Richard Childress Racing initiates safety changes for its pit crews after recent fires

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Richard Childress Racing is requiring all its over-the-wall pit crew members to wear fire-protective head socks and is looking at potential changes to both helmets and eyewear after pit fires at Richmond International Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway, the team confirmed to NASCAR Talk.

Two crew members from Brendan Gaughan’s Xfinity team were injured in a  pit fire April 24 at Richmond. Gas man Josh Wittman was hospitalized overnight before he was released. Rear tire changer Anthony O’Brien was released April 27 from a hospital. A member of Eric McClure’s pit crew, which had the stall next to Gaughan’s, was briefly hospitalized. Clifford Turner was treated for inhaling chemical sprayed on O’Brien after jumping on O’Brien to put the fire out.

A small fire broke out during one of Ryan Newman’s pit stops in last weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. No one was injured.

An RCR spokesperson emailed a statement to NASCAR Talk about the team’s plans for its pit crews.

“RCR has always preached safety with our crew members and after the Richmond pit road incident, we reviewed our internal policies and procedures to determine what further changes were warranted,’’ team spokesperson Tim Packman wrote in an email. “From that, we were able to make necessary changes to help prevent that from happening again as we had a mechanical failure on one of the gas cans at Richmond, which led to the large amount of fuel being spilled. This was not related to the No. 31 incident at Talladega.

“As of right now, we are requiring all over-the-wall crew members to wear full head socks. We are also looking at potential changes to both helmets and eyewear, but those discussions are ongoing. Some of the crew members were already using full helmets this past weekend.

“Safety of our crew members, drivers and all employees is of the highest priority for RCR.  We are currently working and will continue to work with both suppliers (e.g., Sparco, helmet makers, Mechanixwear, etc.) and NASCAR to discuss improvements for improved pit road safety.’’

NASCAR requires only the gas man wear a fire-protective head sock (along with uniform, shoes, full-face helmet, gloves, fueler apron and head sock or helmet skirt). NASCAR requires over-the-wall pit crew members to have a uniform, shoes and helmet. Gloves, a head sock or helmet skirt, underwear and socks are recommended.