Every good race team has some sort of pit wagon. They have them because they are very handy when it comes to moving things around the paddock. Formula 1 teams use custom gas-powered wagons assembled with big screen TVs, nitrogen tanks and latte machines. NASA racers usually just roll with a kid’s wagon from Toys-R-Us and an aluminum jack from Harbor Freight. In either case, or with either budget, a pit wagon is a must.
If you have kids, there’s a pretty good chance you have a wagon somewhere at your house that isn’t being used anymore. Who wants to play with a boring old wagon when Grand Theft Auto V just came out on Playstation and Xbox? It turns out, nobody. So with that rusting unused child’s toy, you can create a handy pit cart without spending a ton of money. All you need is some sandpaper, some spray paint, some stickers and you are in business.
I stole my kid’s wagon — they didn’t even notice — and decided to put something together to help our team move gas cans around the paddock. Understanding NASA’s rules for endurance racing in the E3, E2 and E1 classes, you know you must use approved five-gallon jugs for fueling. The rules also indicate you aren’t allowed to store fifty of these jugs in the paddock. Nobody wants that much flammable material lying around for a spark. That means after each pit stop, somebody has to make a run to the fuel pumps to get more gas before the next pit stop. A team member has to get the empty cans all the way across the large paddock and then get the filled and heavy cans back to the pits for the next stop. A kid’s wagon is the perfect thing to make this job easy. Fill up the gas and start pulling.
I can tell you from experience that plastic wheels are not what you’re looking for. They are noisy and they don’t provide any suspension for the load — the teetering 10 gallons of flammable liquid. We have found that wagons with pneumatic tires are better. Well, they’re better until the pneumatic tire goes flat — and they do — and then they suck. To combat this issue, we mounted a spare tire to the bottom of our wagon just in case. To trick the wagon out a bit more, we painted the bed of the wagon with a spray can of generic Line-X. We also replaced all of the nuts and bolts with stainless steel materials because we knew the pit wagon would end up in rainy weather and have all sorts of corrosive materials spilled all over it.
To really make our pit wagon a part of our team, we sanded it down and spray painted it to match our race car. We slapped some stickers on it and turned a useless child’s toy into a sharp-looking and useful tool for the pit crew during the race. And after the race, a bag of ice and some cold beers make this pit wagon very popular at the track.