Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Monday Morning Pit Box following the running of the Highpoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway. 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. Here are the top pit-road plotlines from The Tricky Triangle:
Two Tires Outlasts Four Tires
The end of stage two on lap 95 saw a splinter in strategy, with those who pitted early in stage two coming down pit road for fuel and fresh rubber while others who pitted late in stage two staying out for track position.
Regardless of that decision, everyone in the field would need to pit one more time during the final stage to make it to the end on fuel. The fuel window at the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle is 38-42 laps, so drivers could pit as soon as lap 118 or so to be good on fuel to the end.
The final green-flag pit cycle opened up slightly earlier when Kyle Busch stopped on lap 117 for a gas and go, pitting from 21st. For a team not really in contention all day, the early and quick pit stop made sense for the No. 8.
Busch’s stop opened the floodgates for others to come down pit road. Alex Bowman took four tires and fuel. Most teams followed the No. 48’s suit with a four-tire call with three notable exceptions, as Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick each took two tires to gain track position. The calls paid off, as the trio cycled to the front with Larson at the point, Hamlin right behind him and Harvick just a few spots back.
Had the race stayed green, it looked as though Larson would reap the most benefit from taking two tires. However, Chase Briscoe spun off turn 4 with 17 laps remaining to bring out the eighth of 11 cautions on the afternoon.
Then, with seven laps remaining, Larson led off the restart when Hamlin made contact with and ran No. 5 car tight through turn 1, which led to Larson hitting the wall. Hamlin went on to win the race on his two tires while Larson fell to 21st in the final running order with a damaged car. Harvick finished fourth following the two-tire call for the No. 4 by crew chief Rodney Childers.
Of the drivers with four tires, Tyler Reddick fared the best, waiting until lap 138 to get fresh Goodyear Eagles. With multiple restarts late in the race, Reddick steadily worked his way through the field, finishing in the runner-up spot behind Hamlin.
Larson Good to the Last Drop in Stage Two
While Larson’s race ended on a sour note, the No. 5 team made a great comeback to put themselves in contention. On lap 46, Larson spun from the front of the field, glancing the turn 1 wall with the rear his of No. 5 Chevrolet. Crew chief Cliff Daniels opted to top off the fuel and keep Larson out as long as possible.
When the yellow flag came on lap 92 for a Christopher Bell spin, Daniels told Larson stay out and save fuel, making it to lap 95 to win stage two and gain a playoff point. The stage win serves as a consolation prize for Larson and the No. 5 team after a heartbreaking finish.
- The pit-road police had a mostly quiet day at Pocono with just two penalties, both of which came on lap 143.
- Austin Cindric got pegged for speeding in his No. 2 Penske Racing Ford. Cindric settled for a 23rd-place finish, another blow to his playoff hopes.
- NASCAR held Corey LaJoie for a lap for pulling up to pit in his No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet. Lajoie finished 27th on the day.
Look Ahead to Next Week
Next Sunday (July 30), the drivers of the Cup Series will tackle a completely different track at the Cook Out 400 on the 0.75-mile Richmond Raceway short track. With a nearly 20-year-old surface that was last repaved in 2004, Richmond eats away at tires, meaning four-tire pit stops will be the way to go at the Action Track.
The driver and team that take care of their tires the most and time their final pit stop right will have a great chance of reaching victory lane in Virginia’s capital 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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