There was a meeting this week between NASCAR and the sport’s various pit crew coaches regarding the new pit road rules for 2015. The main story line we’ve seen emphasized this week is the fact that NASCAR is no longer going to enforce a lug nut rule. But that isn’t the only thing to come out of that meeting. There are other new rules and ways of enforcement that could have much more drastic impacts on races.
Before I jump into those other areas, let me first talk briefly about the lugnut situation. In the past, the NASCAR rule said lugnuts had to be “installed” to be legal. What exactly the interpretation of “installed” is, was up to the officials. As long as a lugnut was on the stud, most officials would usually let that ride. Only lugnuts that were on the ground were called. So this notion that every tire changer is only going to try and get three or four nuts tight now is a little over-exaggerated. This was happening before, and while you might see more chances taken with the new enforcement, it won’t be that drastic. You will see more loose wheels, but that is self-policing. Drivers will be forced back to pit road during these situations, and often under green.
Now, as for the rest of what was discussed. The big move for next season is the removal of more officials from pit road. Starting at Daytona, a new video system will monitor pit road, and penalties will be called from a central video-review location. That means far fewer “judgement” calls by officials. Cut and dry video evidence will rule. And the one area that nobody in the media has mentioned that will be affected the most is crews jumping from the wall early.
The rule for when crews can leave the wall goes like this: teams are allowed to be on the ground in their pit stall as soon as their car crosses the back line of the stall directly behind their own. You didn’t see this rule enforced all that often, because it had to be fairly blatant for an official to even notice it. Now, if a crew member is down even a split second early, the penalty will be called. Supposedly once NASCAR started testing this video system late in 2014, they were hundreds of “jumping early” penalties flagged by the system.
What this means, is that you could potentially see a lot of these penalties called early in the season until pit crews figure out what they can and can’t get away with. All coaches are emphasizing this point to their teams this offseason, but it will be an issue in 2015.
Another rule that will be more actively enforced with this video system is the drivers rolling through too many pit boxes before their own on entry. Drivers are only allowed to drive through three (I think) pit boxes before they enter their own. This was also a judgement call in the past, but this new video system will catch more of these in the future.
Other smaller points of emphasis for NASCAR included the elimination of helping your neighbor on pit road gather up his tires by being over the wall (i.e. the 27 &24 pit crews at Kansas). You would often see a member of another pit crew over the wall helping a team corral it’s tires. Now, if a crewman wants to help, they have to stay behind the wall. NASCAR is also going to pay closer attention to tire control by the pit crews. If tires aren’t in control of a crewman at least half way back to the wall, NASCAR will call a penalty. This rule isn’t new, but will be more actively enforced.
A lot of changes are coming to NASCAR for 2015, but these new pit road rules could be sneaky important to the outcomes next season. And even though the lugnut situation will be important, these other areas will be big as well.