Race Weekend Central

Monday Morning Pit Box: A Tale of 2 Pit Stops for Daniel Suarez at Indy

Hello and welcome back to Monday Morning Pit Box following the running of the Verizon 200 at The Brickyard. 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.

Road course racing has changed in 2023 with the removal of stage cautions at that type of racetrack. As a result, there was only one natural caution on lap 2 and just two cycles of green-flag pit stops, so strategy did not play as big a role as usual in the final outcome. However, there were a few pit road plotlines, and here are the top ones from The Brickyard:

A Tale of Two Pit Stops for Daniel Suarez  

It was the best of pit stops, and it was the worst of pit stops. Daniel Suarez only brought the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet down pit road twice under green the whole race, but the results could not have been more different.

Suarez first came down pit road with race leader Michael McDowell on lap 17. While McDowell was conservative on his pit entry, Suarez approached the commitment line with more aggression, and it paid off. Suarez closed the gap to McDowell, and then the No. 99 crew had a strong stop to get Suarez out in the lead. McDowell took the lead back from Suarez on lap 35 during some close-quarters racing with Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott to end stage two.

On lap 49, Suarez came down for his second and final pit stop, only this time it would be a much different story. When No. 99 jackman Josh Appleby lowered the car following left-side tire changes, front-tire changer Josh Bush’s air hose got stuck underneath the car. They retrieved the air hose, but with a slow 21-second pit stop, the damage was done.

Suarez only lost one position going from second to third, but he came back on track about nine seconds behind McDowell after entering pit road on the No. 34’s back bumper. With a green-flag run all the way to the end, Suarez had no chance to catch back up, and he settled for a third-place finish.

“We win and we lose as a team, and that’s all I can say,” Suarez told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon post-race. “The guys brought a very fast racecar.”

See also
Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez Still Below Playoff Cut Line After Top-5 Finishes

Pit Road Police

  • There were three speeding penalties during the first round of green-flag pit stops. Of note, two of them came from the group of international drivers stepping in as road course ringers. Jenson Button was too fast in the No. 15 Ford on lap 13, and Mike Rockenfeller got pegged for speeding in the No. 42 Chevrolet on lap 17. One lap later, Corey LaJoie joined his international counterparts on the speeding list, exceeding the limit in his No. 7 Chevrolet.

Look Ahead to Next Week

Next Sunday, the drivers of the Cup Series will continue making left and right-hand turns in the Go Bowling at the Glen. Expect many of the same factors that came into play at Indianapolis to be important at Watkins Glen International. There has been an average of just four cautions in the last five Watkins Glen races, and that was with stage cautions. Without them, yellow flags could be even less frequent, and that means fewer opportunities for unique pit strategy and a greater emphasis on executing the few pit stops that teams will have throughout the race.   

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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I’m really liking the ‘no stage breaks’ aspect and hope that next season it is implemented for all races.

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