The pit stops during a NASCAR race are what make the sport the ultimate team game. These stops can make or break the race, a solid pit stop made at the right time can set a driver up to win. With the pit stops being so important, many fans wonder how many and how long the stops are.
Most NASCAR drivers pit at least 4 times during the entire length of a race regardless of the type of track. The average number of pit stops is between 4 and 12. There is no set number of pit stops in a NASCAR race as each track may call for a different number depending on how fast tires wear.
There are various factors that play a role in how many pits stops a NASCAR driver may make during a race. Below we cover everything there is to know about NASCAR pit stops including how long the average stop is, the differences between various tracks, and why pit stops are required.
The average NASCAR pit stop is between 13 and 16 seconds long. The exact length depends on several factors including how much experience the team has working together and if the team is well-funded. Pit stops are pre-planned and practiced for maximum efficiency.
If a NASCAR pit crew has years of experience working together, their stops will take no longer than 13 seconds. However, lower-funded teams that cannot afford top-notch talent will see their stops last closer to 16 seconds.
NASCAR pit crews are world-class athletes, often plucked from a college football locker room and taught the ins and outs of NASCAR. In the 21st century, pit stops are substantially shorter than they were in the 1970s since during those days, builders doubled as pit members.
Also, pit stops further resemble plays that you would see in an NFL or NHL game. This requires athletes whose minds and bodies are trained to move in specific routes to best serve their team on any given play. In NASCAR, these plays occur to maximize a fast pit stop.
When you watch a pit stop, just as you would watch an NFL or NHL play develop, they resemble controlled chaos. However, these stops are well-choreographed, and every route taken by each team member from the tire carrier to the jackman is pre-planned.
When NASCAR drivers pit, they often opt for a four-tire change, fuel refill, and any type of adjustment that NASCAR allows at the pit stall. Each NASCAR pit crew member has a specific responsibility during a stop that they practice all week long for.
For example, the jackman will raise the car onto two wheels while simultaneously removing rear tires so the rear tire changer can perform their duties. The front tire carrier’s single duty involves carrying new tires to the front for the front tire changer to install onto the car. Each member performs only their practiced role.
Sometimes, the driver may opt for just a two-tire change. Or, if they take a pit stop later in the race, they may not want as much racing fuel as it can add weight to the car, sacrificing speed. This is when communication between the driver and their crew is key. These decisions could make for an even faster pit stop.
NASCAR drivers must pit if they plan on running the entire race. Their tires are designed to wear down systematically throughout an event, necessitating a tire change. A NASCAR car’s fuel tank holds 18 gallons of racing fuel, which is not enough to run a 300 to 500-mile race.
NASCAR drivers cannot skimp out on a pit stop, meaning they cannot always opt for a fast, two-tire change and splash of racing fuel if they plan on running as fast as possible throughout the event. For most stops, they must take a four-tire change and allow their gas man to completely fill their tank.
There are no longer NASCAR drivers who don’t pit. Previously, the practice of starting and parking in NASCAR events allowed for drivers to run only a few laps in a race. These drivers had no crew and did not make any stops. Chartered systems have since put an end to the start and park practice.
In the 2000s and 2010s, the practice of starting and parking during NASCAR events became notorious. These drivers often had no pit crew because they did not plan on taking a pit stop during their respective events.
As the name implies, start and park drivers ran just a few laps before calling it quits. This allowed their race teams to save funds so they could attempt to race in as many events as they could while collecting last-place prize money.
In 2016, NASCAR introduced the chartered system and put a dent into the idea of start and park teams. NASCAR realized that start and park teams hindered the sport’s overall product, so they cut the number of cars eligible to enter to just 40 while simultaneously granting 36 charters.
Teams who earned charters must have attempted to qualify for every race over the previous three seasons. These organizations had money to afford full-time pit crews and therefore did not start and park.
Thanks to the chartered system, it is likely that every car in the race will take pit stops as the 36 charters are well-equipped to run an entire race. Non-charters also have pit crews and make stops since they are vying to, in the future, secure a charter.
