NASCAR appears no closer to solving the problem it created with its unreliable standard-issue pit guns.
The guns, which NASCAR has been leasing to teams in 2018 with the goal of saving teams money, have had malfunctions in nearly every race. An apparent malfunction happened on a pit stop for Denny Hamlin on Monday at Bristol. Hamlin had taken the lead in the second half of the race before having to pit because of a loose wheel.
The green-flag pit stop ended Hamlin’s chances of a win. He ultimately finished 14th. His teammate Erik Jones also had problems with a loose wheel during the race and Kurt Busch tweeted about an unreliable pit gun he had as well.
Stuck 3 laps down for 300 laps because of an awesome pit gun. Many positives to take away from the experimental adjustments during the race. pic.twitter.com/GatuLAFArt
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) April 16, 2018
Hamlin told NBC after the race that no other sports league gives its competitors unreliable equipment and said the pit guns — used to attach new tires and wheels to cars on pit stops — would cost a team a win. Hell, they may already have. Kevin Harvick finished second at Texas a week ago after myriad pit problems including a loose wheel caused by a faulty air gun.
“The solution is to let the teams do what they are good at and that is providing reliable equipment,’’ Hamlin told NBC Sports. “It’s going to cost somebody a race or the championship by the end of the year. There’s no question, no doubt it’s going to cost somebody from making another round or something. NASCAR doesn’t have to answer to that. It’s the teams that have to answer to the sponsors when they don’t make the next round.’’
Teams had been spending money on pit gun development to make the guns as fast and reliable as possible and Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team was seen as the best team in the garage when it came to pit gun development.
But some teams felt they were spending too much when it came to something that has nothing to do with making the car itself go faster and teams voted to have NASCAR lease the equipment to teams for races in 2018.
Here’s the problem: It’s pretty clear NASCAR and Paoli, its supplier, didn’t do much, if any, reliability testing before the season. The problems have been happening since the first race weekend of the season in Daytona and appear to not be getting any better.
It’s a flat-out embarrassment to the sport that the guns are still screwing up. Malfunctions with new equipment can be expected. But the season is now 25 percent over and comments about the pit guns’ performance are only getting stronger from the likes of Hamlin and Harvick, who said the guns’ unreliability was a safety issue last week.
We’re honestly not sure what the solution is for NASCAR other than taking the crazy and probably unrealistic step of admitting its mistake and letting teams supply their own air guns again. But we are sure that this is a problem that should have been prevented in the first place and not allowed to fester as we reach the second half of April.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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