By David G. Firestone
Starting this week at Pocono, all pit crew members will be required to wear Nomex headsocks, underwear, and gloves. This follows a ruling made in response to the Xfinity Series race at Richmond International Raceway, where three of Brendan Gaughn’s crew members were burned in a pit road fire. This is a long overdue change to pit road rules, which had left the door open for injury with the gaps that it left.
I have a couple of thoughts about this. According to ESPN this rule only extends to pit crew members who service the car. This makes sense as there are no longer officials on pit road during pit stops. What I noticed was that this rule didn’t extend to full faced helmets. A number of crew members wear helmets that look like glorified bicycle helmets. These helmets provide no facial protection at all. At least a full face helmet will provide that extra bit of protection.
This is a late 1990’s Champ Car officials helmet, and it is representative of what pit crew members wear. Look at how open the face is. Fire could easily get into that part of the helmet, and burn the area around the crew member’s eyes and he could breathe the fire in. This design is one of, if not the most common design that pit crew members wear. Pit crew suits are designed to take fire, but these helmets are basically not much more than what BMX bikers wear in competition.
My other question is will there be sufficient grip in the gloves? Fun fact about me is that at one point, I worked in Walmart, changing oil and tires. I quit after three weeks. While there, I used Mechanix gloves, which are the standard gloves that tire changers wear. They provide amazing grip, and are comfortable.
With the new rules, Nomex gloves will replace Mechanix gloves, and I have to wonder if there are gloves that have the level of grip. I have since learned that there are SFI rated Nomex Mechanix gloves. So I’m striking the previous comment.
I get that these rules will protect pit crew members, but will they impact performance? I can’t say, but we will see. Next week, we will discuss replica helmets again.