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NASCAR bids to cut pit lane speeds

27 July 2016

NASCAR’s efforts to curb potentially dangerous speeds in the pit lane took another turn when the pitlane speed timing zones were increased from six to 12.

Having been tested during the New Hampshire race meeting a week earlier, the extra timing lines were trialled successfully in the Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis on 23 July and rolled out to the Sprint Cup Series event on the following day.

They were designed to prevent drivers trying to cut the length of a pit stop by accelerating towards their pit box after crossing a timing line, and potentially passing other cars in the pit lane. NASCAR monitors its pitlane speeds by measuring time over distance, and by reducing the length available in which to accelerate, the governing body hoped to make accelerating a less effective move. Earlier in July at Kentucky, NASCAR had penalised driver Martin Truex Jnr, after he accelerated towards his pit box and in the process overtook the car of Kevin Harvick on the inside.

The penalty caused controversy, with Truex claiming the practice was common throughout the season and that he had been unfairly singled out for punishment. The resultant penalty dropped him to 22 place and while he recovered to finish 10, he felt he had been denied a chance of victory.

“I feel like I did the same thing guys do every week,” Truex told local media. “You get to your timing line, you step on the gas, and you head straight toward your pit. Obviously I turned left and came up next to the 4 car (Harvick) and passed him as I was driving to my pit, which is what guys do every week. I’ve been passed on pit road 15 times this year that same exact way – and I didn’t see guys get penaliSed.”

In response NASCAR officials stated that Truex’s move had been “blatant” and in clear contravention of the series rule book.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, confirmed that other methods of monitoring pit lane speed are also being studied, but were more likely to involve more consistent use of data gained through GPS, rather than speed limiters on the car dashboard. “We like the fact that it’s in the driver’s hands and team’s hands instead of flipping the switch,” he said. Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was among those hit with a speeding penalty during the Indianapolis race.

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