By admin | July 2, 2014
By Richard Allen
Over the course of his career, Kevin Harvick has been known for chastising his crew over the in-car radio following poor pit stops. This was again brought to light during NASCAR’s most recent races at the Kentucky Motor Speedway when the driver admonished his JR Motorsports crew during Friday night’s Nationwide Series race and his Stewart-Haas Racing team during Saturday’s Sprint Cup action.
While Harvick’s verbal lashings may not necessarily be the method some would employ to handle the situation, it’s easy to see why the driver has such a short fuse.
During the Sprint Cup event in Kentucky, only three drivers led that race over the entire course of its 400 mile distance. And for the most part, the lead changes that did occur took place during pit stop exchanges or immediately after restarts when cars were bunched together. A nearly identical scenario played out during the Nationwide race on the facility often referred to as ‘The Roughest Track in NASCAR’.
With aerodynamics and down force so important in today’s NASCAR, passing is limited because ‘clean air’ is so essential. Obviously, the lead car is the only one truly out in clean air until lapped traffic becomes a factor. And with the frequency of debris cautions and other types of yellow flags, lapped traffic can’t always be counted on to disturb the leader’s air. So getting to the lead is a critical factor. And with passing out on the track at such a premium, bypassing cars on pit road is the best way to make up spots. Conversely, losing spots on pit road can make for a long day spent mired in the middle of the pack.
Harvick is far from being the only driver to chew out his pit crew for slow pit stops. His outbursts just get played on television because they tend to be among the most colorful and predictable. Using the Trackpass feature on NASCAR.com allows me to listen to all drivers during each race. Virtually every driver snaps at his/her crew when hard earned positions are given away on pit road. Conversely, virtually all drivers, including Harvick, are quick to praise their crews when they gain positions with their quick work.
The bottom line is that pit road is the place where races are won and lost in today’s NASCAR. That has always been true to some degree when it came to plotting strategy, but now it’s just as true in terms of passing cars. Getting to the lead on pit road often results in keeping the lead on the track while losing the lead on pit road often results in riding around in the wake of dirty air for long periods of time.
The cars are so equal and so aero-dependent on the track that they don’t pass each other very often. It’s easy to see why Kevin Harvick or any other driver would get frustrated with the crew when precious places are lost due to mistakes.
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