SPEED IN THE PITS: The last time pit road was without a speed limit during a NASCAR race, Kyle Busch was a 15-year-old kid. Joey Logano had just hit double digits and begun to race Bandits cars. David Ragan wasn’t old enough to get his driver’s license.
But tonight, they will get a taste of NASCAR’s roots as the series abolishes the pit road speed limit for NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race qualifying, which will consist of three laps with a pit stop and four-tire change.
NASCAR’s last foray into limitless pit speed came during the All-Star qualifying races in 2000. Only four drivers eligible for tonight’s race are left from that original roster 13 years ago: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin.
“It’s been a long time (since there was no pit road speed limit),” Busch said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. I think it’ll be interesting. I have no idea what to expect, to be honest with you.”
Busch might not know what to expect, but anyone who was around NASCAR in the 1980s and ‘90s knows. One grizzled PR veteran recalled making a point to go out and watch pit road practice during that 2000 All-Star Race weekend, because it was the most chaotic, entertaining, frenzied time of the entire weekend. The drivers who had experience driving without pit road speeds were still able to perform, but the uninitiated were glaringly obvious, overshooting their pits and generally creating havoc.
“I’m glad I don’t have to do it with no pit road speed (every week),” Matt Kenseth said. “I think it can get pretty crazy and pretty dangerous… I can’t imagine what it would be like today.”
BUSCH THE BOOKIE: Kyle Busch probably thinks Bruton Smith is a pretty smart dude. Smith has offered up Bruton’s Big Bonus, a $1 million windfall for any driver who can win all five segments in addition to the winner’s $1 million prize. Busch said he didn’t like the odds of a winner taking all five segments.
“If I were a sports bookie, I’d put a 300 to 1 on it,” Busch said. “You have to run each segment as hard as you can. You have to stay out front to keep your average finish as high as you can. There’s gonna be a lot of things playing out in between the segments with pit stops, tire strategy; do you take two, do you stay out? Do you come in and get four? If there’s a yellow in the middle of the segment, do you pit then and get yourself ready for the next segment? It’s certainly gonna make it a lot more fun, not only for the fans but for the crew chiefs as well. I say fun, but I’m sure they’re going to have their headaches after it… I think this year’s gonna be a heck of a lot better.”