The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event from Myrtle Beach Speedway featured a unique pit stop rule that continually shuffled the running order on Saturday night and produced mixed opinions from those participating in the event.
Due to the abrasive track surface on the historic South Carolina track, NASCAR officials implemented a four-tire rule in which only one tire could be changed per pit stop. If a driver wanted to take two or more tires on a given pit stop, it would take the number of stops equal to the tires put on during a given caution.
NASCAR also limited the number of pit crew members that could go over the wall to three as a cost saving measurement.
Per a NASCAR spokesman:
“Given the abrasive surface at Myrtle Beach Speedway, NASCAR and the track agreed to include live pit stops for this event. With this being the first race of the new unified tour, and being cognizant of costs and travel for the majority of teams coming from New England, the decision was also made to limit the number of crew members needed for stops as a cost saving initiative.
We felt the pit stop rule for this event struck a balance between savings and competition, and allowed teams to employ a variety of strategies as they saw fit.”
Third-place finisher Andy Seuss saw the procedure as a win for all involved.
“Any rule that saves us money, I’m all for it,” Seuss said. “This sport needs more people in it and that’s the way to do it. It’s not like there’s a bunch of millionaires who want in and don’t know how. We have so many people with race cars collecting dust. So we saved money with less pit guns and people so I don’t think fans are going to leave here thinking it was less of a race because of those things.”
The only minor critique came from 2013 champion Ryan Preece whom was bit by late cautions. He appreciated the spirit of the rule at Myrtle Beach but suggested a few improvements should the Tour return next season.
“No, because, they either have to allow us to change two tires, but they need to slow the pace car way down because a lot of these guys can’t get it done with three guys over the wall,” Preece said. “So that needs to be looked at.
The challenge NASCAR faced this weekend was that recent Tour Type races at the track were snooze-fests because drivers were running up to eight seconds off their qualifying laps in order to save grip for the finish. Preece said there just wasn’t much more NASCAR could do to encourage intensity and also save teams money.
“There’s not a lot you can do about it unless they want to give us an unlimited tire rule where guys are racing 100 percent all the time and pitting every 30, 40 or 50 laps,” he said. “That’s really the issue. When teams or drivers get boxed in with the tire rules, we have to play by those rules to win the game.”
The rule ultimately did create more action since drivers continually had to give up track position in order to pit throughout the race. Race winner Timmy Solomito said it created a unique dynamic from the Tour’s usual standards.
“It was interesting,” Solomito said. “I don’t know how interesting it made it for the fans, but it was interesting making that many pit stops. I’m used to running hard for 50-75 laps and put three tires on and run hard again. It was really about being smart, you can get the set-up out of whack if you put the wrong tire on and that’s where my crew came into play.”
The Icebreaker at Thompson is expected to feature a more standard pit stop and tires procedure.