The tire rule in place for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Stafford Motor Speedway is designed to make the race more intriguing for fans watching, but there were some drawbacks on Friday night, too.
Unlike other tracks, where multiple tires can be changed at once, Tour races at Stafford only allow one tire to be changed per pit stop. Many drivers weren’t too keen on having to take a single tire on each stop.
There was one instance Friday night that saw some of the series’ frontrunners, such as points leader Justin Bonsignore, fall well behind the rest of the pack. Bonsignore and others were trying to make multiple tire changes during a caution period, which required multiple trips down pit road. As they made their stops, the one-to-go signal was given from the flagstand, and the race was restarted before those pitting could catch back up to the rest of the field.
“NASCAR is kind of dictating when and how many tires we can take at once,” Bonsignore recalled. “We would’ve liked to have gotten three [tires] on there, and they went one-to-go, and we were half a lap behind the leaders.”
Chase Dowling concurred.
“I don’t know what NASCAR thinks when they give you a pit stop at a race like this when they only allow you to put on one at a time,” Dowling said. “And a caution comes out and they go green the next time by. It just causes chaos, honestly. It’s kind of unsafe on pit road when people come down three different times in a row.”
Race winner Doug Coby said the rule actually made the race more difficult for fans to follow because the running order became so jumbled.
“I think about confusion for the fans,” said Coby. “As much as the fans don’t like to see one car lead 140 or 150 laps at one of these races, it’s also hard to keep track of who’s come in, who’s taken what tire, just because it’s not communicated. If you want to make something like that, it has to be known what people took.”
The majority of the criticism, however, was towards the danger the pit crews were put in during stops, due to the tight quarters of Stafford’s pit road.
“I’m not on the fence about it,” continued Coby. “I’m against it for safety purposes, for my crew guys, because Stafford’s pit road’s not big enough to do this kind of stuff. It’s such a small pit road that I like to have my guys over the wall one time and be done. My jack man got hit twice last year in the same race… We are in our cars and we’re focused on ‘get in and get out,’ and sometimes guys take wrong steps, sometimes those guys are angled the wrong way, and I just don’t want to see somebody get hurt that could be hit.”
Woody Pitkat provided some perspective too.
“There was definitely one time where I took the extra two seconds on pit rod to not hit a guy in front of me who was changing a tire,” Pitkat said.
Some drivers, like third-place finisher Eric Goodale, were proponents of the rule, albeit with some changes to the track’s facilities.
“I like the rule,” Goodale said after the race. “I’d like to see a little bit bigger pit boxes here at Stafford. I think it would make it a little bit more interesting, but overall, I like it.”
While it did cost his team time on the track, Bonsignore understood the reasoning behind the decision to use the rule.
“We gotta do something here at Stafford,” he said. “The racing’s awful otherwise. Whatever they gotta do to try and spice it up, which this definitely does.”
What is clear, however, is that drivers agree the one-tire rule needs some tweaking before it can be embraced throughout the Whelen Modified Tour garage.