Race Weekend Central

Monday Morning Pit Box: Ross Chastain Cashes In on 2-Tire Call in Vegas

Good morning, and welcome back to Monday Morning Pit Box following the running of the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas 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.

Kyle Larson left little doubt about the outcome, leading 181 of 267 laps and holding off a late charge from Tyler Reddick to collect his 24th career Cup Series win and his third checkered flag at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Despite the lack of parity up front, there were plenty of comers and goers throughout the rest of the field, and pit strategy and maladies played a part. Here is the breakdown of the winners and losers on pit road in Sin City.

See also
Kyle Larson Dominates at Las Vegas

Ross Chastain Nearly Hits the Jackpot with 2-Tire Call

Ross Chastain’s Sunday got off to a rocky start when his Trackhouse Racing team had to replace part of the wrap on the hood of his No. 1 Chevrolet. This put Chastain in the unenviable position of starting from the rear, needing to gamble to gain track position.

Chastain made progress through stage one, rallying all the way up to eighth to gain a handful of stage points. However, Chastain’s drive to the front got derailed on lap 120 when he got busted for going too fast entering pit road on a green flag pit stop, which led to a pass-through penalty under green.

Chastain needed a late race roll of the dice to get back to the front, and he got his chance with the sixth and final caution of the race on lap 235 for a Corey Lajoie spin. On the ensuing round of pit stops, the No. 1 pit crew put on two right-side tires while everyone else took four.

That call put Chastain in second for what turned out to be the final restart with 27 laps left. The Melon Man fought valiantly for the win, driving side-by-side with Larson for the first few laps of the final run. While it did not work out for the win, Chastain maintained for a fourth-place finish, a top five that likely does not happen without a bold call by crew chief Phil Surgen.

Many Pit Crews Not in Midseason Form

While the No. 1 crew boosted their driver’s finish, other teams up and down pit road had some serious issues in Sin City. In particular, three teams stood out for their pit stop problems:

No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota – Tyler Reddick

Considering that Reddick finished in the runner-up position, the No. 45 team’s inclusion on this list may come as a surprise. But that second-place showing did not come without adversity on two pit stops.

The first error came on lap 84. After finishing second in stage one, the entire field came down pit road for service, but Reddick parked his Toyota too close to the pit wall, slowing down the crew and sending him back to 16th for the restart. Later, on lap 211, the No. 45 crew had a 13-second pit stop, which by today’s standards is slow service, causing Reddick to lose some ground to Larson. All things considered, Reddick did well to get back to second on the day.

No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – Ty Gibbs

On lap 158, the field came to the attention of their crews under caution after Christopher Bell’s second incident of the afternoon. Ty Gibbs entered pit road sixth, but he left in 23rd after a slow stop on the left side, a fall further compounded by an uncontrolled tire penalty. Gibbs also had issues with his transmission, losing first gear.

In the end, though, Gibbs, along with the other Toyotas, had great speed throughout the race. Therefore, like Reddick, Gibbs rebounded for a good finish, taking the checkered flag in fifth. The same, however, cannot be said for the last driver and team on this list.

No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – Kyle Busch

Two weeks ago, in this very column, we discussed at length the issues Kyle Busch and the No. 8 team had on pit road that hurt his bid for an elusive Daytona 500 win. Well, at Las Vegas, history repeated itself with two pit road mistakes in the No. 8 stall.

First, on the lap 158 round of stops, Busch came in second but left 18th after problems getting the right tire tight on his Chevrolet. Busch battled back into the top 10 after that, but on lap 211, the No. 8 got penalized for pitting outside of the box, an error that was equal parts on the driver and the crew. It was close, but the splitter of the No. 8 car was just over the front line of the pit box, leaving Busch no choice but to serve a pass-through penalty that put him one lap down.

Ultimately, Busch got back on the lead lap, but settled for a disappointing 26th-place finish.

So far in 2024, Busch has consistently displayed race-winning speed, leading laps in all three races. But at the end of the day, auto racing is a team sport. Until Busch and the No. 8 pit crew both clean up their mistakes on pit road, Rowdy cannot be taken seriously as a championship contender.

Look Ahead to Next Week

Next Sunday, March 10, the NASCAR Cup Series will make its first of two trips to Phoenix Raceway in 2024 for the Shriners Children’s 500. With Phoenix once again hosting the championship race this season, it will be important for crew chiefs to hit on their setups and for pit crews to execute on their stops to feel good about the return trip in November.

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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janice

midseason form? umm, it was the third race of the season. hardly, in my mind, mid season.

Echo

lololol unbelievable huh

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