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O'Donnell explains reasoning behind new over-the-wall pit road rule
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell discusses the reasoning behind the new over-the-wall pit road rule and how it was applied in the Advance Auto Parts Clash.
Inside Access Miss Sprint Cup: #17 Pit Crew
Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon follows the No. 17 crew as they compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pit Crew Challenge .
Part 3: Pit crew strengths and weaknesses for Chase
RELATED: Part 1 " Part 2 MORE: Meet the 16 Chase crew chiefs This is the third in a series of four pit crew analysis pieces NASCAR.com will roll out this week as we preview the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . For more pit crew news provided by PitTalks.com come back throughout the Chase. Team Penske No. 2 Ford for Brad Keselowski Pit Coach: Trent Cherry Front Changer: Hunter Masling Front Carrier: Jeremy Ogles Jackman: Braxton Brannon Rear Changer: Dwayne Ogles Rear Carrier: Tyler Mitchell Gas Man: Nick Hensley Strength: This is the same group that pitted BK last year in the Chase and it has lots of talent. The team was part of six wins last year and one so far this year. Pitting a winning car is something this crew is used to doing. Weakness: This team has shown both signs of greatness and struggle all year. If it can improve on consistency it can be a scary team to pit against. Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet for Martin Truex Jr . Pit Crew : 78 Pit Coach: Walt Smith Front Changer: Dave Collins Front Carrier: Craig Curione Jackman: Carey Wimbish Rear Changer: Kyle Turner Rear Carrier: Adam Mosher Gas Man: Brian Dheel Strength: They have a cool nickname: "Box-spring bandits." On a more serious note, this team is loaded with veterans and has perhaps the most experience of any crew in the Chase. Weakness: This crew has been all over the place this year. It is a good crew when things are right but keeping it right is a challenge . Earlier in the year the team made a change at rear changer but that didn't last long. A few weeks later it was back to the original crew . There's enough veteran talent that if the team can keep up with its driver, it has a chance to run deep in the Chase. Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota for Denny Hamlin Pit Coach: Mike Lepp Front Changer: Dustin Necaise Front Carrier: Brandon Pegram Jackman: Nate Bolling Rear Changer: Mike Hicks Rear Carrier: Heath Cherry Gas Man: Caleb Hurd Strength: This crew is solid at every position and works great under pressure. There has been a lot of talk about this team over the year and rightfully so. The team was instrumental in JGR winning the All-Star race has put its driver in position to win multiple times this year. Look for this to be one of the crews to beat come Chase time. Weakness: As good as this group is there have been races where consistency has been an issue. This team gets up for the big stops better than any team out there but sometimes relies on the Money Stop. Keeping jack man Nate Bolling healthy is also a major concern. Nate is coming off a very bad injury in the offseason and is a major contributor to the success. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 1 Chevrolet for Jamie McMurray Pit Coach: Shaun Peet Front Changer: Danny Kincaid Front Carrier: Ben Fetzer Jackman: Shane Wilson Rear Changer: Kenyatta Houston Rear Carrier: Art Simmons Gas Man: Mike Metcalf Strength: This crew has been one of the best surprises of the year. It has been very good as of late and the chemistry within this group is strong. It's a group of talent that was put together this year by first-year coach Shaun Peet, and it's working. Weakness: This team has zero wins this year and hasn't found itself pitting under winning pressure for most of the year. In order to compete in the Chase the team will have to thrive under pressure situations. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com
Backward motion: Pit stops at The Glen are ... different
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series are taking their talents to the Watkins Glen road course this week. With that comes the challenge of pitting, as The Glen is the only place in the Sprint Cup Series where stops are done backward. What makes this so difficult? The first thing is just simply breaking routines. Pit crews train hard year-round, and all their focus is on gaining one-tenth of a second. Now you take a random week during the year and throw in backward stop and things get interesting. It's all good, though -- these guys are professionals. Teams usually will start practicing for Watkins Glen either the week of the race, or sometimes a week earlier. It's usually a two- or three-stop event, so teams don't spend a ton of prep time on it. Getting used to the choreography of the stops is difficult, too. Everything is opposite of the usual flow. Getting footwork to match up can be a challenge . What are usually easy left- and right-side wedge adjustments now become more difficult. Gasmen also have a different angle to plug their cans into. It's not uncommon to see lots of gas being spilled at a track where fuel mileage is big. Perhaps the biggest challenge for crewmen is the penalty they face for jumping early. With the new NASCAR technology, you can't cheat the jump line. When your routine is changed, so is your timing. Expect to see a few guys leave early because their timing is off. With the anxiety of change comes the anxiety of getting across the car quicker, and that's when leaving early happens. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Suarez earns high marks in Monster Energy Series debut
