NASCAR’s new pit road rules will force drivers to be more precise, patient and perceptive say those who will face the challenges from the driver’s seat.
Daytona Speedweeks, which begins Feb. 10, will solve the mystery of how teams will pit cars with five people going over the wall instead of six and using standardized pit guns instead of their own creations.
The consensus is that pit stops will be slower. It’s just a matter of how much slower.
“Between the two changes I think you will see us where last year a good pit stop was something in the 10-second range, a good pit stop this coming year will probably be in the 12-second range,’’ Brad Keselowski said.
What will be worth watching is how teams do their pit stops. Will each tire changer carry a tire? Will a jackman carry a tire? How will teams handle taking right-side tires back to pit wall?
“Until you get to Daytona and do your first live pit stop we’re all just guessing,’’ Michael McDowell told NBC Sports. “We’re running through strategies at the shop, running through different scenarios. Which way is going to be the fastest? What happens if you do two tires? What if you do no tires? Who should carry what?
“Somebody is going to do something different at Daytona and it’s going to be a little bit faster and teams are going to catch on. You’re just hoping you’re the one that … sets the pace.’’
Erik Jones isn’t too worried about what pit road will be like.
“I think a lot of people will be surprised how similar everybody is,’’ he said.
Another challenge for teams it that the fueler can only fuel the car. That person no longer can help remove a tire or make any adjustments to the car. So that leaves four crew members to be responsible for changing tires and jacking the car.
Drivers also will play a key role on how fast pit stops will be based on how well they enter their pit stall.
“Now more than ever it’s going to be important how I get into the box,’’ Austin Dillon told NBC Sports. “The front changer is going to set his tone off of where I stop because he’s carrying his own tire. If I don’t get into the box correctly and land on where he stops, it’s going to cost us time.’’
While NASCAR’s decision to remove one pit crew member over the wall per team (up to 40 people off pit road in a race compared to last year), David Ragan raises concerns of crew members having extra duties and the potential for tires to get away from them.
“You have one less person controlling those heavy Goodyear tires going around the cars, setting them down and rolling them around,’’ Ragan told NBC Sports. “We need to be careful coming in and out (a pit stall), not to hit a tire, not to hit a crewmember.’’