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Monday Morning Pit Box: Pit Entry Calamity in the Peach State

Good morning, and welcome back to Monday Morning Pit Box following the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta 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.

The fans at Atlanta got their money’s worth on Sunday, with a dramatic three-wide run to the checkered flag that saw Daniel Suarez edge out Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch. But what role did pit strategy and execution play in getting us to that instant classic photo finish? Let’s take a look.

See also
Daniel Suarez Victorious After Epic Atlanta Finish

McDowell and Byron’s Runs Felled by Pit Entry Collision

Compared to other oval tracks, Atlanta Motor Speedway has a unique setup for entering pit road. Instead of getting down to pit speed at the end of turn 4, the drivers must commit to pit road at the entrance of turn 3, a change made after the first Atlanta race under the current configuration in 2022.

Once past the commitment line, if pitting under green flag conditions, drivers must maintain a pit entry speed limit of 90 mph until the old pit entry at the exit of turn 4. At that point, drivers must get down to the pit road speed limit of 45 mph.

A crash at that pit entrance negatively impacted two big names in the field: polesitter Michael McDowell and last week’s Daytona 500 winner, William Byron. On lap 135, in the middle of a green-flag pit cycle, McDowell and Byron spun and made contact near pit-in, both getting into the inside wall. McDowell and Byron both battled back to an extent, each finishing on the lead lap in eighth and 17th, respectively.

The different pit road layout and rules for Atlanta will be something to keep in mind when the Cup Series returns to the track in September for the opening race of the playoffs.

Pit Road Police Stayed Busy

NASCAR officials handed out their fair share of speeding tickets to Cup Series drivers on Sunday. During the same green flag pit cycle as the McDowell and Byron crash, six drivers got tagged for speeding on pit road. Three drivers got penalized on lap 136: Josh Berry, Ross Chastain and B.J. McLeod. Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace got caught speeding on lap 140.

In addition to all the speeding on pit road, there were a few pit penalties handed out to drivers and teams on Sunday:

  • Lap 30 – Daniel Hemric and No. 31 team got sent to the tail of the field for too many men over the wall on their yellow flag pit stop.
  • Lap 140 – Erik Jones’ No. 43 pit crew had a tire get away from them under a green flag pit stop, forcing Jones to do a pass-through penalty.
  • Lap 165 – If the crash on pit entry was not enough, McDowell later got sent to the tail of the field for pitting outside the box under yellow.
See also
Front Row Motorsports Comes Up a Few Rows Short

Look Ahead to Next Week

Next Sunday, March 3, the NASCAR Cup Series will take a break from superspeedway racing for the running of the Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This race figures to have a more traditional pit strategy than the first two weeks, with fresh tires in particular being much more of a factor than at Daytona or Atlanta.

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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A two-car accident with 16 to go warrants a red flag. A two-car accident with 10 to go is a yellow, and the restart is with 6 to go. One spin was a single car and the guy didn’t go up the track and then corrected himself and continued. That was an unnecessary yellow. Seems to be a wonky way of applying some of the rules.

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