|08/29/19||DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA|
|06/26/19||FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER|
|06/18/19||WINNERS NOT ADDING UP|
|05/25/19||THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL|
|05/15/19||NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD|
|04/10/19||WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER|
NASCAR NEEDS TO HOLSTER THE PIT GUNS
For the last several seasons there's been a pit gun arms race. Millions have been spent by top-tier Monster Energy Cup Series teams for research and development in their all out, never ending battle to shave a few tenths of a second off a pitstop, which could, potentially, lead to more trips to victory lane.
According to several sources, well over seven figures was the price tag for the tricked up air guns Joe Gibbs built and maintained for his pit crews. When their tire changers pulled the trigger on those babies they made a whining noise no one had ever heard before on pit road.
So, last season the RTA (Race Team Alliance) went to NASCAR and requested for 2018 they be protected from themselves. Please save us from reckless spending on pit guns, they asked. Take away this headache and make it your migraine. NASCAR should have told the teams to take some aspirin and call your own doctor because all it did was put them in a no-win situation.
To their credit, NASCAR decided to take on the challenge and came up with a standardized pit gun. On purpose, they were a little heavier and less powerful than the ones used in years past. They even standardized the socket, with the opening that fit over the lug notes a tighter fit. All this was done to make the pit stops harder and put everyone on a level playing field. For many teams, the "lease payments" made to NASCAR are substantially less than what they had been spending.
On paper, the whole deal looked like it was going to work out. Then the season started.
Beginning at Daytona, NASCAR began giving each team three of these new pit guns just before the green flag so they couldn't be tampered, but following the second race the complaints began to pour in, reaching higher decibels after Texas.
"The pit guns have been horrible all year," Kevin Harvick complained. "Our guys do a great job on pit road and the pathetic part about it is that you get handed something that doesn't work correctly. It's unfortunate that we have to use a piece of equipment that is handed to us, and that dictates your day."
Harvick added, "It's embarrassing for the sport."
After finishing third in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Jamie McMurray took a stand in the middle of the road. "I think there is a huge adjustment to get used to the pit guns from the ones we used in the past. There was a lot of work that went into those to get them to the level that they were at. The pit guns we get from NASCAR they are not even close to that same level. I think there is a big adjustment for the teams."
Kyle Busch's winning crew chief Adam Stevens likened the situation to a lottery because you never know if or when you're now going to have a problem with the pit guns. "I think it puts a lot of doubt in the changers' minds, probably makes them make more mistakes up and down pit road than maybe what they would have if they had more confidence in their equipment."
"It doesn't change how you call a race, but you're definitely on edge, listening for a problem, looking for a problem. If your number comes up, then your number comes up."
Following his 149th Monster Energy Cup Serie win, Joe Gibbs made it clear having NASCAR distribute pit guns is something he didn't like. "No, I don't and I don't like things not in our hands," he explained. "To be quite truthful I've taken a stand on that. That's something I hope we will continue to really evaluate."
Upon reexamination, I hope NASCAR turns this back over to the teams and the sooner, the better. Monster Energy Cup Series Director Richard Buck, NASCAR' Vice-President of Competition Scott Miller, and others in the sanctioning body working on this have quickly addressed any issues that have cropped up, but everything could go near perfect and they'd still be catching criticism. In the situation there in now anytime a tire changer has a problem the new pit gun will be pointed to as the culprit, even if it was the tire changer who made the mistake. In cases like that NASCAR, in the court of public opinion, really doesn't have a way to defend itself.
That's one of the reasons why a pit gun should remain in the team's control.
If it breaks or isn't used properly or if there's any other problem during a pitstop the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of where it belongs and NASCAR can't be used as a scapegoat. Also, it's one thing for a driver to rag on NASCAR the pit guns cost him a win early in the season, but what about when the Playoff rolls around? What if some issue, legit or not, pops up in the final ten races and a driver fails to move on into the next round or, heaven forbid, loses the championship at Homestead? If it breaks and it was the team's responsibility no big deal and falls under the category "that's racing". If it breaks and NASCAR is blamed, fairly or unfairly, the fans will be screaming about it all winter.
That's why even if the pit guns were 100% effective and without defect here at the opening of this current Cup campaign, I would still be telling NASCAR the same thing. For your own good, holster your pit guns and make the teams fire away with their own.