Fresh off the high of a compelling championship race that saw Martin Truex Jr. emerge as the Cup Series’ deserved champion, NASCAR announced Wednesday that it would be cutting the size of pit crews in 2018.
The sport said Wednesday that teams would be limited to five members of a pit crew over the wall on a pit stop. Teams currently employ a fueler, a crew member to operate the jack and two tire changers and two tire carriers each. One of those tire carriers is the position that will be cut with the new roster limit.
NASCAR also announced that teams will have a cap on the number of members they can bring on the road each week in an official team capacity. Cup Series teams will be able to have 12 road crew members including crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics in addition to their five pit crew members.
The moves to limit crew members were spun as a way to make the playing field more even among teams. And it’s also a cost-cutting measure. Having fewer crew members travel will save teams money — and potentially cost some crew members jobs. Happy Thanksgiving to those that may lose their jobs as a result of this.
“Our intention is obviously not to put anyone out of work,” NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said. “Our intention was to work with the race teams and get this in a position where we all felt we were ready to go and this has been dialogue that has taken place with the race teams for a long time.”
When asked again about the possibility of people losing their jobs because of the reductions, O’Donnell had this to say.
“Each team runs their organization how they run it,” he said. “Our job is to put on the best race possible at the race and collectively working with the race teams and the OEMs and the industry we felt this was the best way to do that.”
The limits come three days after NASCAR president Brent Dewar said the sport wasn’t in a cost-cutting mode but rather a move to take “some of the waste out of the system.”
The decision to schedule a press conference before a holiday with news that isn’t incredibly positive is a longstanding tradition for many organizations. You’re all familiar with the Friday news dump. But Thanksgiving aside, the timing of this announcement is even more bizarre given the recency of the championship.
Truex held off Kyle Busch in a thrilling final 30 laps at Homestead just three days ago. It was Truex’s eighth win of the season and made him a fitting champion in NASCAR’s first season with a playoff format designed to more heavily reward regular-season excellence.
Yet NASCAR perplexingly decided itself to overshadow the championship with an announcement about yet another rules change.
Another rules change that isn’t even final yet. When asked about penalties for teams that violate the new rules — like if a crew member not listed on a team roster works on a car — O’Donnell admitted the consequences hadn’t been flushed out yet.
He said discussions regarding these changes had been going on for 18 months. What’s another few weeks, in that case, to roll out something that has everything finalized and determined? There was no fan demand to know the sizes of pit crews in 2018 as they sat down for Thanksgiving dinner.
Yet, NASCAR apparently thought there was. Or maybe it wanted to hide some not-so-great news before Thanksgiving. Either way, this was storyline the sport had complete control over. And it decided to release that storyline with memories of a climactic finish to the season still in vivid color for anyone who watched it.
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