While a ton of focus last weekend at the Daytona International Speedway was on the new pit stops and how they will work with one less crew member over the wall, the real impact of how these stops will play out will be this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The reason? The stops on a restrictor plate track aren’t as important as anywhere else on the schedule. Track position isn’t even a thing really discussed at Daytona or Talladega.
Joey Logano went from a lap down from his stop with 29 laps-to-go last weekend to a fourth place finish for crying out loud.
But, Atlanta is a different animal. Teams aren’t making aero changes to their cars during stops in Daytona. Atlanta is an aged worn out surface, where handling is critical. That will cause adding tape, removing tape, chassis adjustments, etc on stops this weekend. Add a screw up doing that, or a slow four tire stop, and you can lose at least a lap or two by time you leave pit road.
Plus, teams will be forced to take four tires on every stop this weekend as well. At Daytona, you can get by with a two tire stop. Due to that old surface in Atlanta, it will cut the life of tires down in half. Teams will be pitting well before the fuel cycle ends, as we will see cycles running as short as 30-50 laps. So, if you want to be competitive during a stint, you need four fresh tires. That’s why the teams that are on their game, compared to the teams that may be a bit slower, will stand out this weekend. One slow stop could ruin your whole afternoon.
Last year, everyone was so close on pit stops. This year, it’s a wild card out of the gates.
Pit stops are always important, but this weekend they will be as critical as any point this season. Teams will get better at this as the season goes on. This is the first real test. It will definitely sway the finishing order in all three races this weekend.