'You better have everything together by Martinsville'
When the Sprint Cup Series returns to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 on March 29, Chad Johnston is optimistic his team will have fully adjusted to the new technology NASCAR is using to monitor pit road.
“I would hope that by the time we get back from that west coast swing that we’ve got a pretty good handle on everything,” Johnston, the crew chief for Tony Stewart’s No. 14 team, said.
For the 2015 Sprint Cup season, NASCAR has replaced the pit road officials with an eye, or eyes, in the sky. A series of cameras will be mounted high above each track, looking for infractions committed during a pit stop. A team of NASCAR officials will then monitor computer screens for violations from a trailer outside the track and inform teams of any penalties they incurred during the stop.
NASCAR tested the new system during Sprint Cup races last year. Johnston and other crew chiefs met with NASCAR officials during the off-season to go over the results.
“From what they said, when they were running it in the background, there were a lot of penalties throughout the year that the video catches that they don’t catch on pit road,” Johnston said. “The majority of them were men over the wall too early and driving through too many pit boxes on the way in and the way out.”
The days of having an official standing in each pit box, letting teams know about penalties as they happen are over. Now teams will be made aware of violations after leaving the pit box.
“It’s going to be a big change (for the pit crew) and something they are going to have to get used to,” Johnston said. “You’d much rather be too slow in leaving the wall than too fast and have to come back down. You lose two spots versus 30 spots.”
With the changes, NASCAR is no longer monitoring things like making sure each team got all the lug nuts tightened. While this may lead some to take a gamble late in the race, to gain a few precious seconds, Johnston won’t be one of them.
“It’s just one of those things where I’m more of a risk versus reward type of guy and the reward just isn’t there for the risk,” he said.
With Martinsville Speedway measuring at just over a half-mile, pit stops are critical. Where a slip up at other tracks may be easily overcome, at Martinsville it can ruin a day. That’s why Johnston is hoping the season’s first five races will get all of the wrinkles out.
“You better have everything together by Martinsville,” he said.
Tickets for the STP 500 are on sale now.
Prices increase the week of the race.
Tickets for the STP 500 weekend, including the Virginia Lottery Pole Day on March 27 and the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 28 and the STP 500 on March 29 may be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or visiting www.martinsvillespeedway.com.