Hello, and welcome to a special Tuesday edition of Monday Morning Pit Box after a rain-postponed Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 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 made magic on pit road at The Magic Mile:
Two-Tire Stops Lead to Stage One Points
While no amount of strategy dissuaded Martin Truex Jr.’s dominant run, there were intriguing pit road plotlines behind the No. 19.
There were a handful of two-tire calls in the early going, most notably under the first caution on lap 31 when William Byron shot up to the lead after taking two right-side tires. While Byron lost the lead and stage win to Truex, he hung for second to accrue nine stage points.
Denny Hamlin and Michael McDowell also benefited from their two-tire pit stops under the first caution, as they each gained nine spots to restart second and fifth, respectively. Hamlin finished stage one in seventh while McDowell took the green-and-white checkered flag in 10th. The one stage point McDowell acquired from his stage one finish proved to be vital, as he leaves New Hampshire above the playoff cutline by that one single point.
Several Teams Salvage Good Finishes Late
Another critical round of pit stops began when the sixth caution came out with just 31 laps remaining for Noah Gragson’s crash. The ensuing pit stops saw a schism in strategy, with many front-running cars taking two right-side tires while teams in the back opted for four tires to try and drive through the field in the closing laps.
Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 and Austin Dillon in the No. 3 stayed out under that caution. Both drivers stayed out longer than anyone during the previous green-flag pit cycle and were seeking a win to clinch a playoff spot, making the risk of staying out worth the reward. While Truex made short work of both Harvick and Dillon to get back to the front and eventually win, the duo still reaped the rewards of their crew chiefs’ decisions. Harvick finished fourth in his final New Hampshire start while Dillon crossed the line in ninth, a big net gain for two drivers who were on average running in the teens through the middle portion of the race.
Harvick and Dillon were not the only winners on that last round of pit stops. Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe each gained three spots thanks to well-executed two-tire stops by their pit crews. Reddick and Briscoe maintained their newfound track position to place sixth and 10th, respectively. For Briscoe, that finish marked his first top-10 since Talladega Superspeedway back in April.
Pit Road Police
- Reddick put himself in a position to need a unique pit strategy when he sped exiting pit road on lap 31, forcing him to the back for the following restart. B.J. McLeod also got flagged for speeding on that lap.
- Ryan Blaney seemed poised for a top-five finish until he ran over the air hose on the final round of pit stops. NASCAR penalized Blaney for running over equipment, forcing him to the tail of the field. Blaney settled for a 22nd-place finish, the fourth finish outside the top 20 in the past five races for the No. 12 team.
Other Pit Road Mishaps
- It was a dreadful day on pit road for Christopher Bell and the No. 20 team. Under the lap 31 stops, the No. 20 crew lost nine spots with a slow pit stop. On the post-stage one pit stop, the right rear was not completely tight, bringing Bell back down pit road. Bell never fully recovered on his track position on the way to a disappointing finish of 29th.
- Byron’s race came undone when he suffered significant damage from contact on pit road with Justin Haley. Repairs to Byron’s No. 24 put him back in the pack, and he ultimately settled for 24th in the final running order.
- Aric Almirola looked to be on his way to a much-needed good finish in his No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. However, his pit crew had trouble getting the right rear tire secure while pitting under caution just past the race’s halfway point. Almirola led the field to the restart on lap 169, but he would not make it to the backstretch, crashing into the turn 1 wall. Almirola’s day was done, plummeting to a 34th-place finish.
Look Ahead to Next Week
The Cup Series moves on to Pocono Raceway this Sunday, July 23 for the running of the HighPoint.com 400. The 2.5-mile triangular oval has seen its fair share of fuel mileage races and pit road drama over the years. The vast size of The Tricky Triangle allows for teams to pit under green and remain on the lead lap as long as they are within a certain time interval from the leader. Expect some dice rolling and fuel mileage calculating from crew chiefs up and down pit road on Sunday.
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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