- Between dodging race cars and handling extremely flammable fluids, pit crew jobs involve some serious risks.
- David “Rotor” Lehman reveals why he loves being part of the pit crew.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
David “Rotor” Lehman: Even after being nailed by the car, I’m not gonna stop. If I get hurt enough, maybe that’ll deter me from being so enthusiastic about it, but until that day comes, it’s still the coolest thing I could possibly think of going and doing on a Sunday.
It’s fun, and it’s fun to be a part of the race ’cause if we screw it up, we screw up where the car finishes essentially. So it makes it that much more fun ’cause you’re actually part of it. It’s not just the driver at that point. The crew has a say-so in what’s going on.
What does it take to be that guy? Bottom line, it takes dedication, concentration, obviously the will to put yourself in that kind of harm’s environment and being able to handle, let’s call it, high-pressure environments. That’s a good way to describe that.
I wear a heart monitor, and you’re totally calm and cool as a cucumber and then when you know you’re 10 seconds out, your heart rate increases. It’s crazy. And you get done and you’re pretty high for, you know, 40 seconds, then you come back down to reality, like okay, that was it. Now we wait around for the next one, ha.
Everybody’s kind of at risk, for sure. The fueler especially is at risk ’cause he’s got a big giant fuel hose in his hand that’s pumping a lot of gallons per second and if that malfunctions and breaks, he’s gonna be doused in a very flammable liquid and has the potential to go up in flames. It’s happened before. Inside front, me, I’m in a prime position to be hit by the car, for sure because I’ve got a wall behind me and nowhere to go, essentially. So if the driver screws up coming into the box, normally, I can get pummeled pretty well. No one’s safe.
It was our first stop of the race. Kyle was a rookie this year. He just made a small mistake and locked up and basically, once the car was 10, 12 feet away from me, like, I knew it was coming. And in the video, you can see me kind of hesitate a little bit, but the car made contact. I instantly stood up, I didn’t feel anything was wrong, and we finished the pit stop and that was it. Once I got over the wall, then reality kind of set in, like, wow, you know, I just got hit by the car. Medical came over and made sure I was okay. Then team management made sure I was all right. Indy Car made sure I was okay. I felt fine, I stayed in it. I didn’t wanna stop, it’s the Indy 500.
I think you just have to, you have to keep it in the back of your head. You know, I know there’s people out there that have done this for years that have never been hurt and that’s a good thing. And then I’ve worked with people who have been severely hurt to the point where three years later, they’re still doing rehab and reconstructive surgeries and pins and screws and they’re not going over the wall anymore, they don’t want to.
If we do three pit stops in a race, and the race is two and a half hours long, that that 30 seconds of work that we did throughout the race is worth every ounce of stress and frustration and being tired and long hours and this and that. That 30 seconds is totally worth everything.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.