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

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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?

WHAT IS THE SPEED LIMIT?

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.’’

TIME TO REMOVE TIMING LINES?

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.’’

DETERMINING PIT ROAD SPEED LIMIT

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)

 

 

Daytona road course trophy: Handle with care

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A word of warning for the Cup Series driver who wins Sunday’s inaugural race on the Daytona road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

When you’re celebrating the victory, don’t get too excited with the trophy.

It could wind up all over Victory Lane.

That’s because the trophy waiting at the end of the 65-lap/234.65-mile-race is made out of glass.

More: Will chaos (and rain) reign on the Daytona road course?

Via: NASCAR

The 18” tall/4.5” wide trophy for the Daytona road course race was produced by the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. It’s the same institution that’s been responsible for designing the Watkins Glen International trophy since 2012.

Sunday’s race is being held in the place of the Cup Series’ annual visit to Watkins Glen.

Incorporating a blown glass cup, the trophy is inspired by the history of NASCAR and racing at Daytona.

“Thinking about the history of the track and long-held traditions, I was reminded that historically, trophies used to be cups and have evolved into sculptural forms,” said Eric Meek, Sr. Manager of Hot Glass Programs at The Corning Museum of Glass, said in a media release. “We took this trophy back to a more traditional shape. Daytona is the most historical track, and in thinking about a trophy design for a race held in this storied location, I was transported back to the golden age of speed. I wanted to design something that felt like a bit of a throwback – like it belonged in the era of streamline racers and the quest to go faster.”

NASCAR Pinty’s Series 2020 TV schedule released

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The NASCAR Pinty’s Series, which competes in Canada, will get its season under way this weekend after it was postponed back in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortened season will consist of three doubleheaders with twin 125-mile races.

The races will be held at Sunset Speedway (Aug. 15), Flamboro Speedway (Aug. 29) and Jukasa Speedway (Sept. 12).

More: Xfinity Series start time for Daytona road course

No NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion or Rookie of the Year will be crowned in 2020 due to the shortened schedule. There will be special recognition for the overall winner of the shortened season.

All races will air delayed on TSN and RDS in Canada and MAVTV in the United States. Fans in the United States can stream races after they air on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Here is the full schedule with TV information.

 

Saturday’s Xfinity race at Daytona road course: Start time, forecast and more

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Saturday’s Xfinity race at Daytona will mark the first time the series has competed in the track’s road course circuit.

Austin Cindric, who has won four of the last five races, is on the pole. He is joined on the front row by fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe.

Here are the details for the Xfinity race at the Daytona road course (all times ET):

START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:07 p.m by Dr. Jeff Jarvis, president of UNOH. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 8:30 a.m. Drivers report to their cars at 2:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3 p.m. by Chaplain Farzad Nourian. The national anthem will be performed at 3:01 p.m. by Temecula Road.

DISTANCE: The race is 52 laps (187.72 miles) around the 3.61-mile road course

PACE LAP: At the direction of race control, the entire field will go down pit road during a pace lap for pit road speed verification. If a driver stops in the pit box for any reason, pulls over or slows down, they will start at the rear of the field.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 15. Stage 2 ends on Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Countdown to Green followed by the race broadcast at 3 p.m. ET. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast will begin at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for cloudy skies, a high of 88 degrees and a 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Austin Cindric beat AJ Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe to win at Road America.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Justin Marks planning to start new Cup team

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Former NASCAR driver Justin Marks is in the process of starting a new Cup Series team and competing as early as 2021, Marks detailed to the Sports Business Journal.

Marks, who has 80 NASCAR starts and last competed in 2018, is building a team called Trackhouse that would have a “cause-marketing focus around promoting STEM education” according to SBJ.

More: Bubba Wallace lands multi-year deal with DoorDash

Marks, who once was a co-owner of an ARCA Menards West team with the late Harry Scott, said a goal of the team is to “serve America’s minorities and underrepresented youth population”

Marks told SBJ he is in negotiations to acquire a charter for the team, that his family foundation will use investment capital to fund 50% of the team’s budget and that a “nationwide family entertainment business” will be a sponsor.

One of Marks’ partners will be Ty Norris, a former executive at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Click here for more from Sports Business Journal.