Gas Monkey Garage legend, Dewaine Phipps, comes by the Garage on fairly regular bases and when he does – he usually has someone interesting with him. A few weeks back, during NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Phipps brought Chuck Efaw and his team from Xcalibur Pit School for a tour around Gas Monkey Garage as he and his guys are big fans.
On big race weekends, when both Sprint Cup and Xfinity series are racing, teams are in need of pit crews. Either a crew member is injured on some of the bigger teams and they need a replacement or teams primarily use part time pit crews to fill their needs. Which is the case for many Xfinity and ARCA teams. When this happens and there’s need, they’re more than likely calling Chuck at Xcalibur Pit School to provide experienced crew members to get the job done – and fast.
Here’s a Q&A with Chuck after spending a Saturday with him at Texas Motor Speedway.
- You’re the Owner/General Manager of Xcalibur Pit School – what kind of services does your company provide?
My father in-law, Jeff Rudd, and I own and manage Xcalibur Pit School. We offer coaching and teaching services for individuals that want to get into racing as a pit crew member. I teach a 3-day class that covers all the basics of pit stops, rules, regulations, expectations, and everything else that goes along with pitting a race car. After the 3rd day, we begin practicing real pit stops two days a week with experienced coaches that are or have been on pit road teams for several years.
- How did you come to start your company and how did you know there was a need for these kinds of services?
There have been other companies who’ve tried to offer this type of service but not to the level we’re able to. We started Xcalibur Pit School in August of 2013 and we’ve grown each year since. We have all the same tools and equipment used in ARCA and NASCAR for pit road pit stops. We also have an indoor pit stop facility for rainy or cold winter days.
- Have any of your students gone onto some of the bigger teams in NASCAR or ARCA?
Yes, we have some of our students working in the Sprint Cup, Xfinity Series and ARCA. There were two that were hired at Stewart Haas Racing, one at BK Racing, one at Richard Childress Racing, and two at Penske Racing. Not bad for an operation that’s only been open for three years.
- In addition to being Co-Owner/General Manager of Xcalibur Pit School, you’re also a rear tire changer yourself – who are some of the teams you were a part of?
I’ve been working as a tire changer for several years. Some of the teams that I’ve worked for over the years include Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Red Bull Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Penske Racing.
- Wow, those are some really big teams. What are some of your responsibilities you have before a race for Xcalibur and the respective team you’re working with for that particular race weekend?
First, it’s very important to be on time and to show up looking & acting professional. Everyone needs to do their part in setting up the pit-box, cleaning wheels, gluing lug nuts on wheels, prepping gas cans and anything else that’s needed to get ready to race.
- What’s the difference between a rear tire changer and a front tire changer? If you’re a good rear tire changer, does that mean you’d be a good front tire changer? Or is each position specialized in its own particular way?
A rear tire changer has to wait for the race car to come into the pit stall before they can approach the right side of the car to begin their sequence. Conversely, the front changer can jump off the wall as the race car enters the pit stall and has a slight advantage on the rear changer by beginning their sequence sooner.
Each position is specialized with its own job duties. Some changers can learn and be good at both positions, but not all changers can or may want to learn both spots. You can be one or the other and it’ll be fine.
- Have you ever been hit by a car either coming in or out of a pit stall?
If you do this job long enough, you’ll have close calls on pit road but that’s also part of the rush, right? I’ve been brushed by a car and even hit. One year I got hit by a race car as I was transitioning from right side to the left side of the car. As I got up from the right side and took a couple steps, the race car in the stall behind us behind us was leaving and I got hit by his door side and then the left rear tire ran over my foot. It threw me up in the air and when I landed on my back which resulted in breaking my L3, L4, & L5 vertebrae. It took a solid 3 months to recover before getting back to changing tires again.
- When you finally recovered – were you a little tentative or did your instincts click back in?
I was a little tentative regarding the healing process, not necessary the job at hand. But I, of course, have a different perspective and heightened awareness when there’s a race car pitting behind us and you know it will be leaving as you are getting up from the right side. You just have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. But my instincts came right back when I got back out there – as good as before the injury.
- What are some of the things you teach these aspiring pit crew members when they’re with you?
We teach professionalism, respect, good attitudes, race day responsibilities, and how to, of course, pit race cars in the ARCA & NASCAR series.
- Are there any particular traits in these folks that indicate whether or not they’d have success at the highest levels of racing?
Yes, there are many traits that contribute to success in our sport. Dedication and the willingness to work hard at your position to get better day after day, season after season. Students/crew members have to be willing to travel across country to as many races as possible to get as much track experience as possible. Students/crew members also need to have good attitudes and be willing to listen and learn from experienced coaches to ultimately make them better.
- Do you have any advice for young men and women who have interest in becoming members of a Pit Crew?
Well I always say “Follow your Dreams and Believe”. If this is something that you have always wanted to do – then why not give it a try. It’s a lot of fun and you can make a good living following your dreams in racing.
If any of our Gas Monkey Garage fans have aspirations to becoming at pit crew member in ARCA or NASCAR, please visit Xcalibur’s website and tell Chuck we sent you.