NASCAR drivers do not have a set number of pit stops in a race. The average number of pit stops ranges between 4 and 12 and usually depends on the type of track. Most drivers will stop at least four times regardless of the type of track they are racing on.
Since NASCAR races occur on different types of tracks that include short ovals, speedways, superspeedways, and road courses, each presents its unique challenges. Tracks with narrow turns can cause more wear and tear on tires. For example, when NASCAR races in Martinsville or Darlington, expect more pit stops because of the constant need of fresh tires.
NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow (CoT) hit the Brickyard at Indianapolis in 2008, and it was arguably the worst race ever run. The event served as a prime example of what happens when NASCAR’s tires mesh poorly with the track’s surface.
Throughout the race, NASCAR was forced to hold competition cautions every 10 to 12 laps so drivers could pit and get fresh tires. The race lasted 160 laps, and with actual on-track incidents, cars averaged nine green flag laps between cautions.
This led to an average of 17 pit stops per driver who ran the entire race. Fans were not impressed, and the Brickyard 400’s popularity dwindled following the race. By 2021, NASCAR did away with the race, instead opting for the track’s road course.
Depending on track conditions and incidents, the average number of pit stops ranges between four and 12. Every NASCAR race has two competition cautions to symbolize the completion of Stage One and Stage Two, where drivers usually opt to pit.
Drivers cannot run the entire final half of the race, Stage Three, without taking a pit stop. As the race nears its conclusion, drivers will take one more pit stop for a splash of fuel and fresh tires. If there are poor conditions or several on-track incidents, drivers may take up to 12 pit stops or more.
There is no way to measure whether there are more pit stops on ovals or road courses because the number varies regardless of the shape of the track. It depends on the condition of the track and how hard it is on tires, as well as pit strategy. Pit strategy usually varies from ovals to road courses.
Many NASCAR fans believe more pit stops occur on ovals as opposed to road courses because oval events comprise more laps. However, most ovals are substantially smaller than road courses, with some like Bristol, just a fraction of the size of courses like Sonoma. Therefore, drivers typically run more laps on oval tracks in-between pit stops, but this does not mean there are more pit stops.
As we discussed earlier with the average number of pit stops during a race, the number of pit stops whether on an oval or a road course, will vary. If drivers run a clean race at a track that isn’t hard on tires, they will pit just a few times. In a caution-laden race, expect more pit stops on both ovals and road courses.
Every NASCAR race comes with different pit strategies, and they will vary from ovals to road courses. Some oval tracks are short and have pit stalls on both the front and the backstretch. For example, Bristol Motor Speedway has two pit roads, and teams must strategize their pit stops accordingly. This differs from road courses and even other oval tracks that have the typical single pit road.
The Sonoma Raceway was notorious for messing with teams’ pit strategies. Between 1989 and 2001, they only had 34 pit stalls for the 43-car field. This forced cars to either pit in the garage area or to share pit stalls.
Later, the track was reconfigured to allow nine auxiliary pit stalls that allowed each driver their own stall. However, these stalls, nicknamed “Gilligan’s Island,” still held a competitive disadvantage. It wasn’t until 2002 that Sonoma properly expand pit space.
The number of pit stops at the Daytona 500 varies from year to year. With races run at a superspeedway at Daytona, you often see a larger number of green flag laps, barring competition cautions and big crashes. This race usually consists of more cautions towards the end.
As the Daytona 500 nears its conclusion, drivers will take risks they otherwise wouldn’t take, which may lead to more wrecks. If, say in the final 25 to 50 laps, these crashes occur on an average of every 10 laps, you will see more pit stops toward the end of the Daytona 500. However, if the final portion of the race remains green, you will likely see contending drivers take just one pit stop.
There is no set number of pit stops in a NASCAR race as each race consists of varying track conditions. The average number of pit stops during a race is between 4 and 12. These pit stops are well-choreographed and practiced to maintain maximum efficiency, usually lasting only around 13 seconds.