NASCAR is inherently a dangerous sport. Daniel Suarez and every driver that straps in behind the wheel knows that. Bad things can happen when traveling at speeds near 200 mph.
But the drivers aren’t the only ones who put themselves at risk each and every weekend. Pit crew members do as well. That was proven a couple of times this weekend at Richmond Raceway in both the NASCAR Truck and Cup Series races, including a frightening scene on Sunday when Suarez entered his pit stall too fast and hit one of crew members, sending him flying into the air and out onto pit road near oncoming traffic.
Daniel Suarez having best season of career
In his sixth full-time Cup Series season, Daniel Suarez is putting up the best numbers of his career. Through 24 races, he’s earned nine top-10 finishes. Among those results, five have been in the top five, including his first career Cup win at Sonoma in June.
Trackhouse Racing has been the surprise story of 2022 with Suarez and teammate Ross Chastain seemingly coming out of nowhere this season to win three times. And they haven’t been flukes.
Both cars have consistently run up near the front all season, which can be attributed to quality driving, good car setup and adjustments, and solid pit crews who limit mistakes.
Daniel Suarez sends pit crew member flying in scary incident
On Sunday at Richmond, Suarez’s pit crew made headlines, but it wasn’t for anything the members did, but instead for what happened to one of them during a routine pit stop.
Suarez, by his own admission, entered his pit stall too fast and slammed on the brakes. The car skidded with the nose of his car, stopping on the white line at the front of his box. However, before it stopped, several of the No. 99’s pit crew members had to make evasive measures to avoid getting hit.
The car made slight contact with the jackman and front tire carrier. Front tire changer Cory Baldwin wasn’t as fortunate. Realizing the car was coming in too hot, he attempted to jump over the car’s right front as it rapidly approached. He didn’t clear the car, which propelled him up into the air, with his momentum carrying him onto pit road, where he landed on his backside, rolled over, and stopped just short of getting hit by Noah Gragson. Incredibly, Baldwin jumped up, changed the tires, and completed the stop.
Suarez later tweeted about the terrifying moment, accepting responsibility for what happened.
“If there was ever any doubt, pit crews are true athletes,” the driver wrote. “It’s the worst feeling knowing I could have really hurt one of my guys, thankfully it didn’t come to that! Came in too hot & misjudged my stall, but Cory Jeremy Josh Milan & Jerick handled it like pros. Sorry again boys.”
Truck Series crew member gets hit day before
Surprisingly, Suarez’s near tragedy with his pit crew on Sunday wasn’t the first of the weekend at Richmond. That happened the night before in the Truck Series race.
Ty Majeski started from the pole and dominated the first stage, leading all laps until the stage break. During that pit stop, disaster struck when the No. 66 crew came over the wall, but jackman Paul Steele landed awkwardly, his left knee buckling, resulting in him falling onto the ground directly in front of the fast-approaching truck.
Fortunately, unlike Suarez, Majeski was almost close to stopping inside of his box, and the front of the truck delivered a glancing blow to his jackman, who was uninjured and completed the stop.
Both incidents this weekend at Richmond showed, as Suarez suggested in his tweet, that pit crew members are indeed athletes. And, like the drivers, they’re absolutely fearless.