Race Weekend Central

Monday Morning Pit Box: Strategy Call Goes Awry for Toyotas at Talladega

Through the first two-thirds of Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, there were only two cautions for the stage breaks. That turned out to be the calm before the storm. Two wrecks in stage three changed the complexion of the race, and when The Big One finally happened on the last lap, it was Tyler Reddick who emerged with his first victory of 2024 and the sixth of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

While Reddick did put Toyota in victory lane, it could have been a much better day for the manufacturer. Here is what went down from a pit strategy standpoint on the high banks of Alabama.

See also
Tyler Reddick Avoids the Big One, Wins at Talladega

Toyotas Crash Out After Strategy Call

The first caution for incident came out on lap 134 for a six-car accident in the middle of the pack, knocking Christopher Bell out of the race. This yellow flag reset the running order and brought the vast majority of the field down pit road for fuel only with 53 laps left. With a projected fuel window of 39-43 laps, stretching that fuel tank to the end required a few cautions.

With that in mind, the remaining seven Toyotas (sans Bell) pitted together on lap 152 to top off their fuel tanks. At 36 laps remaining, the Toyotas were now able to make it to the end of fuel comfortably. Led by Reddick, the seven Toyotas got off of pit road together and quickly established a strong draft, which put them in position to assume the lead if the race went green.

However, not only did the race not stay green, it was those Toyotas who brought out the race’s fourth and final yellow flag. Five laps after pitting, Bubba Wallace gave Erik Jones a little too much of a push in turn three, setting off a chain reaction that knocked Wallace, Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Denny Hamlin out of the race.

The ensuing caution rendered all previous pit strategy null and void, with all the lead lap cars pitting for fuel with plenty to make it to the checkered flag. While it was well thought-out pit strategy by the Toyota teams, it wound up being poorly executed for most of them.

Bell Can’t Catch a Break

In addition to getting knocked out in the lap 134 wreck, Bell had further troubles on pit road, getting pegged for speeding on lap 111. It was that speeding penalty that separated Bell from the other Toyotas and put him back in the pack, where he got wrecked 23 laps later.

Bell topped the list of five drivers called for speeding penalties throughout the day at Talladega, along with Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Zane Smith and Daniel Suarez. In that respect, the pit road police were busy on Sunday.

For Bell, Talladega marked the fourth finish outside the top 30 in 10 races this season. While Bell does have the win at Phoenix Raceway to fall back on, the No. 20 team will look to string together some good finishes and rebuild its momentum before the playoffs.

See also
Noah Gragson's Upward Swing Continues With Career Day

Look Ahead to Next Week

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Dover Motor Speedway next Sunday, April 28, for the running of the Wurth 400. The Monster Mile is home to one of the narrowest pit roads in NASCAR as well as one of the slower pit road speed limits at 35 mph. Those two factors will make getting onto and off of pit road a tricky task for the drivers at Dover.

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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Lap time full speed at 192 MPH 50 seconds

Lap time saving fuel at 175 mph 55 seconds

I guess that is why cars can use the outside line from 20th to the lead and then stay even with the front cars and hold up three lines for lap after lap after lap after…

Sure makes for a leisurely drive in a traffic jam. But the drivers will say they are having “fun” aren’t they.


just not that interesting to me.

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