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Where will Suarez line up in the Duels? DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The education of Daniel Suarez has been an accelerated course. Just three years ago, he was competing at Daytona International Speedway under much different conditions, racing a K&N Pro Series car on a temporary .370-mile oval on the large track's backstretch. This year, it's a much different stage that greets the Mexican-born driver, a move that's equivalent to a prodigy starting work on a graduate degree. "I really felt like I went to school," Suarez said Sunday, after his first competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series provided him valuable experience as he nears his debut in the Daytona 500 . The 25-year-old rookie wound up eighth in the 17-car Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition after a late-race shuffle, but now has a feel for competing in NASCAR's major leagues as he progresses through his first Speedweeks in the sport's top series at Daytona. Suarez avidly studies video footage before each race, but said that nothing could quite prepare him for actually driving his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota in a pack against the sport's best. Suarez said he gained an understanding about the nuances of tire wear and how his car handles, but perhaps the most valuable lesson was learning the differences between the Monster Energy Series and the XFINITY Series, where he spent the last two years and claimed the 2016 championship. "Those guys are aggressive and they race hard as soon as they see the green flag," Suarez said on pit road post-race. "I felt like I learned a lot. I felt like it was a very productive race for me and for my team and hopefully we can put everything we learned on the table for next week." RELATED: Suarez's five-year plan heads for new heights The next phase for Suarez is a run through Thursday's Can Am Duels (7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the 150-mile qualifying races that will help determine the Daytona 500 lineup. The preliminaries add another 60 laps of actual race conditions to the 75 now in his portfolio after Sunday's Clash. Crew chief Dave Rogers, preparing to work with his fourth driver in the last four seasons at JGR, said Sunday's exhibition was an educational event for him as well. The veteran wrench connected with Suarez's feedback early and then watched his driver make prudent decisions down the stretch. When Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski joined forces and freight-trained their way past him in the penultimate lap, Suarez lost momentum and slipped back from the second-place position he'd held for much of the event's second segment. Though the choice ultimately dropped him from contention, a more hawkish move to block the Penske pair's advancement could have left his peers with crumpled cars and an unfavorable first impression. "At the very end, I think he got a good taste of how these Cup guys play," Rogers said as he walked back to the garage, his car still in one piece. "He just made a smart decision there at the end. He could've tried to roll up in front of the Penske cars and block them, and then we end up with a bunch of torn-up race cars, so he made a wise move, which I'm proud of him for. "You know, he's a young kid in his first Cup race, he only wants to finish really well but he let common sense prevail and didn't cause a big wreck and earned the trust and respect of some competitors. So that was good, and I think we'll just get better throughout the week." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Pit crew for No. 11 team undergoes change
Jackman Nate Bolling out for the year after injury at Charlotte RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Denny Hamlin 's pit crew , which consistently ranks among the swiftest on the circuit, will be without jackman Nate Bolling for the rest of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Bolling had surgery earlier this week to repair the torn right tricep he suffered on the second pit stop in Saturday's Bank of America 500 . He is expected to make a full recovery and be available for the 2015 Daytona 500 . The No. 11 team will turn to backup jackman Kenneth Purcell. Purcell was a part of four championship-winning seasons with the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson . Hamlin, who won the spring race at Talladega, is seventh in the standings. Sunday's GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the 2.66-mile superspeedway is the final of three races in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Eight drivers will advance into the three-race Eliminator Round. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
NASCAR confident in restart order after complex pit -stop scenario
