NASCAR no longer will use the standard of an “arm’s length” from a crew member to determine if to penalize teams for an uncontrolled tire on pit road, removing that requirement from the rule book after complaints from competitors.
Tires will be considered uncontrolled if they create a safety issue or interfere/impede another competitor’s pit stop.
- Safety issues include but are not limited to tires rolling into the traffic lane of pit road.
- Tires may not be bounced or thrown at any time.
- Tires may be rolled from the outside half of the pit box to the pit wall, providing they do not create a safety issue or interfere/impede another competitor’s pit stop.
- Once tires are returned to the inside half of the pit box they may not roll back to the outside half of the pit box.
- Tires, servicing equipment and crew members may not interfere or impede with another team’s pit stop. Tires contacting a vehicle while being carried to the outside half of the pit box may be considered a no call.
- The penalty for an uncontrolled tire under green flag conditions will be a pass through, and starting at the tail end of the field under caution conditions.
“After discussions internally and with competitors and teams, NASCAR will adjust how we officiate the uncontrolled tire rule to focus on preventing a safety hazard rather than concentrating on the subjective “arm’s length” criteria,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR vice president of officiating and technical inspection, in a statement. “To be clear, tires must still be returned from the outside of the pit box in a controlled manner.
Denny Hamlin was critical of NASCAR’s rule for uncontrolled tires after his team was called for its fifth uncontrolled tire penalty this season at Chicagoland Speedway.
“I don’t know what they can change, but I would like to see a change,” Hamlin said the following week at Daytona when asked about his issues with the rule. “I think rules have to evolve and this is not about us in particular. I made a comment and it has 3,000 likes, 500 retweets, 300 comments, so it touches the fan base. These are people that aren’t Denny fans; they just don’t get it. If they don’t get it at home, then it’s probably not a rule that needs to be in place in the Cup series because you can’t explain it to them.
“It’s hard to explain when a tire is just sitting there that it’s uncontrolled. It’s not moving. It is controlled. I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know how to fix it. They are pretty smart, and I’m sure they can make adjustments to fix it to make it a little more simple. But overall, everyone’s arms are a different length. So, what is an arm’s length? Do they have some kind of technology that says ‘Ok this distance from the tire changer to the tire is more than an arm’s length and they can pull a measuring out and they can measure it?’ I don’t know, but that’s just too much rules. Too many things that can change the ultimate outcome of a race.
“We had earned our spot up front. That’s the crappy part about it. We had earned our position up there. Then, you have to go to the back and in today’s racing, it’s harder than that ever to be able to come back. It’s virtually impossible to be able to come back now, no matter how fast your car is because everyone is running so much wide-open throttle. It changes your race; it changes how you are going to finish. It’s up to us to play by the rules that have been given to us, let’s be clear about that, but we think we are doing that. Sometimes, that judgement call doesn’t go your way and it’s been multiple times this year, that we don’t know what we could have done differently, and we are going to need that explanation so that we don’t do it again.”
In Wednesday’s bulletin to teams, NASCAR also added a rule that states: “When changing all four tires, crew members must change/remove the outside tires first. The penalty for changing/removing the inside tires first will be restarting at the tail end of the field under caution or a pass-through under green.”
That change comes as NASCAR soon heads to road courses. Xfinity and Cup race next week at Watkins Glen International. Cars pit in the opposite direction there as they do on ovals and there have been times when teams changed the inside tires (those closest to the wall) first.
“Additionally, beginning at the Watkins Glen race weekend, we are mandating that outside tires must be changed first during a four-tire stop, to reduce crew members’ exposure to adjacent vehicles departing their pit stalls,” Sawyer said in a statement. “Our commitment to safety remains unchanged, and these rules adjustments will lessen potential danger for crew members.”