While focus is on pit crews, drivers play significant role in what happens on pit road


CONCORD, N.C. – One of the secrets about pit road, Brad Keselowski says, is quite simple.

“There is not a pit road speed limit,’’ the former champion says.

Actually, NASCAR announces a pit road speed limit before each race – it is 45 mph this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway – but Keselowski notes that drivers are more focused on where the timing lines are so they can get through each segment as quickly as possible.

“I can go 105 in one of those zones and if I jam on the brakes and stop, I’m not speeding,’’ he said.

It’s why cars blast past one another on pit road but aren’t called for speeding. As long as they travel through the segment in the allowable time, how they get there does not matter. Of course, sometimes they exceed the limits and are penalized.

With the challenges of passing on the track, what happens on pit road grows more critical. Drivers and teams have more resources to see where they compare. While teams seek to shave a tenth of a second off pit stops, what a driver does can cut half a second or more off by being better entering pit road and maximizing their speed through each segment without breaking the rule.

Each week, teams receive a report that shows how much time each driver spends on pit road and how quick they were though each timing segment. Drivers also can view a video program that overlays their car with another, allowing them to see the difference in how they enter pit road and go down it compared to other racers. That helps drivers see where they need to improve. That can be significant.

“You can pass one car and that can be the difference, or position yourself in a better line or get in that clean air,’’ Joey Logano said of the result of that extra attention to detail with pit stops. “That’s what it’s all about, so we study that a lot and make sure we understand where the timing lines are and what we’re doing before the race starts.”

While each driver prepares differently, they all know how important their role is.

“Everyone knows when (Matt Kenseth) was at Roush they had the Killer Bs,’’ Jamie McMurray said about Kenseth’s highly regarded pit crew. “I think what most of us came to realize, he was the best at getting to pit road on green flag pit stops. He was always on the edge of out of control because he did such a good job getting to pit road.’’

McMurray provided a hint at how a driver prepares each week for pit road in what he did before last week’s Sprint All-Star Race, which featured a pit stop as part of the qualifying procedure.

He created an excel sheet of every competitor’s pit times from that event the year before. He watched videos of drivers going through pit road and timed it.

McMurray said he was faster in practice doing that than others had been the year before and felt he could be in a good position to win the pole. When it came time to qualify, the combination of new tires, additional tape on the grille and cooler temperatures conspired against him.

“I drove to the point where I could get barely stopped in my stall, but I was way off because the conditions were completely different,’’ said McMurray, who qualified 14th for the All-Star race.

That’s just how difficult it is for these drivers because one element can alter the pit stop.

Kyle Busch faced that challenge last week for the first time since he was injured in February at Daytona.

He was called for speeding on pit road.

“I was just trying to come in and come around Kevin (Harvick) and get into my box as quick as I could and it was just a little too quick on entry,’’ Busch said. “I have to get used to the ability of maintaining pit road speed to the tach and to the lights and everything that we use for how I do it.’’

He wasn’t the only caught speeding last week. Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Keselowski were also caught speeding. Keselowski’s penalty came on the stop before the final segment, as he raced Hamlin out to be the leader. It cost him a chance for the win and $1 million.

Entering the season’s longest race – and the chance for more pit stops than any other race – what happens on pit road could determine who wins the Coca-Cola 600.


NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.