RELATED: Complete race results " Chase Grid MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- It was the perfect storm at an imperfect time. There was nothing unusual when, in the midst of a cycle of green-flag pit stops during Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway , the caution flag appeared. It's a scenario that has played out numerous times for a series that features 36 points races each season and hundreds of laps in each race. Carl Edwards , driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , had hit the wall, and was scrambling to get to pit road on Lap 357 of the 500-lap event. But while sorting out the various running positions of those competitors who already had pitted from those who had yet to come to pit road, situations developed. The leader, eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson , came to a stop on the track when he accidentally killed the power to his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, which was already short on fuel. Once those who had yet to pit made their stops and officials were attempting to set the order for the restart, anxious drivers contested their spots in the lineup. It was confusing, but officials said the important thing was to make sure the order was correct before resuming green-flag racing in the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup 's Round of 8. In the meantime, 29 laps around the .526-mile track were run under yellow. "Today was a very dynamic situation; it was unique, as you saw," Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck said afterward. "We were right in the middle of green flag pit stops and we had to go to a caution. That presents one set of issues that we deal with and then from that point as it moved along and we started to get the lineup as we normally do, it went to another dynamic when we had the leader run out of fuel. ... "We understand the stakes of the Chase. They're extremely high for everybody. Our job is to get it right. We've got a tremendous amount of resources up there (in the tower). We then moved into another dynamic of it, the wave-arounds. We took our time to make sure we got it right; we feel confident that we got it right."
Sadler's substitute crew chief motivated, not worried
RELATED: Phoenix penalties announced " Miami schedule Mike Bumgarner sounded cool and collected Wednesday afternoon answering questions about his crew chief debut this season -- which happens to come in Saturday's XFINITY Series season finale championship race. The JR Motorsports race operations manager will lead driver Elliott Sadler in the championship finale, filling in for Sadler's regular crew chief, Kevin Meendering, who is suspended for one race after a lug nut violation at Phoenix International Raceway last week. Officials ruled two lug nuts on Elliott's No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet were not sufficiently fastened, so Meendering will be sidelined while the veteran Sadler races for his first NASCAR championship. Meendering also was fined $10,000 for the P3-level penalty. Despite the change in plans, Bumgarner anticipated it will be business as usual for the weekend. He expected to rely on Sadler's experience and the team's confidence in taking on his role this weekend. "I don't see much of a challenge from my side," Bumgarner said. "Kevin has a good group of guys, and these guys know what their role is to play. It's more or less letting these guys do their jobs, and this will all play out. "It's just more or less for me, just to guide these guys along and answer any questions and try to do my best at calling a good race and getting Elliott in and off pit road. I think that's probably the biggest task. "We'll see where it all falls, but I feel pretty confident and not really too worried about it. It's an awesome group of guys, and I think these guys will prevail." Bumgarner chuckled a little about team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr . joking he would crew chief this one race, saying, "It would have definitely made it easier on me. I would have much rather just went down there and sat back and watched." This is not to say that Sadler isn't intensely motivated to win this title after twice (2011 and 2012) finishing championship runner-up. The 41-year old is a tried-and-true veteran – having won races in all three of NASCAR's marquee series. And even the complication in this week's situation is unlikely to sidetrack him or this team. "And it's not just Elliott but spotter Brett Griffin, as well," Bumgarner said about relying on the team's veteran leadership. "Those guys have been together for a long time, and that's what I spoke about earlier -- about the importance of getting in and off pit road during the race. He and Brett, they have a good combination as far as speaking and talking together, and I think that is going to make it easy, as well. "Elliott knows what he needs to do with the race car. These guys, they've shown on paper or speed charts as the week goes on every week, they progressively get better as the week goes." While some may see this situation as a championship curveball, this veteran team and its driver have taken everything in stride. In fact, it may have inspired this group even more. "One thing we talked about Monday morning is this is definitely motivation," Bumgarner said. "Any time a team gets down, it just shows you how strong a group of guys we have here, not only with the No. 1 OneMain team but as JR Motorsports as a whole. We all stick behind each other and try to help each other out and make each other stronger." &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Positive takeaways for new pit road officiating system
