DARLINGTON — Pit crews can be the unsung hero or a driver’s Achilles’ heel.
Take competing at Darlington Raceway, for instance.
After winning the 2014 Southern 500, Kevin Harvick appeared to have the stars aligned to win it again in 2016.
But he didn’t, and his pit crew was to blame. Although Harvick led the most laps, he lost 18 combined positions on pit road and finished second.
“Yeah, we had a great car,” Harvick said after that race. “The guys in the garage and at the shop continue to do a great job, and we continue to give it away on pit road. That pretty much summed up tonight. We had the dominant car and three bad pit stops on pit road.”
Pit crews could be just as important today as NASCAR’s Cup drivers race for the first time since March 8 at Phoenix.
Communication among pit crew members can be paramount. But what will happen after these pit crews return to completion for the first time in more than two months?
“I’m not really concerned about it at all,” Harvick said Thursday morning. “For us, we’ve had a lot of conversations and meetings about how things are going to flow. Obviously, things are a little bit different with the amount of people and where people are. So our main source of communication comes from (crew chief Rodney Childers and spotter Tim Fedewa). Those are really the only things I hear communication from during a race. The rest of it is kind of up to them. As far as my responsibilities and who I hear, it will be the same as it always is.”
Last year’s Southern 500 winner, Erik Jones, also is confident in his crew.
“I feel good. They’ve been able to get back in the shop and practice a little bit,” Jones said. “It’s been very staggered with kind of what we got to do while following the social-distancing policies we’ve got in place. … Will it be rusty? Yeah. I mean, every year we go to Daytona for the first race of the year, we’re a little rusty. It’s not the, it’s use. The crew chief, everybody, is a little rusty. So, I don’t think it will be any different than that.
“The good thing is there are a lot of pit stops at Darlington,” he added. “So, there will be a lot of opportunities to go in and get it right and have a lot of practice. They’ll be a little rusty at first. But I feel like they’ll get the hang of things and get back in the swing of things, pretty quickly.”