Pit road speeding penalties on the rise in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series


As the race for track position intensifies, drivers push the limits on pit road, contributing to an increase in speeding penalties that raises questions about what should be done.

While NASCAR seeks different rules to enhance the racing – Sunday’s Brickyard 400 features a high-drag package to aid passing – the easiest place to gain spots remains pit road.

That reward comes with a risk. Pit road speeding penalties are up 17.1 percent compared to this point last year and up 22 percent from two seasons ago. Six drivers, including former champions Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, were penalized for speeding in last weekend’s Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Any little bit you can gain on pit road is such a big deal,’’ Martin Truex Jr. said.

With caution laps up 5.7 percent from last year and 11.4 percent from two years ago, drivers have additional chances to stop for service. Pit road also can be crowded throughout a race with a record 91.2 percent of cars running at the finish – nearly 10 percent higher than two years ago. More cars on pit road means more positions to be gained, more risks to take and more mistakes that can be made.

The result is that nine of the season’s first 19 Sprint Cup races have had at least five pit road speeding penalties issued with 12 such infractions called at Las Vegas and 11 at Bristol.

“We’re all on our pit crews to have faster pit stops, but at the same time, we need to have good rolling times down pit road,’’ said Keith Rodden, crew chief for Kasey Kahne. “It’s kind of the monster that we’ve created.’’

With that increase in pit road speeding, what, if anything, needs to be done — or can be done?

Should NASCAR eliminate the 4.99 mph allowance above the pit road speed limit given to teams before a penalty is called?

Should the timing lines be removed to prevent cars from speeding between those lines and then braking to get under the speed limit?

Should other changes be made?


When NASCAR states the pit road speed limit, it isn’t really that number. Teams are allowed to exceed the limit by 4.99 mph before they are punished. The speed limit for last year’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was 55 mph, meaning teams weren’t penalized until they reached 60 mph.

The cars do not have speedometers but use a tachometer and light system on the dashboard to alert drivers when they’re nearing the speed limit. As teams become more precise in setting their light system, is it really necessary to have the allowance?

“I’ve never understood why they have a posted speed limit of 40 and then give you 5 mph,’’ Brad Keselowski said. “It’s like saying out of bounds is here but it’s really here. Where is it? It’s really the 5 mph you add to it. I’ve never really followed that kind of logic.’’

Chad Little, NASCAR’s managing director of technical inspection and officiating, notes that the buffer on pit road is similar to what NASCAR does in inspection of vehicles, allowing a tolerance in measurements.

“It’s consistent with a lot of our rules,’’ Little said. “Here’s the rule, and here’s the buffer or allowance that we’ll give you guys.’’


Jeff Gordon, who saw chances to win at Martinsville Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway impacted by speeding penalties earlier this season, wants the timing lines on pit road eliminated.

NASCAR determines pit road speeding by measuring the time it takes to go a certain distance. The timing lines divide pit road into segments to limit how fast drivers can go.

Yet, teams exploit that. Drivers briefly accelerate in a segment and brake before crossing the next timing line to stay within the pit road speed limit for that zone. If a driver stays under the time allowed to pass through each segment, they’re not speeding – even if they did go above the limit momentarily.

Teams often pick pit stalls intersected by a timing line. That allows the driver to fire out of the pit stall since they’ve already started their time in that zone while the car stopped for service.

“We’ve got to get rid of these speed lines,’’ Gordon said. “It doesn’t make any sense. The speed limit is the speed limit. You should never be able to break the speed limit. You should carry the speed limit all the way down pit road.

“What we do is find pit stalls to try to get around that. So we’re ramping up and slowing down and that’s what got us in Martinsville. We were just too aggressive with it.”

Little says that NASCAR feels the system is fair for all competitors, noting it’s up to teams on how aggressive they want to be.

Keselowski won the 2011 Bristol night race by employing that tactic better than others, leading Gordon to raise questions about that then. NASCAR respond by adding more timing lines at Bristol to limit how much a driver could exceed the speed limit before entering the next segment.

Should additional timing lines be added to pit road if NASCAR is going to keep the system?

“Unless you made it as short as the length of a vehicle, there’s still going to be the opportunity to recover from any speeding mistakes in the zone,’’ Little said. “It’s just how you want to slice it. We feel that the system right now is manageable for us, it’s accurate and fair to the teams.’’


