Just three races into the season, the Camping World Truck Series is already on an extended break. The series will return to action on March 28th at Martinsville Speedway. So now is a good time to look at the rule changes NASCAR implemented during the offseason.
In an effort to help the teams save a large amount of money each week as they travel, NASCAR implemented rule changes that allow a team only a limited number of crew members traveling to the races. In addition, only five crew members are allowed over the wall at any given time on a pit stop, and teams are not able to take tires and fuel during the same stop.
When I read about the new pit-road rules for the first time, I was very resistant to them, as most people are when someone tries to change anything that is working fine in the first place. My first thought was why NASCAR would want to mess with anything that works, but then I thought it was a bad idea that would only cause more problems on pit road, especially for young rookie drivers who aren’t yet well practiced in making a pit stop.
Not only are there more opportunities for driver error to affect the outcome of the race, but NASCAR themselves can also have an impact on how a race plays out. This was true during the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Just 32 laps into the running of the NextEra Energy Resources 250, the second caution flew for debris, and the field headed down pit road to make their first pit stops of the night. Kyle Busch took fuel first, but after they left pit road, NASCAR informed the team they had been assessed a penalty for speeding down pit road.
When Busch brought the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota down pit road, the team took their time changing tires and ensuring the truck had the best setup for the driver since they would be restarting at the tail end of the longest line according to NASCAR’s rules. But before the green flag flew again, NASCAR waived off the penalty, and Busch restarted deep in the field.
In the end, NASCAR’s mistake didn’t hurt Busch – he was able to run to the front and finish second – but that’s not the point. The point is if NASCAR is going to have this new rule, they need to be sure of their penalties before telling the team, and that’s true not only now but always.
Aside from NASCAR’s error in penalizing the No. 51 team, the only other real problem seen during the season opener at Daytona International Speedway was when Ron Hornaday Jr. slid through his pits while trying to stop for fuel with his No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet, but that could have happened regardless of what the pit road rules were.
Already we’ve seen pit strategy come into play when it comes to the final laps of the race. In the season opener at Daytona, JR Fitzpatrick pitted for fuel only and restarted in front of the field. Unfortunately for him, his worn tires couldn’t hold him in the front spot long enough to make it to the checkered flag, but he did score a career best finish of fourth.
As I’ve watched the last three races, though my views on it have changed slightly. I have enjoyed seeing pit road play a more important role in where a driver finishes the race. It gives more of a sense that it’s less of an independent effort on the driver’s part and more of a team effort. Like most sports, if the team works well together, then they have better results, and in the same respect, if the team struggles, they all band together to ensure the troubles don’t happen again. As the teams themselves learn to play the new pit-road rules in their favor, I suspect it’ll make the racing more exciting.
Did You Know?
- Hermie Sadler will be returning to the CWTS at Martinsville Speedway? Sadler will pilot the No. 48 Chevrolet owned by Andy Hillenburg. Acredale Vending will be on board as an associate sponsor, but a primary sponsorship has not yet been nailed down.
- The Third Annual “Toyota Skinner Round-Up” is under way? Hosted by Mike Skinner, celebrities including Skinner’s boss Randy Moss, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and drivers AJ Allmendinger, Boris Said, Rick Crawford, Hornaday and Steve Park are expected to attend. In the last two years, more than $250,000 has been raised for area charities.
- Nielsen ratings continue to grow for the CWTS broadcasts? The broadcast from Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend received a rating of 1.29 (approximately 943,000 households), a 23% increase over the numbers for 2008.