New rules of (pit) road

February 12, 1991|By Sandra McKee

Last November at Atlanta International Raceway, Ricky Rudd's car spun out of control on pit road and killed a mechanic who was changing a tire on Bill Elliott's car. As a result, racing officials have adopted the following rule changes. They will be used for the first time during Sunday's Daytona 500.

* RULE: A pace car will lead cars down pit road during each caution lap.

REACTION: "The goal was for safety," said crew chief Gary Nelson, who helped draft the new rules. "I think this will make it a whole lot safer. I feel good about telling my guys to go over the wall. Drivers have always come in on the edge of their ability, and now, at least under caution, that should change."

* RULE: No tire changes under caution.

REACTION: "Certainly it is going to change the complexion of the race -- with the tire changing," Nelson said. "It can help you, and it can hurt you. If your car runs better on used tires near the end of the race, that could be to your advantage. Hopefully, we'll figure out the system and make it work for us."

* RULE: Every car will be designated odd or even by virtue of its starting position. After a caution period, all cars must complete one full lap under green, before the odd cars are allowed to pit for tires. The even cars then will be allowed to pit on the next lap. After that, the pits will remain open for everyone until the next caution.

REACTION: "We haven't tried these rules, so it is hard to judge them," said driver Darrell Waltrip. "But it seems to me there are better ways; just freeze the field under caution. You go in the pits. You take your time. Do it right. Then you come out of the pits and get right back in line where you were. If you want to stop people from getting hurt, that's the way to do it. But these rules say, 'Yeah, we kind of do, but we also want to keep the cautions interesting for television.' "

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