As the Camping World Truck Series rolls into Memphis Motorsports Park for another weekend of great racing, I find myself looking back at the major rule change for the series this season. Prior to the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR announced major pit road rule changes that would affect every team and their race strategies.
In an effort to help teams save money, NASCAR changed the number of crew members allowed over the wall during a pit stop. Only five crew members are allowed over the wall, and teams are not permitted to get fuel and tires on the same stop. In addition, the crew chief must choose only 12 active crew members to travel with the team.
As the season has gone on, it appears the teams are getting more and more used to planning their stops and using varying strategies to gain an edge on their competition. But I’m still not convinced the rule change was the right call for the series.
I understand the overall concept in trying to help teams save money, but there have been a couple races recently that left strong trucks trapped one lap or more down simply because the caution flew before green-flag pit stops cycled through.
Just last weekend, the Copart 200 featured a round of green-flag pit stops that resulted in Mike Skinner, who had likely the only truck able to compete with winner Ron Hornaday Jr., being stuck two laps down. When the first round of green-flag pit stops started, Skinner and crew chief Jeff Hensley made two stops – one for tires and one for fuel. But before the whole field completed their stops, Aric Almirola spun in a single truck incident to bring out the caution.
Just like that, one of the two drivers with the most competitive trucks on the track for the weekend found himself two laps down and out of contention for the remainder of the race. Despite being two laps down, Skinner was able to gain on and pass the No. 33 Copart Chevrolet of Hornaday Jr.
I realize that there will be trucks that end up trapped off the lead lap regardless of whether the drivers make one stop or two. But the harder part is when a fast truck gets trapped two laps down as a result of needing both tires and fuel.
I wonder if NASCAR even talked with the teams to find out their thoughts on the rule change before they implemented it. And I also have to wonder if the money savings on race weekends have actually converted into savings for the teams or if the money being saved each weekend is going into extra training for the team during the week.
I don’t expect NASCAR to make any changes to the pit road rules this season unless they choose to implement the double-file restarts that have been in place for the Sprint Cup Series for a few weeks. I’m not holding my breath for that one though. After the initial hinting at double file restarts for the Truck Series a couple weeks ago, there has been no more mention of it.
I do hope NASCAR revisits the changes at the end of the season and realizes adding a second pit stop isn’t necessarily in the best interest of the teams out on the track. I don’t have the perfect solution, but I’m a firm believer of the phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and NASCAR would do well to keep that in mind when considering any changes for the series in the future.
Did You Know?
- Hornaday Jr.’s Nationwide Series spotter will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at Irwindale Speedway next weekend? Rick Carelli ran the inaugural Truck Series race at MMP and was involved in an accident that nearly took his life.
- Only two drivers have competed in all 11 Truck Series races at MMP? Rick Crawford and Terry Cook have been in every field since the series started visiting the track in 1998, but neither driver has scored a win at the 0.750-mile track.
- Brian Ickler will pilot the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota Tundra this weekend?
- Jason Young will make his series debut this weekend with SS Green Light Racing Saturday afternoon? Young will pilot the No. 07 Chevrolet that Chad McCumbee has driven all season.
“When you go out on to the track, it’s short-track racing at its best. The bottom line is to pick up the Elvis trophy at the end of the weekend.” – Rick Crawford
“Memphis is a tough track. The extreme heat will be a challenge for the drivers and pit crews alike. Staying hydrated and focused will be vital.” – Mike Beam, crew chief for Colin Braun
“Memphis tends to be very heat sensitive, and it is typically very hot there. You never know what kind of track you are going to get. We anticipate a slick race surface, but if you get an overcast day your strategy might change.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.
“To be honest with you I will jump online and go to Google Earth to check out an aerial view of the facility. I’m a very visual person so that kind of helps me get a layout in my head. I will also watch video from last year’s race. Mainly, I try to do all the research I can.” – Ricky Carmichael on racing at Memphis Motorsports Park for the first time