After a week off, welcome back to Monday Morning Pit Box following the running of the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. In MMPB, we break down the previous NASCAR Cup Series race from the perspective of the crew chief, analyzing race-changing pit calls, pit stops and pit road penalties. Let’s see who sang the right tune on pit road in the Music City.
Kyle Busch’s Odyssey in the Athens of the South
To say that Busch and the No. 8 RCR team had a roller coaster evening in Nashville would be an understatement. Rolling off a respectable 11th, Busch’s busy day started early when his right-rear tire went down, forcing him to pit on lap 16.
However, Busch and crew chief Randall Burnett turned lemons into lemonade by staying out and stretching the fuel for 75 laps to finish stage one in seventh spot and collect four stage points. Those are four points that Busch may not have gotten otherwise if a caution came out to give him the free pass.
Busch found himself behind the eight-ball again when he sped on pit road during pit stops under yellow after stage one, restarting at the tail of the field on lap 98. Forty-nine laps later, Busch suffered another setback when a bad restart by Brad Keselowski caused a chain reaction that led to contact between Busch and Ryan Blaney. While Blaney’s night ended due to contact with the inside wall, Busch was able to continue on, though he restarted at the back once again.
This set up a final pit call by Busch and Burnett, staying out longer during the final green flag cycle. While most of the field pitted on laps 235-240, Busch did not pit until lap 259, stretching it further than everyone except Alex Bowman. Though he fell from the lead to 17th by pitting, Busch had about 20-lap fresher tires, and he made the most of it by rallying through the field to his finishing position of ninth.
Long Green Runs Leave Little Room for Imaginative Strategy
The race at Nashville featured just four cautions, and of those four yellow flags, only two were for incidents. As a result, the field drove for lengthy stretches under green flag conditions. Outside of the contact between Busch and Blaney on a restart, the four other green flag runs lasted 91, 42, 34 and 108 laps, in that order.
Consequently, the opportunity never presented itself for crew chiefs to gamble with two-tire or no-tire pit calls. Every time the drivers came down pit road, they needed four fresh Goodyear Eagles because of the tire wear from long stretches of green flag racing.
Pit Road Police
It was a quiet night at Nashville not only for the flagman, but also for the pit road police. In addition to Busch’s speeding penalty, there were only three other major penalty calls made by race control throughout the 300-lap Ally 400:
- On lap 41, Michael McDowell earned a black flag for a pit road commitment line violation, putting his right side tires on the orange box pit entrance. Forced to do a pass-through penalty, McDowell never recovered, finishing one lap down in 28th.
- Busch was not the only veteran driver speeding on pit road after stage one. Kevin Harvick drove a tick too fast in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, falling to the back with Busch.
- Tyler Reddick lost his right-rear tire just past the pit entrance on lap 138. Since Reddick lost the tire on pit road, he only got a tail-end of the field penalty. Nonetheless, the lost tire derailed Reddick’s day, as he led 33 laps in his No. 45 before the tire issue.
Peeking Ahead to Next Week
Next week, NASCAR makes history with the Grant Park 220, the first-ever street race in series history. With it being a first-time event, there is no notebook for crew chiefs to look back on for important information like car setup, tire strategy or fuel mileage. This uncertainty could lead to some unique strategy decisions atop the pit box to determine who takes the checkered flag in the Windy City.
About the author
Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.
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