The Frontstretch: It's Time for NASCAR's Pit Road Rules to Change by Garrett Horton -- Monday August 29, 2011

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It's Time for NASCAR's Pit Road Rules to Change

Going Green · Garrett Horton · Monday August 29, 2011

 

While pit strategy didn’t dictate the outcome of Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol – as has been the case lately – being the first off pit road was still crucial. It is ultimately what led to Brad Keselowski picking up his third win of the year, passing Jeff Gordon on pit road after both made their final stop.

Maybe passing isn’t a strong enough word. How about speeding?

Brad Keselowski won the Bristol night race under green, but got the track position he needed barreling down pit road.

It was a common theme on Saturday, with Keselowski and Matt Kenseth the two notable drivers that flew past their competitors on just about every stop – gaining precious track position in the process.

The biggest victim of it all, thankfully, was not any crew members or pit officials, all of whom were dangerously close to Keselowski’s drag racing tactics. Instead, it was Jeff Gordon, who led a race-high 206 laps and for the most part was only challenged by Kenseth. He fell all the way back to fifth on the race’s final pit stop and was only able to get back up to third by the time the checkered flag flew.

It was a frustrating way to lose for the five-time BMS winner, and he expressed that aggravation after the race.

“When a guy can run 60 miles an hour down pit road and the pit road speed is, what, 35, then something is wrong with the system,” he said before elaborating further.

“…When you have one [pit stall] and you see the other guys have one, it’s a joke that somebody can leave pit road and run that fast down pit road and then slam on the brakes. Kenseth drove by four cars and so did the [No.] 2 car when he left his pit stall. I just don’t understand it.”

A lot of fans have accused Keselowski and Kenseth of cheating because they were able to go way past the speed limit and get away with it. However, as Gordon pointed out, they aren’t to blame. It is simply a loophole in NASCAR’s pit road system that some were able to take advantage of.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with how pit speed is determined, there are timing lines on pit road at which a driver must maintain a certain average speed between each. For Bristol, the pit speed is 35 miles per hour. The reason Keselowski and Kenseth were not penalized was because they were sitting in between these lines while they were getting a pit stop. As that takes some time, their average speed between those segment lines is going to be quite low… no matter how fast they go after the stop. With the location their pit stalls were in, once the jack dropped, they could take off and go as fast as they wanted, for a maximum about of distance until they reached the next timing segment.

Why did it seem so much more common at Bristol than anywhere else we go to? Gordon explains that it’s worse at some tracks more than others.

“This is the one I’d say that’s most noticeable,” he said. “But Martinsville — there’s a couple of them. Everywhere we go, we look at timelines and see where there’s big gaps in the timelines and try to take advantage of them. And sometimes, it’s more risky than others because you might be pitting in between two other cars, so you’ll pick a spot or a pit stall right on a timeline to gain that advantage, but you might be blocked in.”

“Where here, at least the one that I had and the one that Matt had, when we were — we were wanting to be third in qualifying really, really bad because that’s where that last — that pit stall that Matt had was the cutoff. We knew that the top three would get the best three pit stalls, so we got the next best one, and it had advantages like that. But I think Matt’s seemed to have a little bit more of an advantage. So this is probably the worst one.”

Gordon also touched on how Michigan recently changed their timing lines so no one driver would have such an advantage, something Bristol will also need to do.

“I think the timelines are a big improvement over what we used to have,” he continued. “But there are certain tracks — you look at Michigan last week, they redid pit road, and they completely redid their pit road lines, and there was no stall that had a big advantage at that track because they segmented them in equal segments all the way down pit road. And that’s what they’re going to need to do here eventually, as well.”

The biggest problem going forward isn’t so much the outcome of a race being affected as it is safety. If a driver is able to go almost double the speed limit without getting penalized, it increases the danger for crew members and officials in the line of duty. There were several close calls Saturday where it looked like an official might get hit by a speeding vehicle. In other words, the current system still presents unnecessary danger to people on pit road.

