Welcome to our weekly "Hunting The Race Track" betting strategy series, where we will look for ways to build an edge with our wagers in all of motorsports, and more specifically, in NASCAR. From taking advantage of driver vs. driver matchups and offseason team changes, to finding value in Cup Series underdogs and more - there are no shortage of ways to break down professional stock car racing and cash more tickets in the process. We will also publish a separate weekly "NASCAR Sunday Betting Preview" article here at the Betting Predators website, which covers the main race/event of each weekend, throughout the entire racing season. Now, without further adieu, let's dive into this week.
This week I will be taking a different route. Rather than discussing NASCAR trends and relevant major topics in the sport, I am going to explain some of the most common pit road NASCAR penalties you may encounter on race day. Depending on the track type, this may or may not affect a driver in your fantasy lineup or a top 10 finish wager. Or if it’s early in the race then don’t worry, because there's still lots of time left and NASCAR has mandated cautions (stages). Penalties late in a race, however, some of which I have been plagued by this year, will turn your bets or fantasy entries into a charitable weekend donation. Keep in mind that the penalties we will review below are set in stone, and they are NOT subject for review.
Pit Road Speed: Vehicles should not exceed the pit road speed limit determined by track officials for each event
One of the most common penalties in a NASCAR race is speeding on pit road. In 2020, 78.7% of all driver pit-road penalties were in fact caused by speeding. Every track has a designated speed for pit road, and the maximum speed limit for pit road is similar to the given track size. Bigger tracks like Daytona and Talladega have speed limits of 55 MPH, while smaller tracks like Bristol and Martinsville are 30 MPH. It is important to know that race officials do not have radar guns tracking the cars the whole time either. Every pit road is equipped with multiple scoring loops throughout, and those scoring loops are made up to two parallel wires that only give the speed of how fast it took a driver to run over wire one to wire two.
To boil it down into simple terms, track officials will take a driver's average speed every time he runs over a scoring loop. If that average does not exceed the speed limit, they are fine. Teams know where the scoring loops are at, so drivers will speed up and slow down by where the speed traps are located. Now you may be thinking here, 'why not look at your speedometer?' Well, NASCAR cars are simply not equipped with speedometers. Drivers gauge their speed by the gear they are in and the RPM’s of the engine in that gear.
The dash, which is now digital, also has lights. If a driver sees green lights, they can go faster. If it’s red, they need to go slower. The downside of the digital dash, however, is that while pressing your foot on the gas pedal it gives instantaneous speed, and it takes a millisecond to one second for the digital dash to record that. It has become tough for drivers to gauge their speed correctly because of this. So if you hear that a driver was penalized for entering pit lane too fast, then that means they drove over a scoring loop too fast and did not slow down during the rest of the pit road trip in order to lower that average speed.
So what is the penalty for going too fast on pit road? Well if the race is under a yellow (caution), then they will start at the tail end of the pack. If the race is under green, then they will have to come back down pit road going the correct speed. Denny Hamlin was too fast entering pit road under green at a recent Cup Series race, for example, so he had to come back down pit road after circling back around. When he was serving his penalty, he was too fast entering a second time and had to complete another drive through penalty. He went from top 5 to being 2 laps down in a matter of minutes - a top 5 wager down in flames.
Pit Service Area: Drivers receive pit stop service only when they're in their pit area at a track official's discretion
Speeding entering pit road is not the only pit-related NASCAR penalty. Drivers must be in their pit box correctly before they get any work done to their car too, and as you can see from the image below, the front or rear bumper cannot be touching the lines that separate pit boxes. A car's front tire cannot be outside of the pit box line either, but it is okay, however, if a car’s rear tire is outside of the pit box line.
So why is one parking option shown below okay, but the other three aren’t? Those other three in fact create a disadvantage for the drivers in the other pit boxes. If a driver’s front bumper is over the line that separates the pit boxes, it is difficult for the team in front of them to get their car in the pit box correctly.
Likewise, if a driver/stock car has their front tire outside the pit box line, then it creates an advantage for them. If a stock car’s back tires are out, that is also a disadvantage for himself and himself only. If a driver pulls in illegally, however, then they may exit the pits and not service the car. A penalty is only given here if the car is parked incorrectly and the car is serviced (changing of tires, adding fuel, etc).The best-case scenario here is for the drivers to pull straight in - nice and even - as illustrated by the graphic below:
If you are caught receiving service while pitting incorrectly, then you will serve a one-lap penalty. A one-lap penalty means that drivers will have to come back down pit road and sit in their pit box correctly for one lap. This is a very costly mistake and depending on the track it could put a driver multiple laps down.
Pit Road Equipment: All equipment used to service the vehicle should remain in the assigned pit area
This is a simple rule, but it does happen often. Anything used to help service the vehicle - air hose gun, jack or wrench or adjusting wedge - cannot leave the pit area. But it's a race though after all, right? Race around the track, race to get down pit road, race to get your car serviced. By doing all of these things, other things/issues are bound to happen. Drivers can also leave the pit box too early and the gas can still be connected to the gas neck filler. Drivers will run over equipment and leave the pit box, dragging them onto pit lane as well. Similar to the speeding on pit road penalty, if the race is green, drivers will circle back around and drive through pit road. If it is under caution, then they will have to start restart at the tail end.
Crew Members: Crew members should not allow tires/wheels to cross the center of pit road at any time
If the race is green, the driver here will circle back around and drive through pit road as a penalty. If the tire rolled far outside the box and crew members cannot retrieve the tire, then a caution flag will be thrown and a safety team member will retrieve the stranded tire. If the race is under caution, then they will have to start restart at the tail end. If you watched the race two Sunday's ago, this was the penalty that made a majority of people watching upset. Tyler Reddick pitted on lap 212 of 267, and Reddick’s old tire proceeded to roll away from his pit crew, across pit road and eventually came to rest in the infield grass just off pit road. Under NASCAR rules that’s an automatic safety violation and a caution should have been thrown.
A few drivers were stretching their run, and a caution would have benefitted them by having part of the field a lap behind. Instead, NASCAR decided to wait 19 laps and let all the drivers finish their green flag pit stops, thus having a majority of the field on the lead lap. When the caution did come out, it gave someone like Chris Beuscher (who stayed out longer) little hopes of winning. NASCAR’s reason as to why they waited so long? They felt it was far enough away from the racing surface, and that it also was off pit road.
But why throw the caution at all? Let the race play out, right? NASCAR sometimes decides to enforce rules and sometimes decides to sweep rules under the rug - we must be aware of this as bettors/DFS players.
So who have been the repeat offenders when on pit road this year?
Chase Briscoe leads the way with six violations. I will give Briscoe a pass, however, since he is a rookie and is trying to gain an edge anywhere he can. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin each have four pit road-related violations. Hamlin also had a rough week recently at Talladega, where he had 3 violations. Seeing Kyle Busch this high up on this list is surprising, as Busch had four just pit road penalties in all of 2020.
Two names that didn’t appear on the penalty list? Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell. These are both drivers who have wins this year and are in a playoff spot right now. Having clean pit road stops like these guys have had in 2021 greatly increases their championship odds and race-by-race betting consistency.
Remember, depending on the track type (large or small) and stage of the race (early or late), these non-racing issues can have significant impacts on your weekend NASCAR bets and/or NASCAR DFS lineups.
The best case scenario is to obviously have a penalty free race or get lucky and get a penalty early in a race on a large track. Worst case scenario? The opposite, which means a late race penalty on a short track.