NASCAR will test radical new pit stop procedures in Xfinity, Trucks this season

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 28: Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 MoneyLion Ford, pits during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 28, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR officials introduced rules changes Tuesday for pit stops — both for crewmembers and procedures — in a few Xfinity Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series events this season.

The rules will be in place for four Xfinity Series races: May 30 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, both events at Iowa Speedway (June 13 and Aug. 1), and the Aug. 8 stop at Road America. Gander Trucks teams will operate within these rules at three events this season: June 12 at Iowa, Aug. 21 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Sept. 6 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. None of the races are companion events with the NASCAR Cup Series.

Officials said the changes are designed to enhance pit strategy and to streamline the personnel performing pit stops at those specified races. The rules also place limits on the types of service that teams can perform in each trip to pit road.

“We really feel like this new pit stop procedure for the stand-alone races is kind of a unique opportunity we have with those events to try something new in the Gander Truck Series and the Xfinity Series that we hope will provide some increased incentive for teams to make differing strategy calls,” said Eric Peterson, Xfinity Series technical manager. “It will help mix up the event, provide more comers and goers and on-track passing during the race. The only way to really get a view of this is to do it, and we felt like taking a deliberate approach and doing it at the stand-alone events would be an excellent way to test it out, analyze the results when we get done and see where we go.”

In the seven events the procedure will be uses at, team rosters will not have designated pit crew members. Each series will have a maximum of eight road crew members at each of these races who will also perform over-the-wall duties during pit stops — four to service the car (tires, jack), one fueler and one for driver assistance. The road crew total signifies an increase of one for Xfinity teams and two for Gander Trucks teams.

During a yellow-flag full cycle (non-quickie yellow) pit stop at oval tracks, a team may change two tires and add fuel. For a four-tire stop, a team must pit a second time during the caution period.

At road courses for a full-cycle caution period, a team may change four tires or add fuel. A team opting for four tires and fuel must make a second trip to pit road.

On both types of tracks, abbreviated caution periods — or “quickie” yellows — will provide only one opportunity for all cars to pit. Teams may change two tires and add fuel on their only stop on oval tracks in a quickie yellow. On road courses during quickie yellows, teams may change four tires or add fuel on their only opportunity to stop.

Pit stops under the yellow flag must also be completed within a set time limit, measured from the yellow lines marking pit entry and pit exit. The overall time limit will vary from track to track, dependent on the length of pit road, but the timing of how long a vehicle will be serviced in its stall will be the same at each race. Peterson said that time is still being determined as part of the dialogue between competition officials and teams.

The restart lineup will be based on pit stop strategy. Vehicles that did not pit will line up first, followed by (in order): vehicles that pitted once, those that pitted twice, lap(s)-down vehicles that did not pit, lap(s)-down vehicles that pitted once, lap(s)-down vehicles that pitted twice, free-pass vehicles, wave-around vehicles and penalized vehicles — an order that should offer its own elements of pit strategy.

No time limit will be enforced on green-flag pit stops, except for vehicles on the six-minute Damaged Vehicle Policy clock. Tire changes under green will only be allowed if a vehicle has an incident (a flat tire, spin or crash) verified by race officials. Teams will be permitted to add fuel during a green-flag stop.

Teams will be issued a two-lap penalty for violating the restrictions on tire changes and fuel. Teams will be sent to the rear of the field for restarts for exceeding the pit-road time limit and pitting any time other than their designated lap.

Peterson said the rationale for implementing these rules at stand-alone events was to provide efficiencies for the teams instead of a reliance on specialized pit-crew members from Cup Series teams. Two stand-alone Gander Trucks events were excluded: July 30 at Eldora Speedway, which has rules unique to the dirt-track showdown, and June 5 at Texas Motor Speedway, where fuel mileage comes into play with the length of the race and its stages.

“The stand-alones in general provide some additional logistical and efficiency challenges for Gander Trucks and Xfinity teams,” Peterson said. “Any time you have races where we’re not a companion to Cup or Cup is in a different area of the country, it is logistically harder for the Xfinity and Truck teams to accomplish those races and do all the things we do on a normal weekend. … A lot of the teams — a good portion, not all of them — do utilize sharing pit crew personnel between Cup and Xfinity and Gander Trucks that it is a logistical hurdle for the teams to fly those individuals back and forth. Trying this procedure at these events certainly alleviates a lot of that burden on the teams to make that happen.”

Peterson said there are no immediate plans to expand the use of these pit-stop and crew personnel rules in more races or beyond the Xfinity and Gander Trucks series in 2021 and beyond.

“We’re definitely using it as a trial and something that we can take a look at with these events and analyze it and go from there,” Peterson said. “There’s no imminent plans to do anything beyond what we’re doing right now, but just like everything, we try to look all the time at how we can make it better for our fans and we’re going to use these events to see how it plays out and analyze the results to look at for the future.”

That future doesn’t include these type pit procedures in the NASCAR Cup series.

“Right now there is no plans for the Cup Series,” Peterson said.  “We’re focusing on the Gander trucks and Xfinity Series, and our plan right now is just to focus on these seven races and try to put out the best production we can and then go back and analyze and evaluate what we did versus the other races and the way we’ve done it to this point and analyze and go from there.

“But no set plans to do anything beyond these seven races.  That’s our focus right now.”

Greg Engle