Race Weekend Central

Monday Morning Pit Box: Pit Stall Selection Proves Key to Joey Logano’s Race & Title Win

Welcome to the final 2022 edition of the Monday Morning Pit Box! This brand new Frontstretch column breaks down the critical calls that shaped the outcome of a race and look at a race through the mind of a crew chief (sometimes we’ll look at calls atop race control too).

This week, the NASCAR Cup Series visited Phoenix Raceway for championship weekend. With the Bill France Cup on the line, it came down to who could save the most fuel and a daring call atop the pit box toward halfway. But in the end, taking the pole and the first pit box off pit lane turned out to be the championship-winning move as Joey Logano was able to parlay that number one pit box into not just a race win but his second title.

Behind Logano’s championship-clinching win were some critical pit lane calls.

Lap 251: Christopher Bell Pits Early

Short pitting is a strategy that has been discussed time and again in the Monday Morning Pit Box, and this time it was Christopher Bell’s crew chief Adam Stevens to make that call. On lap 251, Stevens called his driver in early for four tires and fuel, and that quick stop put Bell in contention for the win late in the going. In fact, when green-flag pit stops cycled back on lap 258, Bell was right behind Logano.

But it wasn’t meant to be for the No. 20 team. During the race’s final caution period, disaster struck when jackman Caleb Dirks got his finger caught between the nut and the spindle while putting the left-rear tire on the car.

Restarting 16th after that freak accident on pit road, Bell was only able to recover to 10th, third of the Championship 4 drivers.

See also
Crew Member Injury Keeps Christopher Bell From Title on Heels of Coy Gibbs' Death

Lap 148 – 157: Hendrick Motorsports Drivers Pit Off-Sequence

During a 10-lap stretch toward the end of stage two, three of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers pitted out of sequence with the rest of the field. It all started with concerns about fuel mileage around lap 130 and the requests from crew chiefs to save fuel started coming in. On lap 148, William Byron gave up ninth to pit, while Chase Elliott made his stop from eighth on lap 155. Alex Bowman, who just returned to the seat after missing five races due to concussion symptoms, completed that cycle on lap 157.

The trio, of course, ended up one lap down to the field, but both Byron and Elliott managed to race their way back onto the lead lap at lap 160 and 171, respectively. Bowman didn’t have the same luck but was able to take advantage of the free pass under the caution at the end of stage two.

The gamble paid off in better track position to begin stage three, but both Bowman and Elliott were involved in crashes. Though they were both able to finish the race, Elliott and Bowman finished 28th and 34th, respectively. Meanwhile, Byron managed to end his year with a solid sixth-place finish.

See also
Chase Elliott's Dominant Season Ends with a Whimper at Phoenix

Entire Race: Joey Logano’s Pit Stall

No matter what track you’re at or what the situation is, pit stall selection is typically key to a successful day on pit road. Once again that proved to be the case as Championship 4 driver and polesitter Logano picked the first stall off of pit road.

The pit crew itself turned in a mixed bag of performance during Logano’s stops, but when it mattered most, he left pit road first and was able to use Bell’s aforementioned problems on the final stop to put him in the lead.

Logano managed to hold off teammate Ryan Blaney and fellow Championship 4 driver Ross Chastain to score his fourth win this season and his second title in five years.

“We did it! We’re champions again!” Logano celebrated in a post-race interview with NBC. “Thank you to everybody, my team, you guys are amazing!”

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