SPEEDWAY — Pit crews. They work incredibly fast and are as efficient as humanly possible but have you ever wondered while watching a professional race, if you could trade tires as fast as the pros?
CBS4 Traffic Anchor Justin Kollar thought, “how hard can it possibly be?” But Kollar quickly discovered armchair mechanics are a lot like armchair quarterbacks. It’s not as easy as it looks.
“I’ve had friends of mine tell me, oh, you only have one nut on those tires, it’s easy!” Yeah, okay, then you try it,” Mechanic Jake Cole exclaimed. “It is easy once you figure it out but it takes some practice to get good at it!”
And if practice makes perfect, you could call Cole a masterpiece.
“I actually went to vocational thing through high school, got into auto body painting and then I got a job painting IndyCars from there,” Cole said. “I’ve been stuck in it ever since.”
Stuck in high gear; Cole has never looked back. He’ll be tirelessly trading tires for Stefan Wilson’s number 24 IndyCar during the greatest spectacle in racing, a dream he’s had since he was a little boy.
“Since I was a kid, you know,” Cole said. “I’ve always loved the Indianapolis 500 and racing and to be a part of it is pretty awesome. You’re out there on race day, the flyover, you just kinda realize, I’m actually here doing this you know? This is awesome, it’s a dream!”
But as Kollar quickly discovered and Cole explained doing is different than dreaming.
“Pit lane is dangerous so you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on, pay attention to the cars coming in, who’s in front of you, who’s behind you and once the car comes in you’re pretty much just, using your muscle memory,” Cole said. “First thing, the car comes in, an air-jack guy comes in, the fueler is usually already plugged in before the car comes up. My job, I want to have the wheel nut off before the car comes up, so as soon as it comes up, I can get this tire off get it on, cause I’m trying to beat fuel. So a full tank of fuel takes roughly six seconds so I wanna be around, you know, four and a half seconds so I can get the tire off, on, and then make a wing adjustment if I need to and get the heck outta the way so he can take off. But doing that over and over again, that’s where you get your muscle memory from.”
After some instruction and practice it was time for the rubber to meet the road in a timed head-to-head battle, Kollar and Cole lined up to each change a tire on the number 24 IndyCar but who would win?
It took Cole 6:09 seconds. While it took Kollar 11 flat; nearly double the time of a professional.
“It’s a great reminder though that you may not win a race on a pit stop… but you can definetly lose a race from a bad pit stop,” Cole explained.
So when it comes to rolling out racing machines, leave it to the pros!
“It’s kinda an overwhelming experience when you do a good job,” Cole said. “You have a great pit stop and the car takes off and you gain some positions, it just makes you feel great. All the hard work’s paying off, fast as you can now!”