NASCAR mulls pit speed monitoring changes for New Hampshire after Martin Truex Jr. penalty

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LOUDON, New Hamsphire – NASCAR officials are contemplating changes to their electronic timing systems in the pits at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after the controversy surrounding last week’s penalty to Martin Truex Jr.

Truex was penalized for passing leader Kevin Harvick Jr. on the inside while accelerating into his pit stall. The Furniture Row Racing driver said he unfairly was singled out by NASCAR on the call, noting that several other drivers have made the maneuver this season without penalty (a claim that was supported this week by video evidence).

By increasing the number of timing lines, which typically split the pits into six or eight sections, it would decrease the efficacy of the practice of accelerating to enter or exit the pit stall because there would be less wiggle room for drivers. Speeding in the pits is measured by time over distance rather than in real time, so with shorter sections for monitoring, there’d be less opportunity to exceed the prescribed mph.

NASCAR officials said they also are considering other methods that could be implemented in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 and will address it in the prerace drivers meeting.

“I think that all of us will be looking for some kind of answer,” Ryan Newman said. “When I say, ‘All of us,’ I think all the drivers, all the crew chiefs, all the team owners will be looking for some kind of answer. I thought that the response was a little bit jaded with respect to, ‘We needed to set an example.’ The reference that was used was to the NBA (and) was rather uncalled for (and) not exactly our sport.

“My perspective is there is a rule and we either stick to that rule or we don’t stick to that rule. We don’t just decide to make an example out of somebody on a given lap at a given race. It’s just not right. It’s not fair.”

Newman apparently was referring to NASCAR vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell referencing the NBA’s 3-second rule in a SiriusXM NASCAR interview this week.

Newman said he had operated with the understanding that what Truex did was considered within bounds by NASCAR.

“I have gone to the officials after the driver’s meetings and asked if it’s OK to accelerate to pass somebody going into your pit box, and they assured me that it was,” he said. “And if Martin was not speeding, then there was absolutely nothing wrong, from my perspective, with what he did. Although I know that in the video and in the rule book, it says you are supposed to stay single file and not pass anybody on pit lane unless it is to the right.”

Kyle Busch said NASCAR drivers have been trying to gain an advantage more often by gaming the timing lines.

“I watched it live and while I watched I was like, ‘Alright, if you don’t get busted for that then that’s interesting,’” he said of Truex’s maneuver. “I certainly have seen those moves being made before on pit road with other cars. I specifically remember it was Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta – maybe it was earlier this year or last year – that made a couple passes to the left side before getting into his box and slowing down, and nothing was ever called.

“That’s why I think more and more guys have gone into that and have been trying to do that.”

Busch said he was fine with NASCAR getting more vigilant about enforcing the penalties –provided the calls were consistent.

“I do feel like when we have asked NASCAR to be more forceful and to make more calls, especially like the restart (zone), they have gone on to make more restart calls on people,” he said. “They do review the restarts it seems a heck of a lot more than they used to and make sure that everybody was clean and that things were done properly.

“And it has seemed to have cleaned up restarts. Hopefully with them making some calls on pit road it will clean up pit road a little bit.”