It is time for NASCAR to revise the pit road speeding rules and make it safer and easier for everyone to comprehend. While it would be nice to see radar guns being used, just the way police officers do on the highways, timing lines don’t appear to be in any jeopardy of being eliminated. Whether it is a radar gun or maybe increasing the amount of timing segments, one thing is for sure – what happened at Bristol on Saturday can’t happen again. Eventually, someone on pit road will get seriously injured or killed with the way it is set up now.

Contact Garrett Horton

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SB
08/29/2011 06:25 AM
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For years, Chad Knaus has used timing lines to pick his pit stall, so he’s known about this loophole for years. I guess, now that more teams are using this to their advantage, it’s suddenly a problem?

RickP
08/29/2011 07:55 AM
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Spot on SB. Gordon and the writer had to throw in the safety word in showing a desire for a “fix” so as to not sound like crybabies.

Mik
08/29/2011 08:46 AM
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Honestly, the solution to all of this is for NASCAR to finally catch up, technology-wise, to other series, and implement pit road speed limiters in the cars. Like the ones IndyCar and F1 use. Press a button on the wheel, and the speed it limited. No more speeding…safer for officials…not more qualms about timing lines.

pepper
08/29/2011 09:09 AM
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Jeff Gordon has been taking advantage of the timing lines since they were installed. He knows and has known how they work for years. Only when he can’t use them to his advantage does he come crying for Nascar to fix them. This is so like Nascar’s official whiner. It is disgusting to see a man of his age whine like a two-year old.

Jim Allan
08/29/2011 09:22 AM
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I wanted to respond quickly and it seems others are thinking the same thing. This set up has been in use at this track for a number of years and all of a sudden its a problem because someone other than the golden horse shoe boy has taken advantage of it. Go figure.

Garrett Horton
08/29/2011 10:47 AM
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Guys

Johnson isn’t the only one to have done this, just as I’m sure there were others besides Kenseth and Keselowski taking advantage of the system on Saturday. The fact that Bristol has such a condensed pit road made it more evident that the system needs to be fixed because of yes, SAFETY.

It’s one thing to argue that too much safety can hurt the product on track, but on pit road? There can never be too much of it.

sylvia richardson
08/29/2011 02:52 PM
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fair is fair. but not on pit road. wantsomeone 2 get hurt or worse. know driver shold be able to go from 35 to 60. my lord how dangerious do we want racing to. don’t care how long this has been going on. this is crazy. hope brad and matt [this last sat night] could have been.

Gerry
08/29/2011 06:48 PM
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Nothing should be changed , NFL starts in 19 or so, rating to
?.

Tom Dalfonzo
08/29/2011 09:32 PM
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Here’s an idea. Why not lift the pit road speed limit, and for pit crew safety reasons, make the cars pit one at a time?

In addition, pit crew members are not allowed over the wall to service the car until the cars make a complete stop in their respective pit stalls?

One other things, every pit crew should have four tire changers instead of two, to ensure faster pit stops.

Big Red
08/29/2011 09:38 PM
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Why tell them ware the lines are

old farmer
08/30/2011 02:28 AM
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Hey, Tom—can you imagine 40 or so laps of caution so everyone can pit under yellow?

At Indy, with four stops, that would be 160 or so caution laps for pit stops. Add in some yellows for a wreck or two, and that leaves about 20 laps for racing.

Also, 35 mph is slower than people drive in town, with people walking everywhere.

Jeffy is whining because someone else got to take advantage of a situation other than Jimmie and him.

Leave things alone! Every change screws up something or another.

Don Mei
08/30/2011 01:50 PM
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Big red, you beat me to it! No lines, no games.

Steve
08/30/2011 03:04 PM
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I agree with others on here. Because someone else took advantage of it, now its a problem for Jeff that needs addressing. Its needed addressing for a long time.

The change I would make is that you are not allowed to pass on pit road. Period. Where you pull out of your pit stall is where you lineup when you go green. If you go ahead of someone, Nascar puts you back where you belong. No timing lines for people to take advantage of and safety for all.