for team members. Ingersoll Rand, the Official Power Tools of NASCAR, follows a similar philosophy when producing durable and reliable tools not only for pit crews but for automotive professionals.

"If you're a jackman, you're no different than a football receiver who has a set of gloves," Lepp said. "He's tried hundreds of them, but he's found his favorites."

Besides powerful jacks that can get a car off the ground in merely a pump or two, today's pit crews also pay close attention to the pit gun, which is in essence an impact wrench. This is the tool you see tire changers using during races.

It's also the tool that has strong roots in the sport with Ingersoll Rand. Remember the Rainbow Warrior pit crews made famous by Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham? They used the Thunder Gun from Ingersoll Rand, and it was calibrated exactly how tire changers liked them -- making a difference in Gordon's championship runs.

Having a customized experience like the one Ingersoll Rand helped provide back then is still true today with tire changers trying to shave off precious milliseconds with the ability to feel when something is merely a fraction off from where it should be.

"I've probably seen nothing more finicky than a tire changer with the impact wrench," Lepp said. "They like a certain feel.

"A golfer is going to change clubs, and he basically tells you it's going to take six months before he's comfortable again. And you go, 'It's a golf club, what's the big deal?' It's a big deal. Whether it's feel or psychological, it's a big deal for some tire changers."

Once they have the tools set up to their liking, pit crews store them in the pit box on pit road during a race. Everything has its place and often is labeled for easy-access.

In fact, up to four hours before the race, a pit team can be seen near their pit box cleaning tires and putting things in proper order.

Every team is different in how they go about their business, but the goal is the same: Be ready to make history, not a mistake.

Near the pit box you may catch a glimpse of the crash cart, which is a toolbox for crash repair that's also stored here. What goes into the crash cart has changed, Lepp says, since NASCAR went to a new damaged-vehicle policy for the 2017 season where teams get five minutes on pit road to make repairs to a car that has been damaged in a wreck.

Instead of entire nose cones for cars, a crash cart now is heavy on mallets, glue, tape and metal cutters -- in other words, tools a crew can use in a pinch, for one of those pressure-packed moments described earlier.

Those who prepare have a better shot at keeping their driver in the race, but those who don't are often left taking themselves -- and their tools -- home early.

Find out how Ingersoll Rand's tool line will help you with your automotive projects:

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