Pit road speed varies because of the uniqueness of each track. Little says series officials consider the track’s size, the layout of its pit road and how wide it is to determine the speed limit for that event.

Martinsville Speedway, which has a tight pit road that begins in Turn 3 and goes to Turn 2 has a 30 mph pit road limit (not including the 4.99 mph allowance).

Charlotte Motor Speedway’s speed limit was 45 mph this year. Speed limits at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway – where pit road is wide – is 55 mph.

With more cars pitting and an increase in speeding penalties, it can raise a safety concern. A benefit NASCAR noted with going to the camera system to monitor pit stops this season was that it kept officials from going over the pit wall – taking them out of a potentially dangerous situation.

With cars entering and exiting their stalls, traffic nearby and pit crew members servicing cars, it can create a chaotic scene for a driver.

Trevor Bayne noted a race last month at Michigan International Speedway when he was pitted beside Casey Mears and ran near him on the track. It added another challenge to the pit stop as they stopped together.

“I’m pulling into my box as his guys are jumping over the wall,’’ Bayne said. “I’m dodging the front tire carrier and trying to get into my box without making them mad, but I have to do my job. That’s one of the most precise and hard jobs with people’s health on the line. It can make up a lot of time if you do it right, or you can really mess it up if you do it bad.’’


Sprint Cup points races with most pit road speeding penalties this season:

12 – Las Vegas

11 – Bristol

7 – Daytona 500

6 – Martinsville

6 – Dover

6 – New Hampshire


Sprint Cup drivers with most pit road speeding penalties in points races this season (races where penalties were committed in parenthesis):

Michael Annett – 6  (Martinsville, Bristol, Bristol, Pocono, Pocono, New Hampshire)

Paul Menard – 6  (Martinsville, Bristol, Bristol, Pocono, Pocono, New Hampshire)

Carl Edwards – 4  (Daytona 500, Las Vegas, Auto Club Speedway, Dover)

Matt Kenseth – 4  (Phoenix, Pocono, Daytona II, New Hampshire)

JJ Yeley – 4  (Daytona 500, Auto Club Speedway, Talladega, Kansas)



NASCAR fines Daniel Suarez $50,000 for pit road incident


NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 for running into the cars of Alex Bowman and teammate Ross Chastain on pit road after last weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas.

Suarez was upset after a potential top-five finish was lost in an incident in overtime.

MORE: Appeals Panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers 

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“It’s uncharacteristic of Daniel,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s no excuse for what happened.”

Appeals panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers


Alex Bowman is back leading the points after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team Wednesday. The Appeals Panel also rescinded the 10-point playoff to each Hendrick driver and team.

The Appeals Panel found that Hendrick violated the rule by modifying the hood louvers on the cars of Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry at Phoenix. The louvers were taken after practice that weekend.

The Appeals Panel kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief: Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris and Rudy Fugle. All four sat out the past two races, meaning they’ll miss this weekend’s race at Richmond and next weekend’s race on the dirt at Bristol before returning the following weekend at Martinsville.

The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.

Bowman had been 16th in the standings with the 100-point penalty. He now has a 15-point lead on Ross Chastain after getting all those points back.

Byron goes from 22nd to third after getting his points back. He’s 29 points behind Bowman, 14 points behind Chastain and five points ahead of Kyle Busch. Byron also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Larson goes from 27th to ninth with getting his points back.

“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond (Raceway).”

NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.

“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”

The panelists on the appeal were former driver Bill Lester, Kelly Housby and Dixon Johnston.

Here is the updated points

1. Alex Bowman       226 points

2. Ross Chastain      211

3. William Byron       197

4. Kyle Busch           192

5. Joey Logano        186

6. Kevin Harvick       186

7. Christopher Bell   184

8. Ryan Blaney         177

9. Kyle Larson          170

10. Austin Cindric     166

11. Martin Truex Jr.   165

12. Brad Keselowski 162

13. Tyler Reddick       161

14. Denny Hamlin      161

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 159

16. Chris Buescher     157

17. Daniel Suárez        144

18. Corey LaJoie         139

19. Michael McDowell 125

20. Ty Gibbs                 118

21. Bubba Wallace      103

22. AJ Allmendinger    103

23. Erik Jones                99

24. Chase Briscoe         96

25. Todd Gilliland          95

26. Austin Dillon            93

27. Noah Gragson        86

28. Aric Almirola            70

29. Ryan Preece           69

30. Harrison Burton      66

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 1st
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.