Technology advancement demands more driver precision Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR's new pit -road officiating technology received a much-anticipated preseason shakedown Saturday night in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition. The audition gave NASCAR officials more experience with the system, but teams, drivers and pit crews also got a sample of how it operated in race conditions without points on the line. PHOTOS: Inside the new pit road technology The system passed its preliminary test without major issue Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, with no noticeable glitches and no dramatic uptick in violations. It marked the next step in its rollout, heading toward its full-fledged debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' biggest race, the Feb. 22 Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) Saturday night's outcome was tempered somewhat by the uniqueness of the invitational race, with only a 75-lap distance as a sample size. The Sprint Unlimited also featured a smaller field of 25 vs. the traditional 43, making wholesale trips to pit road a less crowded proposition. A rash of caution periods and red flags for crashes also took the prospects of testing the system with green-flag pit stops en masse out of the equation. Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota team managed to avoid not only the carnage of wrecks, but also the watchful eye of the new pit road officiating process. Jason Ratcliff, Kenseth's crew chief, said an offseason walk-through of the technology at the NASCAR Research and Development Center helped prime teams for the road ahead. "It's the first race out," Ratcliff said after the Victory Lane celebration. "We didn't make many competitive pit stops tonight. But all in all, I think our teams did well. I think they're as prepared as anyone is going to be. We'll see that Thursday and then Sunday again. But our pit crew coaches and our pit crew department has put a lot of effort, as well as every individual guy, understanding how much more precise that system's going to be compared to what it's been in the past." MORE: New pit road technology at the 'tip of the spear' By race's end, NASCAR's stat sheet showed 11 pit -road infractions in the 75-lap race. Six of those violations fell under the heading of entering pit road while it was closed, a category that isn't monitored by the new technology. Three teams were docked for having too many crewmembers over the wall, and one each for crewmembers over the wall too soon or a driver passing through more than three pit boxes on entry or exit. From a driver's perspective, the technology advancement demands more precision as well, but early on, defending Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick was among those leaving their approach unaltered. "That doesn't really change anything for me," said Harvick, a three-time Unlimited winner who wound up 11th Saturday night. "I think as you look at the things that happen, on and off pit road you have to just do what you normally do. Driving in and out of three boxes in or out, or the guys jumping over the wall is going to be the hardest thing. There is no hiding from the new pit road penalties." The new system uses 45 high-definition cameras at every Sprint Cup track, recording and feeding video of every pit stall to a trackside hauler, where eight NASCAR officials monitor and rule on pit stops at a double-time rate of roughly eight seconds per car. The process, rigorously checked during the late stages of 2014 and with file footage in the offseason, was also in place for testing during the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship opener, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Saturday marked the system's first real-time application under the NASCAR umbrella. While Unlimited runner-up Martin Truex Jr. said he was cognizant of the technology as he made his first pit stops of the season, the system didn't play much factor for him because of the 2.5-mile track's spacious pit stalls. When the Sprint Cup schedule shifts to a tighter layout, though, he said the technology has the potential to be more exacting. "Honestly, I was more concerned before I got in the car than when I came down pit road," Truex said. "Everything felt exactly the same to me. There are pretty big pit boxes here, so pretty easy to not drive through more than three. I pretty much took my normal entry, and at the last minute was like, 'OK, that was only one box,' so it's not really something to worry about here, I don't think. There's other places it'll come into play. I think the biggest deal is just the pit crew guys getting used to it." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart swap pit crews
