By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
At the end of day two of an organizational test for the NASCAR Next Gen Cup Series car at Charlotte Motor Speedway, several teams practiced live pit stops with varying degrees of success.
Among the teams that took part in the pit stop practice were GMS Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Spire Motorsports, and 23XI Racing. On hand for the pit stop practice included Max Papis, Hendrick Motorsports’ Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus, and others.
The new Next Gen NASCAR Cup Series car is not only a radical departure in the construction of a NASCAR stock car, but also a change in pit stops. With a single lug nut, the speed of the pit stops increases. However, the fuel flow has slowed. When the car is jacked up on the right side, the flow of fuel into the fuel cell is little to none.
During pit stop practice at the NASCAR Next Gen test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, several teams worked out different kinks in the choreography. The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports pit crew had two uncontrolled tires during the simulated pit stops.
— Seth Eggert (@SethEggert91) November 18, 2021
The most dramatic issue took place with Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The jackman failed to raise the car high enough on the right side. As a result, the rear tire changer didn’t get the tire square on the mounting. The tire wasn’t tightened properly. On the next stop, the crew performed a fuel only stop and tightened the wheel they thought was loose, the left rear tire.
Seconds later, the right rear tire worked its’ way off of the car on the backstretch. LaJoie drove the car back to pit road with no apparent damage. The AMR Safety crew retrieved the tire and brought it back to pit road.
“Initially I was kind of (thinking) do we need to do this right now because of the inexperience with the teams with this package,” explained Knaus. “It was a worthwhile learning exercise. Pit stops are definitely going to be a little bit faster with the single-lug package. It was worthwhile coming out here and letting the guys stretch their muscles a little bit.”
The pit stops that took place during the organizational test were unofficially around 12.9 seconds. By comparison, some pit stops with the Gen 6 car were between 11 and 12 seconds.
Although not a crew chief today, Knaus won seven NASCAR Cup Series championships with Jimmie Johnson. Those titles spanned the Gen 4, Gen 5, and Gen 6 NASCAR Cup Series cars. However, the Next Gen stock car represents a fundamental change including a new independent rear suspension, composite materials, and other nuances.
“It’s a really exciting car, going to be fun to work on it,” Knaus stated. “Obviously it has a lot of new tools, knobs. The drivers seem excited by it. There’s some work that we need to do as an industry still. I think it’s going to put on a really good show once it gets going.”
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Andrew Coppley / Harold Hinson Photography