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4 Tires & Fuel: Surprise Tire Wear Leaves Pit Crews on High Alert at Bristol

NASCAR Cup Series pit crews were left on high alert for much of Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, a result of the drastic and frankly unexpected wear on Goodyear tires throughout the afternoon.


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Bristol was busy for pit crews and drivers alike. Surprises with tire wear resulted in NASCAR releasing an extra set of tires and teams adjusting their strategies to do a mix of two-tire and four-tire stops. The Food City 500 featured over 300 four-tire stops and more than half of these were completed in ten seconds or less. The median four-tire change time for the race came in at a very low 9.99 seconds.

Best Individual Pit Stop Speeds

Joe Gibbs Racing once again dominated the charts for individual pit stop speeds, with the No. 11 crew (Hamlin) setting a new record for the year with an 8.59-second four-tire pit stop. Their teammates on the No. 20 (Bell) were not far behind with an 8.60-second four-tire change. Pit stops were so fast at Bristol that all but one of the top ten fastest stops were below the nine-second mark.

11Joe Gibbs Racing8.59
20Joe Gibbs Racing8.60
14Stewart-Haas Racing8.70
77Spire Motorsports8.88
9Hendrick Motorsports8.89
4Stewart-Haas Racing8.90
5Hendrick Motorsports8.99
7Spire Motorsports8.99
19Joe Gibbs Racing8.99
54Joe Gibbs Racing9.09

Five races into the season, we're beginning to see a trend on these charts, with teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Stewart-Haas Racing making frequent appearances. It's also notable that pit crews at Spire Motorsports are often showing up on these charts, as they're Hendrick crews that are leased out.

This week, the No. 77 crew (Hocevar) made the top-10 chart with an 8.88-second pit stop, putting them in fourth place for the event. Most of the members of that pit crew were also part of the No. 71 Truck Series crew that won at Las Vegas with Rajah Caruth, and some of them were at Le Mans last year with the Garage 56 program and won the pit crew challenge there.

Daniel Bach is the front tire changer on the No. 77, and at 21 years old is the youngest member of that crew in just his second season in NASCAR. Rod Cox is the rear tire changer, a former NC State football player, and a veteran of Hendrick Motorsports, where he signed his first deal in 2015. Cody French is on the Jack and found his way to NASCAR from the Arizona State football program. Like Cox, tire carrier Jarius Morehead was also part of the NC State football program and in his spare time has taken up photography and often captures his teammates and competitors on pit lane as seen on his photography page.

Zico Pasut rounds out that No. 77 crew as fueler and the fact that he's still on pit lane after a grueling incident at Atlanta in 2019 which saw his leg get crushed is a testament to his perseverance. Pasut had completed a pit stop and was carrying his fuel can back to the pit lane when Ryan Preece hit BJ McLeod as he was leaving his pit stall and sent McLeod spinning towards the pit wall and hitting Pasut. He had to have multiple surgeries but recovered and returned to pit lane the following season.

Median Four Tire Pit Stop Speeds

Once again, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew (Hamlin) makes an appearance toward the top of the charts with a median four-tire change of 9.90 seconds. However, the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports crew (Elliott) takes top honors at Bristol with a median time of 9.00 seconds.

The rest of the chart is filled with some of the usual characters we've seen throughout the year with Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, but it's notable that the No. 23 23XI Racing crew (Wallace) has popped up on this chart, proving that off-season training and changes appear to be building consistency.

9Hendrick Motorsports9.00
11Joe Gibbs Racing9.09
4Stewart-Haas Racing9.24
20Joe Gibbs Racing9.29
14Stewart-Haas Racing9.49
54Joe Gibbs Racing9.49
6RFK Racing9.58
41Stewart-Haas Racing9.69
5Hendrick Motorsports9.74
2323XI Racing9.78

The No. 9 (Elliott) crew features Nick O'Dell, a veteran of the sport and former Pit Crew Challenge champion, as the front tire changer. Chad Avrit changes tires on the rear of that No. 9 and is part of one of the longest-standing driver and pit crew pairings, having worked with Elliott since his NASCAR Cup Series debut. Jared Erspamer carries tires, and much like Avrit, has been with Elliott since his early days at Hendrick. Tyler Semke is on the jack and one of the younger members of the crew. Semke gave up a bounty hunter job for a football scholarship at the University of Kansas before eventually finding his way to an HMS pit crew combine in 2019. That crew is rounded out by fueler John Gianninoto who was discovered by HMS while in town for a Carolina Panthers tryout and went on to be part of the No. 9 championship crew.

LEGACY MOTOR CLUB Starts Showing Consistency

Building a brand-new pit crew organization is no easy task, as most pit crew athletes are signed to long-term contracts, so it's been impressive that LEGACY MOTOR CLUB has nabbed some veterans over the winter. While many of their crew members have experience, building chemistry and speed takes time, so a slow start to the season wasn't a huge surprise.

This week at Bristol, they showed that the pieces are starting to be put together as both teams made significant moves up the median speed charts with the No. 42 crew of John Hunter Nemechek setting a median four-tire change time of 10.14 seconds and the No. 43 crew setting a time of 10.19 seconds. This consistency was made even more impressive by the fact that the No. 42 crew had to operate in tight quarters all day as they were pitted beside the No. 6 RFK Racing crew of Brad Keselowski who battled closely with Nemechek for most of the race.

Misses of the Race

The No. 8 Richard Childress Racing crew (Kyle Busch) saw changes on pit road once again with Shiloh Windsor being moved to change tires on the rear, which Michael Russell returns as front tire changer.

There have been multiple shuffles on that car in 2024, but now the crew has been reset to have four of the five members the team had to close out last season, with the only difference being the addition of Russell. These changes are unfortunately not bringing positive results, as the No. 8 team again appears in the bottom 10 for median four-tire changes this weekend at Bristol.

Other notable appearances on this list include the No. 2 of Team Penske and the No. 7 of Spire Motorsports - crews that are typically expected to be near the top of the charts. The No. 45 of 23XI also makes an appearance but that is likely affected by the early damage that they received in the race.

4523XI Racing12.39
38Front Row Motorsports11.69
2Team Penske11.58
31Kaulig Racing11.10
71Spire Motorsports11.09
7Spire Motorsports10.89
47JTG Daugherty Racing10.88
15Rick Ware Racing10.79
8Richard Childress Racing10.76
21Wood Brothers Racing10.74

Next for pit crews will be Circuit of The Americas, with the added pressure of road course action and tight confined both on the racetrack and pit road, leaving pit crews in the spotlight. Results from COTA will allow the first season-long ranking to be assembled, to see how teams are stacking up overall in 2024.

-- Photo Credit: Jonathan McCoy, TobyChristie.com

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