In this photo you can see a pit stop/driver swap and fueling happening in the paddock, not pit lane. This is merely a full-uniform dynamic practice prior to the race to ensure everyone knows how the equipment works, how their uniform fits, and to solve any problems before they really matter.

If you are going to run any sort of NASA racing event that requires fueling, then you will need to drum up some friends who will work as your pit crew. Per NASA regulations, those friends, who will be going over the wall and fueling your car, need to wear safety equipment that is equal to that of the driver, minus the head and neck restraint.

Safety equipment is costly and it isn’t easy to convince your friends to use their own expensive driving suit, and then have them spill gas all over it while trying to help you win a race. It is much better to have safety gear for your friends to borrow when they are volunteering their time to make you a hero.

Here is the good news, NASA allows expired equipment, Snell rated helmets specifically, to be used for pit crews. The requirement is that the expired helmet be clearly labeled “FUEL” and never used again while driving a car. On our team, our pit crew gear has taken shape over the years through mostly retired driving gear. If one of our drivers gets a new pair of Nomex socks, then the old stinky socks go to a volunteer crew member. How lucky for them?

NASA allows crew members to use expired helmets. However the requirement is that the helmet be clearly marked with the word “FUEL” as to distinguish an expired helmet from a current one. If a NASA official ever sees an HPDE driver heading out onto the track with a big orange “FUEL” on the side of his helmet, I can guarantee you that driver will be on a very short session. Each of our crew helmets uses a clear face shield and has a GoPro mount for pit-stop-filming opportunities.
NASA allows crew members to use expired helmets. However the requirement is that the helmet be clearly marked with the word “FUEL” as to distinguish an expired helmet from a current one. If a NASA official ever sees an HPDE driver heading out onto the track with a big orange “FUEL” on the side of his helmet, I can guarantee you that driver will be on a very short session. Each of our crew helmets uses a clear face shield and has a GoPro mount for pit-stop-filming opportunities.

Most NASA teams don’t have a steady, returning pit crew. People come out and have their fun, standing in the pits of a hot racetrack for six hours, work on the racecar for free, and then for some odd reason, race teams never hear from them again. So, to ensure you always have a pit crew that is outfitted in the correct gear, you need to separate the gear from the person.

On our team, we have four crew bags, each numbered, with each numbered bag in incrementally larger sizes. Bag No. 1 is for the anorexic. Bag No. 4 is for the burger lover. We give these bags to whoever shows up to make sure they have what they need. Inside the bag, we have everything required by NASA for that member to go over the wall, plus a few other items we have found helpful to crew members. The person can show up to the track in shorts and flip flops, and with our gear, he or she can be outfitted to do a very important job for us.

Keeping track of helmets, socks, suits, gloves and underwear can be a nightmare. We purchased some inexpensive duffle bags to help us store, organize, and travel with the pit crew’s gear. Each bag contains all of the required gear for one volunteer crew member.
Keeping track of helmets, socks, suits, gloves and underwear can be a nightmare. We purchased some inexpensive duffle bags to help us store, organize, and travel with the pit crew’s gear. Each bag contains all of the required gear for one volunteer crew member.

 

We labeled each of our four bags, 1 being the smallest-size pit gear and 4 being the largest size for our husky crew members. We numbered each piece of gear inside the bag with the bag’s corresponding number to help us keep things organized. Everything in bag 1 has the number 1 on it, from the helmet to the socks.
We labeled each of our four bags, 1 being the smallest-size pit gear and 4 being the largest size for our husky crew members. We numbered each piece of gear inside the bag with the bag’s corresponding number to help us keep things organized. Everything in bag 1 has the number 1 on it, from the helmet to the socks.

Here is what we put in the bags: First is an expired Snell rated helmet, which we have labeled with stickers “FUEL” and “CREW” and have outfitted with a clear face shield. Smoked face shields don’t work for nighttime pit stops. Each of our helmets is set up with a GoPro mount to add a camera to for cool pit stop shots and also for data and training to ensure better future pit stops. Next is an inexpensive single-layer driving suit with Nomex underwear — top and bottoms, as required due to the inexpensive single-layer suit.

Here you can see the full system in action. The crew members are all wearing the gear NASA requires for people who go over the wall. The helmets are all labeled “CREW” and “FUEL” per NASA rules. You can see a GoPro attached to the top of one of the helmets. My only critique is some long hair on the crew member on the right that should be tucked into a balaclava for safety.
Here you can see the full system in action. The crew members are all wearing the gear NASA requires for people who go over the wall. The helmets are all labeled “CREW” and “FUEL” per NASA rules. You can see a GoPro attached to the top of one of the helmets. My only critique is some long hair on the crew member on the right that should be tucked into a balaclava for safety.
Crew members don’t want to wear their helmets all day long, which means they are going to need a place to set them. Give them a place or you will have helmets rolling all around your pit space. A simple storage rack — around $25—that is easily taken apart and stored in the race trailer can keep things tidy in your pit area.
Crew members don’t want to wear their helmets all day long, which means they are going to need a place to set them. Give them a place or you will have helmets rolling all around your pit space. A simple storage rack — around $25—that is easily taken apart and stored in the race trailer can keep things tidy in your pit area.

