RICHMOND, Va. — A year after debuting a new pit stop procedure that sent over-the-wall crew members running around the front of the car to shave time, Joe Gibbs Racing has stopped doing it in races.
Whether that different style of pit stop will return remains to be seen.
“You never say never, so I wouldn’t say it’s dead,” Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Denny Hamlin, told NBC Sports about the future of the JGR pit stop procedure, “but certainly there’s been enough calls for concern to make us jump back on this.”
JGR unveiled the new pit stop in the April 2022 race at Richmond Raceway. 23XI Racing crews also performed that type of stop last year. Both Toyota teams had stopped doing it by the Atlanta race in mid-March.
The JGR-style pit stops started with all five pit crew members jumping off the pit wall in front of the car and running to their positions on the right side of the car.
Timing was critical.
The right front tire changer needed to finish first so he could lead the group around the front of the car and head to the left rear tire to change it. The right rear tire changer moved to the left front tire.
In the traditional style used by all other Cup teams, one person changed both front tires and one changed both rear tires. The rear tire changer ran around the back of the car instead of coming from the front as with the JGR style.
The new style created eye-popping pit stop times when it worked well.
Joe Gibbs Racing pit crews recorded nine-second pit stops seven times in that first race last year with the new pit stop style, the team reported. The rest of the field, using the traditional method, had five such stops.
Teams typically measure the length of a pit stop from when the car is jacked on the right side to when the jack is released on the left side on a four-tire stop. Other metrics measure the length of a pit stop based on when a car first enters its stall to when it first leaves its stall. That’s a longer period of time.
Either way, the JGR style — when run without any snafus — often proved faster. That was significant because track position is so important in Cup races.
When there were issues with the pit stop, the extra time in the pit stall cost drivers positions on the track.
“The theory is it’s a little bit faster when it’s right, but it’s two to three times as slow when it’s not,” Gabehart said of the JGR pit stop procedure. “So, you’re just trying to minimize potential error. We’re working through that as a company.”
The focus is on returning to the traditional pit stop style for the JGR and 23XI Racing teams.
“You’re not going to be perfect right away when you’re retraining muscle memory after the last 40 races of doing it one way more or less,” Gabehart said. “We’ll see.
“That’s part of the sport. Everybody’s evolving and trying to get faster every day in every way, whether that is with the race car, as a driver, with strategy, on pit road, with pit crews. That’s the nature of the beast.
“I don’t fault anyone at JGR for being aggressive and trying to get everything they can get. Right now, we’ve got to evaluate that and that’s what we’re doing.”
Sunday’s race at Richmond marked the fifth consecutive race Chase Elliott has missed since breaking his left tibia in a snowboarding accident March 3.
Hendrick Motorsports stated March 7 that Elliott’s recovery was expected to last approximately six weeks.
“I think that’s still the target,” Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports said Sunday in response to a question from NBC Sports. “It’s a week-to-week thing based on his doctors and what they’re seeing and how the recovery is going.”
Josh Berry finished second Sunday at Richmond, driving in place of Elliott. Berry has driven in place of Elliott in all the races the former champion has missed except the road course event at Circuit of the Americas. Jordan Taylor drove for Elliott in that event.