New Next Gen race car means radically different approach to pit stops

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Pit stops in the Daytona 500 will be fundamentally different this year – just ask Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

It’s not just because the new NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen cars have gone to a single-center lug instead of five lug nuts to secure each tire.

And it’s not just because the fuel cell capacity has increased roughly eight percent to 20 gallons, increasing the time necessary to fuel the car.

As Stenhouse points out, there are other factors that radically alter the process of getting to pit road – namely the new five-speed sequential transmission and the larger brake package on the Cup cars.

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“Coming to pit road is totally different,” Stenhouse told the NASCAR Wire Service on Saturday morning during an appearance with sponsor Bimbo Bakeries USA. “You’re wide open until you get to the end of the (Turn 4) grandstands at least – and pit road is not far away.

“And then the brake package we have on the car, and the drag and the downforce we have, you can get it stopped before you get to pit road. I know (Kyle) Larson said it caught him off guard the other night (in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels), and he was way too conservative getting to pit road.”

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The new transmission also requires a different process with the shifter and clutch.

“Getting into your pit box is difficult,” Stenhouse said. “You’re downshifting on the way into pit road. So you get to second gear from fifth. When you come into your pit box, you would always just throw it in neutral.

“Now you have to push the clutch in and go through first, then go to neutral to get there. Then you can release the clutch and pull into your pit box. Or I’ve thought about leaving it in first gear and leaving the clutch in, because when you put these cars in gear, it really turns the rear tires a lot.

“You can’t do that when they’re trying to change tires, or, obviously, you’ll mess them up.”

In the second Duel, Stenhouse’s crew chief, Brian Pattie, told his driver to leave the pit stall on his command, rather than on the drop of the jack.

“The other night he told me going into it that I would go on him, because he felt like the tires would be done before the fuel. For how much fuel we needed to make it to the end, he felt like the tires should be done, so he said to make sure I went on him.

“That’s evolving.”