NASCAR tower to operate pit-road entrance light
June 28, 2015, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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SONOMA, Calif. – NASCAR officials in race control will now be in control of the indicator light at the entrance to pit road beginning with today's Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
The light and flags, previously both controlled by a NASCAR official at the opening of pit road, indicate whether pit road is open or closed at various points during a race.
An issue with that system last weekend at Chicago during an NASCAR XFINITY Series event resulted in 19 drivers pitting under caution before pit road was officially open – because most had heard on the radio officials in the tower announce pit road was open.
Teams often make the decision to pit based on information coming from officials in the scoring tower, and the message from the tower was that pit road was open. The official stationed at the pit road opening was displaying a red flag, and the indicator light at the entrance was still red, however, both signifying that pit road was still officially closed.
The penalty for pitting too soon under caution is restarting the race at the tail end of the field. Under green-flag conditions, drivers would have to serve a pass-through penalty by returning to pit road a second time.
"When you looked at it, the tower did come over the radio and say pit road was open," Steve O'Donnell, Vice President of Competition and Racing Development for NASCAR, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. "But if you go back to the driver's meeting, what we say in every driver's meeting is that the light and the flag are what dictates whether its open or not.
"The person at the opening did not hear the radio communication so the red flag and the light were still on. And in that case if anyone comes down pit road, when it's technically closed via the light or the flag, they'll receive a penalty for pitting too soon."
According to one NASCAR official, if for some reason the light and the flag displayed by the official don't match, the flag displayed by the official will indicate the official status of pit road at that time.
The change takes effect today and will be in place for all three national series – Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series.