We also have Nomex socks, fire-resistant gloves, and a Nomex balaclava, which is required for crew members with facial hair. The hardest fit for a crew member is shoes, but we include a pair of worn out driving shoes in each bag. The only requirement for shoes is that they be leather and cover the entire foot without large cloth venting. Work boots suffice for crew members. We also include knee pads for protection during tire changes, a head strap LED flashlight to go on the helmet for working on things at night and reflective arm and leg bands to make our crew members visible in the dark.

On our team safety is a big priority. NASA will issue penalties to a race team during the race for a crew injury. We use these small reflective straps on the arms and legs of our crew members during night pit stops to ensure they are clearly visible to cars on pit lane. Very inexpensive, easy to use, and smart.
On our team safety is a big priority. NASA will issue penalties to a race team during the race for a crew injury. We use these small reflective straps on the arms and legs of our crew members during night pit stops to ensure they are clearly visible to cars on pit lane. Very inexpensive, easy to use, and smart.

We also provide a radio for every crew member so they can hear and talk to the crew chief during the race. This can be done two different ways depending on the crew helmet. If the helmet is already fitted with radio wires, we use a cord from Sampson Racing Communications, which goes from the helmet to the radio and has a PTT button on it. It works great. If the helmet isn’t wired for sound, then we use an inexpensive throat microphone setup with an ear bud that will fit under the helmet. The crew member can hear everything that is going on. Communication is key, especially during a crisis.

If one of your pit crew helmets is pre-wired for a radio, such as an expired endurance racing helmet, then this little cord from Sampson Racing Communications will allow for that helmet to connect to a radio so the crew member can hear and talk. The cord has a little PTT button to communicate.
If one of your pit crew helmets is pre-wired for a radio, such as an expired endurance racing helmet, then this little cord from Sampson Racing Communications will allow for that helmet to connect to a radio so the crew member can hear and talk. The cord has a little PTT button to communicate.
While wearing a helmet at a racetrack, it is difficult to communicate verbally. This slick little throat microphone with built-in ear piece fits under a helmet and allows for a crew member to hear the crew chief. There is also a small finger button that will allow for the crew member to talk to the crew chief. I scored it on Ebay for $20.
While wearing a helmet at a racetrack, it is difficult to communicate verbally. This slick little throat microphone with built-in ear piece fits under a helmet and allows for a crew member to hear the crew chief. There is also a small finger button that will allow for the crew member to talk to the crew chief. I scored it on Ebay for $20.

Each numbered bag has a laminated inventory list so the crew member knows what he or she was given in the bag and what is required to be put back into the bag. This helps immensely for us to keep track of our gear as these bags get passed from one crew member to the next from race to race. After each event, I go through the bags wash all of the gear and ensure nothing needs to be replaced due to wear or loss.

Once a long race weekend is over, volunteer crew members scatter like cockroaches. Once they leave, it is difficult to get stuff back from them. This inventory list helps them remember to put stuff back into the bag so we can keep it all together. What gets monitored gets done. You would be surprised how well this little laminated card works.
Once a long race weekend is over, volunteer crew members scatter like cockroaches. Once they leave, it is difficult to get stuff back from them. This inventory list helps them remember to put stuff back into the bag so we can keep it all together. What gets monitored gets done. You would be surprised how well this little laminated card works.

I have found that handing a new crew member a bag of gear with a uniform with the team logo on it gives them an immediate sense of being a part of the team, and this creates buy-in for that new team member to work hard to help us to succeed and win races. Since volunteers get paid a total of absolutely nothing, the least we can do is ensure they are safe and look sharp doing the job. A few duffle bags filled with old driving gear may not seem like the best speed secret in racing, but I assure you a little organization goes a long way. So, dress for success, and help your crew do the same.

Each crew bag has a helmet with a clear face shield, a single-layer fire retardant suit, upper and lower Nomex underwear, a pair of Nomex socks, fire retardant gloves, a balaclava, racing shoes, knee pads, a head strap LED flashlight, reflective straps, and the most important item: an inventory list to encourage crew members to put all gear back into the assigned bag.
Each crew bag has a helmet with a clear face shield, a single-layer fire retardant suit, upper and lower Nomex underwear, a pair of Nomex socks, fire retardant gloves, a balaclava, racing shoes, knee pads, a head strap LED flashlight, reflective straps, and the most important item: an inventory list to encourage crew members to put all gear back into the assigned bag.
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Image courtesy of Rob Krider