Change between No. 4, No. 14 teams effective immediately RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Stewart-Haas Racing officials announced major changes to the pit crew of the organization's No. 4 Chevrolet with driver Kevin Harvick as the team prepares for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. According to SHR officials, Harvick will be paired with the over-the-wall crew previously teamed with three-time champion and SHR co-owner Tony Stewart . Stewart, who did not qualify for the Chase, will compete in the season's final 10 races with what is now Harvick's former crew . "We made this change in the best interests of the entire organization," SHR Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli said. "Our primary goal is to win races and championships, and this pit crew swap provides championship experience to the No. 4 team and continued race-winning experience to the No. 14 team." With the 10-race Chase kicking off this weekend as Chicagoland Speedway hosts the MyAFibStory.com 400 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET), Harvick could be in the best position to capture his first Sprint Cup title. Mechanical issues that kept the 38-year-old outside the top 20 in points through the first eight races have been addressed and his team continues to bring one of the fastest cars to the track each weekend. If there has been a soft spot in the system, it might be found on pit road. Harvick raced his way into the lead twice during the early stages of Saturday night's race at Richmond, only to lose the position during subsequent pit stops. "I can't fix them, but it's probably the biggest thing that we have to fix in order to contend for the championship," he said afterward. "I think our cars are as fast as they need to be. The guys do a great job of bringing fast cars every week. It's just one mistake after another every week on pit road." Harvick is making his eighth Chase appearance and his fifth in a row. His best points finish has been third, which he accomplished in 2010, '11 and '13 while competing for Richard Childress Racing . He enters this year's Chase seeded sixth among the 16 drivers in the field. He was the first to win multiple races this season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series , making him the first to all but officially lock himself into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet hasn't been to Victory Lane since his victory at Darlington Raceway in April. Not that the team hasn’t been close. Harvick has finished second five times through this year's first 26 races, the most of any driver. He also was the runner-up in the Sprint All-Star Race, a non-points event. NASCAR measures how long teams spend on pit road during each race, and race winners typically are among the top five in the least amount of time. When he won at Phoenix, Harvick spent less time on pit road than any of the 43 drivers in the field. At Darlington, his total time was sixth best. Sometimes a loss of track position on pit road, whether due to a driver or crew -induced penalty or simply a slow stop, can be overcome on the race track. Often, however, it creates a frustrating scenario in which a driver has to maneuver around other cars he or she had already worked around previously, or it puts the driver in greater danger of getting swept up in someone else's troubles. Such was the case for Harvick earlier this year at Sonoma Raceway . After leading twice for 23 laps, a slow stop in the second half of the race dropped him outside the top 10. A chain-reaction incident at Lap 82 collected the No. 4 entry, and Harvick was left to hobble home with a 20th-place finish. He was dominant at Atlanta, leading 195 of 335 laps, but repeatedly lost the lead on pit road. And although he rolls into this weekend's race on the heels of a fifth-place finish at Richmond, he said at Richmond that the problems on pit road needed to be addressed before the Chase got under way. "Hopefully they have a plan as to what they think they need to do in the shop with the two teams in the Chase, but that's not my department," he said. Now, it seems, that plan has been put into place. The No. 4 team pit crew will now be: Front Tire Changer: Ira Jo Hussey " Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire Front Tire Carrier: Todd Drakulich " Hometown: Tucson, Arizona Jackman: Mike Casto " Hometown: Proctor, West Virginia Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith " Hometown: Concord, North Carolina Rear Tire Carrier: Mike Morneau " Hometown: Oxford, Maine All were members Stewart’s pit crew when he captured the 2011 Sprint Cup championship. Moving over to the No. 14 team: Front Tire Changer: Bryan Jacobsen " Hometown: Honesdale, Pennsylvania Front Tire Carrier: Brett Morrell " Hometown: Windham, Maine Rear Tire Changer: Jonathan Sherman " Hometown: Monroe, Louisiana Jackman: Getty Cavitt, Jr. " Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky Rear Tire Carrier: Josh Sobecki " Hometown: New Kensington, Pennsylvania Harvick will be joined in the Chase by SHR teammate Kurt Busch , the 2004 Sprint Cup champion and a winner at Martinsville Speedway earlier this year. In addition to Stewart, SHR's Danica Patrick also failed to qualify for the 16-driver postseason field. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation