Pit boxes are a staple in the NASCAR world. Every team has their own version of their "war wagon", assembled each and every race weekend.
Pit boxes serve as critical places to sit for the crew chief, as well as other important race team members, including parents, spouses, and significant others. They also serve as the center of the pit crew's universe, showing replays on television monitors, displaying scoring and lap times, and sometimes even providing that welcome bit of shade during a sunny race day.
Some pit boxes are incredibly elaborate, with multiple television screens, including race broadcasts, as well as satellite feed. Many also include video cameras, VCRs, DVRs, computers and a warm up hub with lug nuts for the tire changers to practice before each pit stop.
Pit boxes also include the essential tools for the over-the-wall pit crews. They hold the jacks, wrenches, duct tape and other essentials that drivers hope won't have to be used during the race, like that dreaded big bat and sledge hammer.
Dan Timmons, owner of Nitro Manufacturing, is one of the largest producers of NASCAR's pit boxes. He admits they don't come cheap, with the Cup war wagons starting at around $55,000. Adding just a bit of technology can tack on another $25,000 to $40,000 per box, says Timmons.
At the fall race at Dover, I became fascinated by the parade of the many pit boxes. Having the great opportunity to watch them being set up before the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, I saw pit boxes of all different shapes, sizes and complexities.
Some of the pit boxes took hours to set up, with multiple satellite dishes and lots of technology. Others were much more simplistic, boasting the bare minimum of "bells and whistles".
We happened to set up our spot for the race right behind the pit box for Morgan Shepherd. In fact, his pit box is pictured in the photo that accompanies this article.
Shepherd's team was obviously not one of the most well-funded endeavors. In fact, his race team runs on faith and is appropriately named Faith Motorsports. Shepherd’s pit box actually sports the "Ten Commandments" as one of its focal features.
Rather than having seats on top of the pit box under a canopy for shade, Morgan Shepherd's wife and team owner Cindy, perched herself instead sitting cross-legged on the box, keeping lap times and other scoring information in her trusty notebook.
There were no television monitors, no computers, and most certainly no bells or whistles on their Faith Motorsports war wagon. There was only a rag-tag pit crew that serviced the car the entire race.
Although Shepherd finished two laps down, he did indeed finish the entire race, something not all that common for this race team. It also fascinated me to see the media, including the television reporters, throughout the race constantly stopping by, asking Cindy questions and for race information.
Morgan Shepherd's pit box was by far the smallest and least technologically savvy on pit road. In spite of that, his team showed such determination and grit the entire race. They truly did put their faith into action in spite of their teeniest of all pit boxes and team equipment.
I had not thought about that pit box or that race until this past week when I heard that Morgan Shepherd had announced his Charitable Fund had yet again donated over $30,000 to the PARC Workshop in Stuart, Virginia. This was Shepherd's 22nd year of visiting the handicapped individuals who rely on the Workshop for employment and socialization.
Shepherd said that this visit was the highlight of his race year. He loves to go each and every year, sharing whatever money and gifts he can find, just to hear those enthusiastic youth and adults shout, "Morgan, Morgan is here".
And that's when it truly hit me. It’s not the size of any racer's pit box that matters. Instead, it is the size of his heart that truly makes a difference, especially during this holiday season.
So, thank you Morgan Shepherd. It was a treat to sit right behind your smallest of pit boxes, watching your race team in action that sunny day in Dover. The size of your heart and the commitment that your team showed that day, and the faith that you all continue to demonstrate through your charitable work each year, really is the measure of your true success.