Towards the end of last season, the NASCAR announced that with the addition of a self-venting fuel can, only six pit crew members would be allowed over the wall on pit stops because the fuel can rendered the role of catch-can man unnecessary.
No big deal, right?
Think again. The catch can man was the guy responsible for many of the changes at the rear of the car. Add a round of wedge? That's the catch-can man. Adjust the trackbar? That's him too.
So who's going to do that now? Most of the responsibilities may fall on the gas man, who will also be holding a -- when full -- 90 pound gas can.
We’ve been doing different scenarios in our pit practices trying to figure out what’s going to be competitive during the gas stop,” Stewart-Haas Racing general manager Bobby Hutchens said. “If you’re just gassing, before those guys were also helping make adjustments through the back window. That used to be the catch-can guy.
“It will take someone who is more athletic; a tall, strong person to be able to do the things that are required to make a successful pit stop in today’s world.”
Stewart-Haas crew chief Darian Grubb alluded that the No. 14 likely would take two gasmen “with two different body styles” on the road depending what situation is needed over the wall. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing crew chief Brian Pattie recruited an entirely new gasman, Ed Whitaker from Richard Petty Motorsports, for the job. Pattie acknowledged that what was once the No. 6 position on the team in terms of importance has moved to No. 1.
So if you figured you had a shot at being a Sprint Cup gas man because you could pump your own gas quickly, sorry, you have no shot.
Pit stops will also take longer because of the multi-tasking. No, we won't be seeing stops just under 20 seconds like 20 years ago, but stops generally will be two or three seconds slower. That, Tony Gibson, Ryan Newman's crew chief, said could make fuel strategy even more important than it is now.
“I just guarantee you that it’s going to come down to a fueling deal at Daytona, it’s going to because somebody’s not going to get it full, somebody’s going to gamble on short pitting all throughout the year,” Gibson said. “We short pit now three or four laps. Well, three or four laps is not much fuel. When it comes to these new fueling cans, you may have to stop it two seconds quicker, well that’s going to be probably two gallons of gas. Are you going to go to Michigan and give up the fuel mileage over getting back on the racetrack and making the time up on the racetrack? Or, what if a guy spends the extra two seconds on pit road and gets his stuff full?
“You run out of gas and you have to pit under green and he doesn’t, he’s going to win the race. That part of it is going to be really, really complicated for the first few races. Going to the Daytona 500 with this new fueling deal is really going to be something to watch. That’s what I’m most worried about.”
Should be fun, right? Well, unless a pit crew starts performing so poorly that it gets replaced mid-race. Remember, we've got a precedent now.