Joe Gibbs Racing debuts new pit stop style to rave reviews

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RICHMOND, Va. — Joe Gibbs Racing showed off its new pit stop that is designed to service a car quicker Sunday. Now, the question becomes how will teams react?

Where tenths of a second can mean so much — JGR’s Denny Hamlin beat Kevin Harvick by 0.552 seconds at Richmond Raceway to score his first win of the year — any gains can make a significant impact. 

“We definitely found some speed with it,” JGR pit coach Brian Haaland told NBC Sports.

What’s different with the stop is that the rear tire changer goes around the front of the car to reach the right rear tire. Once complete, that person goes back around the front of the car and changes the left front tire. The crew member who changes right front goes around the front of the car to the right rear. 

This method allows the fueler to keep the gas can connected to the car instead of backing away so a tire changer, coming around the back of the car, can get to the right rear tire. That means the car can be fueled quicker.

The standard style has the rear tire changer wait for the car to enter the pit stall and then go around the back of the vehicle to the right rear. Once done, they go around the back of the car and change the left rear tire. 

The new style, when run smoothly, can allow the rear tire changer to get to the right rear tire and begin work between three-tenths to seven-tenths of a second quicker than the standard style used by other teams.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” winning crew chief Chris Gabehart said. “Nothing great comes without risk. I’m happy to be a part of continuing to push those boundaries.”

Joe Gibbs Racing stated that its teams had seven of the 12 pit stops in the 9-second range during Sunday’s race. JGR stated that Kyle Busch’s team changed four tires and fueled the car in 9.1 seconds, the fastest stop of the day, on Lap 234 of the 400-lap race.

Hamlin’s final pit stop was 9.4 seconds on Lap 354, while Harvick’s final stop was 9.9 seconds on Lap 353, according to JGR. 

“When you are making 9-second pit stops … that’s a bit of a game changer,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports.

The series heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. The track has a narrow pit road and tight pit boxes, so JGR’s crews might not be able to employ this new method all the of time. 

“We’re going to have to study it and look at it and go back on the past races and see the spacing we intend to take up and what pit road looks like, cars driving past us,” Haaland said on if JGR’s teams will use the new style this week. “It might be situational. We’ll make a decision later on the in the week on what we need to do. We intend to run this pit stop whenever possible.”

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The Next Gen car’s debut at Richmond proved to be a good thing for Ryan Blaney.

The Team Penske driver had never finished better than 10th in 11 previous Cup races at the three-quarter mile track.  

Blaney won the pole and led the opening 128 laps before finishing seventh this past weekend. He’s tied with Chase Elliott for the points lead after seven races. 

So, was it the car that allowed Blaney to run better or just another sign of his progression at the track?

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Blaney said. “We’ve just try to figure out what the heck I’ve got to do to run better. I’ve still got a lot of figuring out to do.”

Blaney’s day wasn’t without contact. He and Ross Chastain ran into each other during the race. 

“I was inside of him into (Turn) 3 and I kind of got loose and washed up half a lane and we never touched,” Blaney said. “Went down into (Turn) 1 and he just decided to send me. So, the next restart I sent him. Now we’re even, I guess.

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Ty Gibbs‘ win Saturday wasn’t without some drama, as he shoved teammate John Hunter Nemechek up the track on the last lap to win the Xfinity race at Richmond Raceway. Nemechek finished second.

The victory was Gibbs’ seventh in 25 Xfinity starts. That’s a remarkable 28% winning percentage.

With all that success, it’s easy to forget that Gibbs is 19 years old and still learning, something he acknowledged after the race.

“If I could go back, I would have not have driven in as hard and hit him as hard to knock him way up the track,” Gibbs said. “I would not have got in as hard. I was still going to have to hit him anyways to win it.

“We’re coming to the end. I’ve seen it before. I didn’t let him by and drag the brake and get behind him and dump him. We raced to the finish. I hit him. That was my goal. If I could change it, I wouldn’t have driven as hard. That’s part of learning ,and I learned that.