Speeding on pit road is now legal — at least in qualifying for Saturday’s Sprint All-Star race.
In an attempt to spice up qualifying, pit road speeds that are strictly enforced in races as a safety measure will be lifted for Friday night’s three-lap trip around Charlotte Motor Speedway that includes a mandatory four-time stop.
Greg Biffle anticipates cars will come down pit road in excess of 100 mph — well over the 45 mph used in races — with drivers that push the limit losing control and ending up in the infield grass.
“Practice is the thing to watch, not the real qualifying,” the Roush Fenway Racing driver said during an appearance Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “The thing is, you don’t know [what will happen] until you try it.
“It’s like, ‘Hey, can you make it from the balcony into the pool without hitting the pool deck?’ There’s one way to figure it out. You can do all the calculating you want, but you’ve just got to try it.”
Another tweak announced Wednesday will allow the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote from the Showdown to advance into the main event without being on the lead lap as long as the car is in “raceable” condition as determined by Sprint Cup Series director John Darby.
Some have dubbed that the “Danica Patrick Rule,” noting that the popular Stewart-Haas Racing driver could benefit.
Patrick has finished on the lead lap in only two of 11 races this season.
“I don’t need to say any names,” David Ragan said when asked if the rule was made for any driver in particular. “We can all assume and make pretty good guesses. But there’s usually good reasons for making any rule change.”
Ragan doesn’t like the rule, even though officials said prior to last season the winner of the fan vote didn’t have to be on the lead lap.
“I don’t think that’s right,” said Ragan, who earned his way into the All-Star race with a surprise victory at Talladega Superspeedway. “You need to be competitive. It’s a contradicting rule. So you can’t be torn up and get in, but if you’re slow and not on the lead lap, why should you be in the All-Star race? In my opinion, that’s not a good rule for the intent of the All-Star race.
“The All-Star race is supposed to be about the best of the best.”
That will be the case in qualifying, where it will take skill to get on and off pit road at a higher than normal speed.
“Heck, we had trouble sliding through our pit box going 45 mph, so I can only imagine,” Ragan said. “Watch out Kurt Busch. I know he’s going to be coming down hard.”
Pit road limits have been set since 1991, the year after a Ricky Rudd’s car spun 180 degrees on pit road in Atlanta and slammed into Bill Elliott’s car. Elliott’s tire changer, Mike Rich, died after being caught in between the cars.
Other cars will not be on pit road during All-Star qualifying, and crew members will not be allowed to come over the wall until the car is stopped, which is not the case in a race.
“We’ll do that only for qualifying and only for the All-Star race because we can control the environment and it’ll be very clean down there,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said. “It’s an opportunity to do something on a weekend that is known for different stuff.”
The race will consist of four 20-lap segments and a 10-lap shootout with the winner collecting $1 million. Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith is offering another $1 million if a driver can win all five segments.
But qualifying could be the biggest spectacle.
“I can promise you guys are going to be off in the grass,” Biffle said. “I may be one of them.”