Ryan Blaney rarely speeds on pit road in a NASCAR Cup Series race. Rarely, because Blaney takes measures to try and ensure he doesn’t cross that legal line.
That conservative nature started to bother him recently, so he decided to get aggressive with his digital dash settings at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Not only did the move bite him, but it nearly ended his day.
“Well the bad thing is: I never speed on pit road,” Blaney said after finishing seventh. “I’m like the most conservative guy, and I kick myself for it. I’m like, ‘Man, I’m too far down on my pit road speeds.'” Down on the list of drivers, and I was like, ‘Bump it up a little this week,’ and I speed. Under green, too — the worst place you could speed.”
Blaney was called for the infraction on his lap 133 pit stop.
The pass-through penalty Blaney had to serve was exacerbated because pit road at Atlanta had been extended (measuring 3,968 feet) with the commitment line at the entrance of Turn 3. Pit road speed was in effect when a driver hit the commitment line and drove on the apron through Turns 3 and 4 and down pit road.
“Luckily we only went down one lap and got the lucky dog,” Blaney said. “We were close to going two laps down there, but we tagged on with a few guys and were able to stay in front of that (main) pack. It was almost a day-ender, and luckily we were able to make some good moves.”
NASCAR officials decided to extend the length of pit road by moving the commitment line because of pack racing at Atlanta. But unlike Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, where there is a runoff area for drivers to pull off the track and slow for pit road, there is not at Atlanta. Officials did not want drivers trying to pull out of the pack at high speed off Turn 4.
Ironically, last year’s spring Atlanta race had no green flag pit stops, but the potential for them Sunday — coupled with the high stakes of speeding — was on every driver’s mind going into the weekend.
“Just making bold moves, honestly,” Blaney said of how he recovered from the mistake to finish in the top 10. “There’s not a lot of room to make moves, but you take a lot of the runs you can, and there was a couple of moves I made coming through the pack that I kind of cringed a little bit on, if they were going to work or not, and they did. So that’s just what you had to do.
“I probably made bolder moves than I normally do on speedways just because you have to here, and it’s so hard to go from the back to the front, and I was mad at myself. That’s pretty much what it came down to.”