Joe Gibbs Racing debuts new pit stop style to rave reviews

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Joe Gibbs Racing showed off its new pit stop Sunday that is designed to service a faster car. Now the question is how will the teams react?

Where tenths of a second can mean a lot (JGR’s Denny Hamlin beat Kevin Harvick by 0.552 seconds at Richmond Raceway for his first win of the year), any gain can have a significant impact.

“We definitely found some speed with him,” JGR pit coach Brian Haaland told NBC Sports.

What’s different with the stop is that the rear tire changer goes around the front of the car to get to the right rear tire. Once complete, that person returns to the front of the car and changes the left front tire. The crew member who changes the right front end goes around the front of the car to the right rear.

This method allows the fuel supplier to keep the gas can attached to the car instead of backing up, so that a tire changer, which goes around the rear of the car, can reach the right rear tire. That means the car can be refueled faster.

The standard style has the rear tire changer wait for the car to enter the pit stall and then go around the rear of the vehicle to the right rear. Once this is done, they go around the back of the car and change the left rear wheel.

The new style, when running smoothly, can allow the rear tire changer to get to the right rear tire and start working three-tenths to seven-tenths of a second faster than the standard style used by other teams.

“Nothing risked, nothing gained,” winning crew chief Chris Gabehart said. “Nothing great comes without risk. I’m happy to be a part of continuing to push those boundaries.”

Joe Gibbs Racing stated that its teams had seven of the 12 pit stops in the 9-second range during Sunday’s race. JGR stated that Kyle Busch’s team changed four tires and refueled the car in 9.1 seconds, the fastest stop of the day, on lap 234 of the 400-lap race.

Hamlin’s last pit stop was 9.4 seconds on lap 354, while Harvick’s last stop was 9.9 seconds on lap 353, according to JGR.

“When you’re doing 9-second pit stops … that’s a bit of a game changer,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports.

The series heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. The track has a narrow pit road and narrow pit boxes, so JGR crews may not be able to employ this new method all the time.

“We’re going to have to study it and look at it and go back to past races and see the space that we intend to take and what pit road looks like, the cars that go by in front of us,” Haaland said of whether the JGR teams will . wear the new style this week. “It could be situational. We will make a decision later in the week on what we should do. We intend to make this pit stop whenever possible.”

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The debut of the Next Gen car in Richmond turned out to be something good for ryan blaney.

The Team Penske driver had never finished better than 10th in 11 previous Cup races at the three-quarter-mile track.

Blaney won the pole and led the first 128 laps before finishing seventh last weekend. He is tied with Chase Elliott for the points lead after seven races.

So was it the car that allowed Blaney to run better or just another sign of his progress on the track?

“I think it’s a bit of everything,” Blaney said. “We’re just trying to figure out what the hell I have to do to run better. I still have a lot to discover.”

Blaney’s day was not without contact. He and Ross Chastain ran into each other during the race.

“I was inside of him at (Turn) 3 and I got loose and dragged half a lane and we never touched,” Blaney said. “I went down to (turn) 1 and he just decided to send me. So, the next reboot I sent. Now we’re even, I guess.

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Ty Gibbs’ victory on Saturday was not without drama, as he pushed teammate John Hunter Nemechek down the track on the final lap to win the Xfinity race at Richmond Raceway. Nemechek finished second.

The win was Gibbs’ seventh in 25 Xfinity starts. That’s a remarkable 28% win percentage.

With all that success, it’s easy to forget that Gibbs is 19 years old and still learning, something he recognized after the race.

“If I could come back, I wouldn’t have driven as hard or hit him as hard to push him onto the track,” Gibbs said. “I wouldn’t have gone in so hard. She was still going to have to hit him anyway to win it.

“We are reaching the end. I have seen it before. I didn’t let him pass and hit the brakes and got behind him and let him go. We ran to the end. I hit him. That was my goal. If I could change it, I wouldn’t have driven as hard. That’s part of learning, and I learned it.