By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
NASCAR announced Tuesday drastic changes on its pit procedures during both Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series standalone races (seven total).
This immediate effect impacts tracks such as Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (May 30), Iowa Speedway (July 13 and August 1) and Road America (August 8) for Xfinity. As for Trucks, it’ll be Iowa (June 12), World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (August 21) and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (September 6), the latter of the two venues are hosts to the first two Round of 8 playoff races.
Eric Peterson, Xfinity Series Technical Manager, said during the teleconference this change is to emphasis on-track action and help the teams increase its efficiency as he felt that eliminating the burden of doing live stops at standalone races will help them out.
“We believe this procedure will increase competition on track and set the eyes on different strategy plays to bring interesting storylines for the fans,” Peterson said. “It’ll also bring efficiencies to teams that’ll help strengthen the garage now and into the future.”
Peterson added in order for this concept to be a success, the fans input and racing quality will be key.
“Our primary drive to that is fan interest, engagement and feedback we get from the fans along with how the races play out,” Peterson said. “Utilizing the metrics we have here for passing and that sort of thing, hopefully to mix the field up.”
During those affected races, the team rosters won’t have designated crew members but can have eight people – four to service the car, one fueler and driver assist. To determine who’ll be in those roles, it’ll boil down to a drawing format and only those personnel can make pit stops.
Once the roster is determined, pit stops must be completed within a designated time period (caution only) where on the ovals, they can add fuel and change two tires per stop. Road courses give you the option of either adding fuel or change four tires per stop.
In order to do multiple stops, teams will be given that option that’ll be known as a full pit cycle. During a stage break or considered to be a lengthy yellow (non-stage), drivers will have two opportunities to pit. However, if it’s a quickie yellow, only one shot at a pit stop.
Ryan Pemberton, Director of Competition for JR Motorsports, said it’s great to be a part of something that’ll shape the sport going forward and sees the potential of teams shining bright due to the strategical options given to them.
“It really emphasizes the strategy and allowing different scenarios to play out that haven’t necessarily been playing out like it has been the last few years,” Pemberton said. “We got a lot of crew chiefs, not only here at JR Motorsports but in the industry, so I’m excited.
“It’s a good time for them to be able to use their strategy, their wit, being able to mix up the field, and play a little bit different than it has been played before.”
So a driver and team violate those rules, there are two ways penalties they’ll hope not to violate.
If they exceed the time limit on pit road (to be set at a later time) or pitting other than the designated lap, they’ll start at the tail end of the field. As for a driver involved in an incident, they’re allowed to change four tires at once in order to avoid further damaging their vehicle.
The harshest penalty will be two laps if four tires and fuel occurred during any pit stops and changing tires under green (unless approved by NASCAR when the car is damaged). Specifically on Truck Series oval races, changing four tires on any pit stop.
Once the field is ready to resume the action, the restart procedure are as follows:
Vehicles that didn’t pit under caution have the right-of-way of restarting up front. Those who pitted just once start behind them, followed by those who pitted twice. Then free pass, wave around vehicles and those penalized for violating the pit procedures wrap up the restarting lineup.
This strict format of what can you do under caution was done by design according to Peterson.
He mentioned that by having these rules, it’ll create different tire strategies and see how it’ll impact the race.
It’s definitely the case to those who pitted twice because they’ll face the challenge of working their way up back to the front by restarting further than those who pitted just once or none at all under caution.
“If we had it where they can do whatever they want on each pit stop, then that will not allow us the opportunity to get different restart scenarios,” Peterson explained. “Based on what you elected to do between two and four tires on ovals or four tires and fuel on the road courses. That decision was purely based off on setting eyes on the teams to make different strategy plays.”
David Pepper, General Manager of ThorSport Racing, mentioned that several teams gave their input as the sport has worked hard on making this procedure a reality, all to assure a higher quality of competition which he feels the teams can now further contribute.
“I think we come up with a really great scenario for those handful of races to test out and put it back to our crew chief and drivers – to make these strategic decisions that sometimes were taken out of the races over the last few years,” Pepper said.
“We got some great crew chiefs here and great driver lineup. There are some great guys in the Truck Series sitting on these pit boxes that now we’re going to allow them to use their strategy and wit, and go to work, and create scenarios to make the racing even better.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to put out a product that is the very best race that we can put on for the fans each week in both series. I think this is going to help us do that.”
With only seven races (four in Xfinity and three in Trucks), Peterson clarified that the other races will use the normal procedures and explained why the standalone Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 5) isn’t included on the procedural changes.
“We don’t feel like there’s going to be that confusing of a difference. It’s only at seven events total out of 56 total races,” Peterson said. “We’re trying to use those seven events as an avenue to test and try this out and bring it in at a deliberate approach.
“With the size of Texas (1.5-mile oval), it sets a problem with a fuel mileage standpoint. Since we’re using this solely as a test item and a way to get a look at it, we didn’t feel like we needed to complicate the situation by adding additional rules and making additional areas of complications. We feel like we can get what we need at the other events without including Texas.”
Stage racing will still stay intact with three, but the length of the stage laps will be changed to accommodate the procedure and prevent issues such as a fuel economy run towards the finish.
Due to those procedures, potential feelgood stories can occur. It could give Truck Series underdog Jordan Anderson, an opportunity to prove his team’s potential without traditional pit stops purely dictating the outcome of his results.
Pepper said it’ll create a level playing field, hoping it can lead to tremendous feelgood stories and more excitement for drivers, teams and fans at the track or watching at home.
“By traveling less folks across the country will save a little bit of money, but that wasn’t the primary goal of this,” Pepper said. “The goal is to allow guys like Jordan’s team like that to compete at a high level and have an opportunity to showcase their crew chief, driver and team’s talent to build a fast truck.
“There’s a lot of really good race car drivers that are out there are going to have an opportunity to go run in the top-five and top-10, and it’s going to create stories and names, making the competition better.”
That in mind, Pepper knows that his team, who won the regular season title with Grant Enfinger and series championship with Matt Crafton, will have to be as prepared for those races.
On the Xfinity side of things, Pemberton understands that “risk and reward” will definitely build an exciting situation because teams will change how they’ll go about pit stops.
“If you’re running 10th at any place and a caution comes out, and you want tires. If you take two, you may only come out fifth or sixth at best, maybe not even far up. That may not be a good reward for that risk,” Pemberton said. “But if you line up first on two tires, it’s a different return on your dollar. That’s going to make that call popular and automatically mixes things up a little bit.
“I think the risk and reward there is where the excitement is and we’ll see people lifting the field. That’s a time when people can re-position themselves in the field at a little bit of a deficit, but they’re out front. Just like any other place, out front and clean air. Cars are always seem faster, so that may give many people an opportunity to take advantage of something that they wouldn’t have a chance to do.”
The race with the new procedure will commence on May 30 at Mid-Ohio for Xfinity and on June 12 at Iowa for Trucks. Austin Cindric and Brett Moffitt are the defending winners of those respective races.