Race Weekend Central

Monday Morning Pit Box: Fewer Cautions Mean Pit Errors Stand Out at Martinsville

On the celebration of Hendrick Motorsports’ 40th anniversary, William Byron pulled his No. 24 Chevrolet into Martinsville Speedway’s victory lane as winner of the Cook Out 400, becoming the first three-time winner in 2024 and establishing himself as a clear championship favorite.

It was a largely clean race at The Paperclip with only five cautions, just three of those for incident. As a result, there were fewer chances for teams to gain track position through pit strategy, and it put a further emphasis on clean pit stops. Yellow-flag pit stops were rife with mistakes up and down pit road.  

See also
William Byron Victorious in Overtime, Wins in Martinsville

Lap 86 (Post-Stage One)

After Kyle Larson took the stage one win, the leaders filed down pit road for their first service of the afternoon. For Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the first trip to pit lane proved to be disastrous.

When Stenhouse tried to enter his pit stall as Chase Elliott was leaving his, the two made contact, spinning Stenhouse in his No. 47 JTG Daughtry Racing Chevrolet. This forced the crew to service Stenhouse’s car backwards in the pit stall. To add insult to injury, Stenhouse was also caught speeding on pit road. Stenhouse never fully recovered from these mistakes, finishing two laps down in 29th.

While all that was going on, Todd Gilliland left pit road with a wedge wrench still stuck in the back of his No. 38 Front Row Racing Ford, leaving him no choice but to restart in the back to begin stage two. Unlike Stenhouse, Gilliland managed to partially bounce back from the equipment penalty, taking the checkered flag on the lead lap in the 13th spot.

Lap 184 (Post-Stage Two)

Stage two ran caution-free, with last week’s winner Denny Hamlin claiming the stage win and the playoff point that comes with it. This set the stage for another round of pit stops and another series of mistakes that derailed drivers’ races.

Again, two drivers made contact in the tight confines of Martinsville’s pit road. This time around, it was Ty Gibbs in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota making hard contact with the left side of Kyle Busch’s No. 8 Richard Childress Chevrolet.

This incident is the latest in a series of unfortunate events on pit road for the No. 8 team so far in 2024. Neither Busch nor Gibbs played a big factor in the outcome, placing 16th and 19th, respectively. For Gibbs, Martinsville marked his worst finish of the season.

Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez and the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team dialed up a two-tire call in hopes of gaining track position. However, those hopes were dashed when the pit road police caught Suarez speeding, sending him to the back of the pack. Suarez could not recover in stage three, finishing one lap off the pace in 22nd.

Green Flag Pit Stops

Stage three stayed green until a John Hunter Nemechek crash with two laps left led to an overtime finish. Consequently, the field pitted under green flag conditions for fuel and tires.

The green flag pit stops were cleaner than the caution stops, with only one notable penalty. Josh Berry’s No. 4 pit crew lost control of a tire on their lap 302 pit stop, forcing Berry to serve a pass-through penalty. This relegated Berry to a 25th-place finish, two laps down.

See also
Hendrick Motorsports Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Historic 1-2-3 Finish

Look Ahead to Next Week

The drivers of the Cup Series will head to the Lone Star State next Sunday, April 14, for the running of the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Tire wear and tire blowouts have been issue at Texas in recent years, so that will likely be a storyline 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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via