Thursday, May 16, 2013

All Star Race Pit Rule Should Be First Step

For the 2013 All Star Race NASCAR announced that for the race's qualifying format - where cars run laps at speed then make a pitstop, the cumulative time serving as the qualifying time - there will be no pit speed limit. Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observor is concerned about it being a bad precedent.

It is not. It is a twenty-years overdue change and it should be a first step. Pit speed limits were implemented in April 1991 when NASCAR was stumbling to respond to pit crashes in 1989-90. Overlooked in the whole controversy was why these crashes were happening where they generally were not before 1989 - they were happening because NASCAR (starting in late March 1989) was closing pit road when the yellow comes out, bunching up the field and basically throwing them onto pit road all at once. Pit crashes escalated sharply, yet NASCAR never considered dropping the pit closure rule that is the real reason for these pit crashes.

If NASCAR had simply stopped closing pit road under yellow and thus allowed cars to pit of their own volition instead of when NASCAR decided to throw them all in at once, one cannot see any scenario where pit road would be more dangerous - because when NASCAR didn't have all these pit rules, pit road was not a particularly dangerous place; mass pitting was not quite as frequent as it has been in the era with pit closure because cars didn't always pit at once.  

The pit closure rule and subsequent additional pit road rules are simply a manifestation of NASCAR's biggest problem - the refusal to let go of control.   NASCAR should not be closing pit road at all and the offiiciating tower should not have the control of the racing it has, because the outcome of the race is too often determined by the officiating tower more than the racers - pit "speeding" penalties should never be a part of racing.

Far from being a bad precedent, this qualifying session rule eliminating pit speed limits should be a first step toward taking away the controls the officiating tower has and giving it back to the racers. 

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