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NASCAR Pit Crews Will Be Running Lean In ’18

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 8 2018

Martin Truex Jr. and his Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team won it all last year. This year there will be fewer pit crew members with whom to celebrate. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NASCAR is determined to extend “parity” to pit road and beyond in 2018, following a series of rules changes introduced at the close of last season.

Pit crew numbers in NASCAR’s three national touring series have been reduced from six to five, a change NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said primarily is designed to improve parity in the sport.

Additionally, a team’s re-fueler no longer will be allowed to perform other duties _ like helping with tires or making chassis adjustments _ during pit stops. And in an effort to spotlight the work of pit crew members, each over-the-wall team member will be required to wear a uniform number.

The over-the-wall pit crew reduction is part of a multi-faceted change. NASCAR also has implemented limits on workers in two other categories, defined by the sanctioning body as “organizational” and “road crew.”

The organizational category includes competition directors, team managers, technical directors and similar positions. Teams with one- or two-car operations will be allotted three roster spots for organizational personnel. Teams with three or four cars can have four. The road crew category includes crew chief, car chief, mechanics, engine tuners, tire specialists and similar jobs. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ limit is 12.

Reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. said the changes certainly have been discussed at Furniture Row Racing in Denver, Colo.

“I think there’s a lot of questions marks from all teams and I know there’s a lot of talks throughout teams and in the industry of how much different it is,” said Truex, driver of the No. 78 Toyota Camry. “I think that everybody is practicing and trying to figure out the best way to do it and I feel confident that it’s going to be a wait-and-see kind of approach. Everybody is going to think they have a handle on it and then somebody is going to do it different on pit road and whip everybody’s butt in Daytona, so then you’re going to have to re-learn everything and try and figure it out.

“From what I understand, it’s been really difficult. A lot of the weight falls on the jack man as far as making the stops go fast and when all that pressure gets put on one position it makes that one position really important and really different than it’s been in the past. I think everybody is just trying to figure it out, but from what I understand our guys are doing a really good job with it and feel confident with it.”

Pit stops in recent seasons generally have been completed in the 11-12-second range. O’Donnell said the reduction in crew size should not have a significant impact on time spent in the pits.

“The drive toward parity is to have more teams have the ability to win,” O’Donnell said. “We want everybody to have the same amount of resources at the track. And we want to put focus on other team members, as well.

“These teams are experts at what they do. I think it will present some different challenges in terms of how teams approach it. That’s one of the beauties of this _ we’ll see more innovation. The stops might be a little slower, but I wouldn’t anticipate anything drastic.”

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NASCAR has confirmed stage lengths for its three national series, looking to build upon last season’s debut of the race-within-a-race, point-paying format.

In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, all 2018 stage lengths will remain consistent with 2017. The race and stage lengths for the Charlotte Motor Speedway road-course event during the Playoffs will be announced at a later date.

Following feedback from NASCAR Xfinity Series teams, there will be slight updates to the stage lengths at both ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Dover International Speedway in Delaware. At both Phoenix races, the stages will end at Lap 45, Lap 90 and Lap 200. For the Dover events, the stages will end on Lap 45, Lap 90 and Lap 200.

In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, both Las Vegas Motor Speedway races are scheduled for 134 laps, with stage lengths set to end at Lap 40, Lap 80 and Lap 134.

“Our primary goal every season is providing the best race for our fans, and to that end, we will remain consistent in terms of stage lengths for the majority of our national series events,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “Last year’s debut of the race format was a strong one, and we look forward to building on that foundation in 2018, starting with Speedweeks at Daytona.”

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Teen-ager Austin Cindric continues to fast-track up the NASCAR national touring series ladder.

Following a third-place finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship standings last season, Cindric will compete for the NASCAR Xfinity Series title in 2018. Cindric, 19, will drive in all 33 series events with two different winning organizations.

Cindric will open the 2018 schedule racing the No. 60 PIRTEK Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17. As previously announced, Cindric will compete in a total of nine events for Roush Fenway, including four of the first five races on the NXS schedule.

In addition, Cindric will drive either the No. 12 or the No. 22 Mustang for Team Penske in the remaining 24 races, including the four Dash for Cash events at Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover.

“Just the experience of making the Final Four last season and getting to race for the Truck Series championship at Homestead for BKR (Brad Keselowski Racing) was truly special for me, but has made me determined to find a way to try and get in that position again,” said Cindric, who will work with three different crew chiefs. “Now to have the opportunity to run for a driver’s championship this year in the Xfinity Series with both Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing is a dream come true.

“I know there’s a lot left for me to learn. That being said, it puts the ball in my court because I have such an incredible and unique opportunity in front of me to be surrounded by the experience of two very successful organizations and that’s all a driver can ask for. Much like last season, I feel like it may take a little time to adjust, but I’m eager to get started on that journey. I just can’t thank Roger Penske, Jack Roush and everyone with Ford Performance enough for this opportunity.”

The son of Team Penske President Tim Cindric, Austin made his NXS debut last season in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Cindric has had a busy preseason as he already has raced three different types of cars in three series, including two Rallycross Ice races in Sweden. More recently and in warmer climes, Cindric was part of a sixth-place overall finish in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series’ season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona driving the No. 85 ORECA/Gibson Prototype for JDC-Miller MotorSports. 

While driving the No. 12 Mustang for Team Penske _ beginning on Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway _ Cindric will work with new crew chief Matt Swiderski.

Swiderski joined Team Penske during the offseason following a successful run with Richard Childress Racing, where he worked as crew chief of the No. 3 NXS team with Ty Dillon, Scott Lagasse and Brian Scott in 2017. Previously, Swiderski was the head of vehicle performance at RCR for three seasons after also serving as race engineer for RCR teams competing in both the Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“This is a great opportunity to become a part of the winning tradition at Team Penske,” said Swiderski, who also worked in 2012 for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a private aerospace manufacturer and space transport provider that operates some of the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecrafts.

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Completely smoke-free grandstands will host fans at Texas Motor Speedway this season, an updated policy that includes all electronic cigarette devices.

TMS President Eddie Gossage and speedway management established a ban on smoking in the grandstands in 2013. The revised policy to include e-cigarettes and vapes is a result of strong feedback from guest surveys and the speedway’s fan council. Speedway guests will still be able to smoke _ both standard and electronic products _ in designated areas throughout the lower concourse area.

The 2018 season in Fort Worth begins in less than three months when NASCAR returns April 6-8 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 doubleheader. The spring weekend includes the My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity Series race Saturday, April 7 and O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday, April 8.

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the 1.5-mile facility June 8-9 for a tripleheader. The weekend kicks off with the Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday, June 8, followed by the Texas Indy 600 _ “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” _ on Saturday, June 9. The weekend also will include the No Limits Off-Road Ruckus both days as well as the No Limits Off-Road Rumble SPEED Energy Stadium Super Truck Series races before and after the INDYCAR –sanctioned event.

NASCAR will return for a tripleheader of Playoff action Nov. 2-4. The schedule will begin with the JAG Metals 350 Camping World Truck Series race Friday, Nov. 2, followed by the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Xfinity Series race Saturday, Nov. 3. The weekend and TMS season will culminate Sunday, Nov. 4, with the AAA Texas 500 Cup race.

Season tickets and camping to all TMS race events are available by calling the speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com. Ticket office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 8 2018
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  • Keith says:

    They should really cut the road crew down further should be 12 max including the pit crew. They should also stop multi car teams road crews from working on teammates cars at the track it is unfair to single car teams.