Observe how the art of the Pit Stop has evolved since 1950

In motorsports, a pit stop is where a racing vehicle stops in the pits during a race for refueling, new tires, repairs, mechanical adjustments, a driver change, or any combination of the above. Not all are allowed in all formulae.

The pits usually comprise a pit lane which runs parallel to the start/finish straight and is connected at each end to the main track, and a row of garages (usually one per team) outside which the work is done. Pit stop work is carried out by anywhere from five to twenty mechanics (also called a pit crew), depending on the series regulations, while the driver waits in the vehicle (except where a driver change is involved).

Depending on the circuit, the garage may be located on pit lane or in a separate area. Most North American circuits feature a pit lane with number of pit stalls (typically 30-50) and a pit wall which separates the pit lane from the infield, with the garages (if used) on a separate road in the infield. In races where there are different series racing together, each series has its own separate garage or are parked in their own area. Circuits in other areas (used in F1) typically have the individual garage stalls open directly onto the pit lane through the team’s assigned pit stall. In American English, it is common to drop the definite article and just refer to “pit road”, whereas in British English one would always refer to “the pit lane”. A further difference is that in British English, the term “pit box” is universally used, whereas in American English one would say “pit stall”. It is important to note that in NASCAR, a pit box is a tool (see below), though there is a definitive term used for them.

For all but the shortest races, refueling is the primary purpose of a pit stop. Race engines generate high power but also burn fuel at an extreme rate, and most series have a limit on the size of the car’s fuel tank, so many races will require multiple stops for fuel based on the distance of the race alone. However, many other adjustments can be performed during a pit stop, and some can even be performed without taking any more time than refueling. By making pit stops, cars can carry less fuel, and therefore be lighter and faster. During refueling, the tires can be changed as well, which permits the use of softer tires that wear faster but provide more grip. Teams usually plan for each of their cars to pit following a planned schedule, with the number of stops determined by the fuel capacity of the car, tire lifespan, and tradeoff of time lost in the pits versus how much time may be gained on the race track through the benefits of pit stops. Choosing the optimum pit strategy of how many stops to make and when to make them is crucial in having a successful race. It is also important for teams to take competitors’ strategies into account when planning pit stops, to avoid being “held up” behind other cars. An unscheduled or extended stop, such as for a repair, can be very costly for a driver’s chance of success, because while the car is stopped for service, cars remaining on the track can rapidly gain distance on the stopped car.