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In motorsports, a pit stop is where a racing vehicle stops in the pits during a race for refuelling, new tyres, repairs, mechanical adjustments, a driver change, as a penalty, or any combination of the above. Not all of these are allowed in all forms of racing. While the term is still used in motorsports, it also gained popularity with driving in general when embarking on long road trips, suggesting a brief break from driving, as well as a refuelling stop. These "pit stops" grant the travelers a bathroom break, a breakfast/lunch/dinner break, or a chance to take in the local scenery.
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 two to twenty mechanics (also called a "pit crew"), depending on the series regulations, while the driver often waits in the vehicle (except where a driver change is involved or in Motorbike racing).
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 a number of pit stalls (typically 30-50) and a pit wall that 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 parts of the world (used in Formula One) typically have the individual garages open directly onto the pit lane through the team's assigned pit box. 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.
Where it is permitted, refuelling is often an important purpose of a pit stop. Carrying fuel slows down a vehicle and there is often a limit on the size of the fuel tank, so many races require multiple stops for fuel to complete the race distance in the minimum time. Changing tyres is also common to permit the use of softer tyres that wear faster but provide more grip, to use tyres suitable for wet conditions, or to use a range of tyres designated by the rules. Teams will aim for each of their vehicles to pit following a planned schedule, with the number of stops determined by many factors such as fuel capacity, tyre lifespan, and the trade-off between time lost in the pits versus time gained on the track due to 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 a competitor where overtaking is difficult or risky. An unscheduled or extended stop, such as for a repair, can be very costly for a driver's chance of success, because while they are stopped for service, competitors remaining on the track are gaining time on them. For this reason, the pit crew often undergo intensive training to perform operations such as tyre changes as quickly as possible leading to pit stops, for example in Formula 1, where the car is only stationary for a few seconds for a regular pit stop.
In most series the order of the teams' pit boxes is assigned by points standings, race results, or previous qualifying results before the start of the race. In NASCAR and in INDYCAR's Indianapolis 500, typically pit assignments are made after qualifying, with the fastest qualifiers choosing their pit stall first.