Because NASCAR has no rule stating when pit road opens after a stage ends, the sanctioning body changed its common procedure to prevent multiple cars from running out of fuel during Sunday’s Cup race at Dover, a series official told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
NASCAR opened pit road immediately after Stage 1 ended because many cars were close to running out of fuel.
“We don’t really have a firm policy,’’ said Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning. “Basically, the way we’ve been handling the end of the stages is to give our broadcast partners a little bit of time right there for a break and then come back for the pit stops and then have another break as we lead into the start of the next stage.
“The unique situation that we had (Sunday) was the time the caution came out early in the stage put everybody in kind of fuel conservation mode. We had a couple of cars running out of gas there at the end of the stage. The last thing that NASCAR wanted was to have to push 10 or 12 cars in that ran out of fuel while we were waiting to open pit road. So the decision was made kind of a little bit on the fly because we’re obviously in the entertainment business, and I don’t think any of the fans would have liked to have seen 10 of their favorite drivers end up five laps down because they were getting pushed back by the tow truck.
“We just tried to take advantage of the situation that we saw developing that we’ve run into before and it’s not a great situation. … It’s not a very good thing to have cars out on the race track running out of fuel when we can open pit road. We’ve kind of gotten into a procedure with the broadcast partners to doing it the way you’re used to seeing it, but there are no rules that dictate when pit road opens or anything like that during those stage breaks.’’
Todd Gordon, crew chief of Joey Logano, told “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he was happy NASCAR opened pit road quickly in that case.
“I know there was a lot of anxiety on the pit boxes on pit road, not only about whether we would make it to the end, but once we made it to the end how many laps would we go before we could get fuel back in the cars,’’ he said.
Asked if teams running out of fuel before the end of a stage should be more of an issue for teams willing to take that gamble than NASCAR adjusting its procedures to accommodate such tactics, Gordon said:
“If that were the case, the piece I would ask for at that point is a definition that pit road is going to open “X” number of laps after the stage break and we don’t have that as a sport. To me, how do I, from the information I have on a normal race weekend, I don’t have a defined, ‘we’re going to run four laps of caution or we’re going to run six laps of caution before pit road opens.’ If you had that defined, we could calculate our fuel mileage back and make the risk/reward call on that one.’’