The Wrenches in the Trenches

This year pit stops are going to take a little bit longer. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 1, 2018, 9:30 a.m.

Perhaps my favorite Jimmy Buffett song is “Manana,” in which he sings, “Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up being wrong.”

He also hopes Anita Bryant “never, ever does one of my songs,” but that seems less pertinent to me now. She’s 77.

By Monte Dutton

I thought of Buffett’s song last night while reviewing NASCAR stories on the air-wrench problems of Atlanta Motor Speedway. At least four of the 36 starters experienced failures with the air wrenches NASCAR now standardizes and issues to the teams.

According to one of the reports, Steve O’Donnell said on SiriusXM, “We knew that this could potentially happen, and the likelihood of it happening at some point in the season was fairly high.”


O’Donnell, who is the Chief Racing Development Officer, reportedly also said something along the lines of, Oh, now let’s move on to Las Vegas, and maybe everything will be fine.

Cole Pearn (left) and Martin Truex Jr. celebrate a championship. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick came back from his case of lowdown, mind-messing, air wrench blues to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, so he didn’t get too agitated. The reigning Monster Energy Cup champion, Martin Truex Jr., and his heretofore popular crew chief, Cole Pearn, finished fifth, and they both seized the stature that comes with winning a championship to evince briefly basic human emotion.

Apparently, two other teams that experienced air-wrench failures, those of Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch, were suitably docile afterwards. I have this image of Busch being spirited away in the dark of night.

Standard air wrenches were implemented this year as an austerity measure, supported by team owners. It was part of a program designed to ensure slower pit stops so that one day teams don’t exit pit road before they entered it. The rent-a-wrenches are provided by Dino Pauli SRL, a company based in Regio Emilia, Italy, that specializes in auto racing technology.

Good God, man. If NASCAR provides the government cheese, it can’t be moldy.

I wasn’t there, of course. I was watching at home. I’m confident that, once everyone gets to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the basic human emotion will be appropriately cooled by the dissemination of NASCAR talking points, and most of the drivers will preface their remarks with phrases such as NASCAR has a really tough job, and, Whenever there’s something new, there are bound to be a few glitches here and there.

As a general rule, everyone regroups and most pre-race media conferences are all sweetness and light. At the end of races, enough adrenaline is still coursing through blood vessels that brief, troublesome outbreaks of candor unfortunately occur.

Remain calm. All is well. NASCAR is great. NASCAR is good. Let us thank it for our wrenches. By its hand our tires are changed, even though it seems deranged. Amen.

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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