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Indy pit road should be improved before NASCAR arrives

By admin | June 1, 2010

By Richard Allen

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway may be the most hallowed ground in all of motorsports but it still needs improvement. In particular, the pit road of the famous speedway is in desperate need of change.

In Sunday’s Indy 500 there were incidents on pit road caused by the fact that the lane is too narrow. The thing to consider about those incidents is the fact that NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are considerably larger than Indy cars. And, there will be 43 of them in the Brickyard 400 as opposed to the 33 cars in the Indy 500.

NASCAR drivers had issues on pit road this past weekend in Charlotte and that area offers much more room than the pit road in Indy. Plus, the Charlotte pits offer the drivers an escape in that they can go into the grass to avoid contact. Indy offers no such escape.

An obvious problem is that a contending car for a win in one of the biggest races of the year could be damaged off the race track, which would be a shame for that particular team as well as for the fans who could be deprived of seeing a good race.

However, the real danger is that a crewman could find himself in the way of a big, heavy stock car that has just been knocked off course by another big, heavy stock car. Again, to use Charlotte as an example, a crew member for Greg Biffle was struck by Tony Stewart’s car as he left his pit stall during the running of the Coca-Cola 600. The possibility for this to happen in Indianapolis is multiplied by the lack of room to maneuver.

And more, the Indy track is not known for producing great racing, especially among the stock cars. So, the importance of gaining positions in the pits is magnified. Too little room for cars and crews who are in a big hurry is a recipe for disaster.

NASCAR has been racing at IMS since 1994 and Indy cars have been racing there for almost 100 years. The pit road at the track was designed for a different era and it is time that was changed.

IMS officials will point to the fact that the Indy cars require fuel tanks in their pit stalls and that there are grandstands just behind the pit wall. Both of those would be an easier fix than a badly injured crew member or a race decided by a pit road collision rather than on track racing.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

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