How Many Pit Stops in a NASCAR Race?

There is more to racing that just being the fastest driver in the fastest car, although it certainly helps. there is a whoel racing team that is working on more than making the car go fast, it is also working on racing strategy. In addition to driving as fast as possible on the track the next most important aspect is managing the pit stop strategies of the race. We take a look at that in more detail below and answer the question How many pit stops in a NASCAR race?

The number of pit stops in a NASCAR race varies with the track type. The high speeds of ovals increase wear on tires and fuel consumption, requiring four to six pit stops during the race, Road courses are less tire and fuel intensive and plan for 2 to 3 stops and dirt tracks pit twice during the end of stage breaks.

So the usual number of pitstops is 4-6 for ovals, 2 or so for roads and 2 for dirt tracks, however in racing seldom goes to plan. We look at the the options open to teams in NASCAR when planning their pitstop strategies below.

Are there More Pit Stops on Road Courses in NASCAR Races?

Road courses on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule tend to be less fuel and tire intensive than the oval tracks. During NASCAR pit stops the teams can change the Goodyear tires and refuel the car, but during NASCAR races the fuel tends to be the limiting factor that decides the maximum stint times.

The longer a stint can be, the fewer stops a driver will have to make during a race, and on road courses these stints are long. So, NASCAR races on road courses can be completed with as few as two scheduled stops. When the drivers come into the pit road, there is a speed limit of 35 to 55 miles per hour depending on the size of the track. On road courses it is unlikely they will reach the sustained 190 miles an hour plus they do on Ovals. this means the tires are likely to last longer.

There are also specially designed road tires by GoodYear, that are made to last longer than the ones NASCAR used on Oval tracks. this will help preserve their grippiness for longer, and keep them on the track All of which reduces the number of pit stops required.

Despite their ability to complete the race with fewer stops, teams will often decide to pit more times than truly necessary. This is due to tire degradation, which will lead to the loss of cornering speed.

Teams will also often follow their competitors into the pits to ‘cover’ the strategy and avoid losing their advantage. Cautions can also cause teams to pit their cars, as they can gain an advantage and have a ‘cheap’ pit stop.

Road courses often have few pit stops as the fuel and tires are not used as much, but the variables can still lead to multiple stops and complex strategies.

Are there More Pit Stops on Oval Circuits IN NASCAR Races?

Oval tracks see fuel consumption and tire wear at high levels. This means that the teams and drivers have to make more pit stops to ensure that they are able to run around the oval, which is constantly taken at flat out speed.

The constant left-turning also puts lots of strain on the tires. The fuel consumption is also very high as there is no lifting, which would be seen in the turns of road courses. Ovals also have banking which adds more stress to the tires and fuel.

Therefore, drivers tend to have to schedule between four and six stops when racing on oval circuits to ensure that they are able to complete the race. With the Introduction of stage racing this has helped manage these and prevent to much track position being lost by pitting, but racing is dynamic, especially NASCAR racing and there are still unexpected events that happen each and every NASCAR race.

Ovals can also be very dangerous, and so having grippy tires is essential to ensure that the cars do not spin easily.

However, some oval tracks can be shorter, such as Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, and these circuits can be completed with just two stops for fuel. However, teams choose to stop more than twice on these circuits to ensure that the tires are in good condition.

Some drivers can also reduce their throttle input on an oval to still run but use their tires and fuel at a slower rate, allowing them to extend their stint, or potentially skip an entire scheduled pit stop.

Are there More Pit Stops on Dirt Tracks IN NASCAR Races?

NASCAR currently has a single dirt race, the Food City Dirt Race that takes place at Bristol Motor Speedway. During this race, which takes place on a dirt track, the teams are not permitted to change tires, add fuel or work on their car in any way during green flag running.

However, they can make these changes during the break between the stages of the race. Work is also permitted on vehicles that are involved in significant incidents. Those who choose not to pit during the breaks will get an advantage over those who do, as those who choose not to pit will get to start ahead of those who pit when the race restarts.

Therefore, over-the-wall crew members who perform the traditional ‘live’ pit stops will not be at the track. Each car will have a three-minute window between each stage to make any changes. The stage lengths are carefully set to ensure that they are no longer than the average fuel window.

The first two stages last for 100 laps, whilst the final is 50 laps. Therefore, the cars can only be worked on at two set times.

Difference Frequency of Pitstops on Different NASCAR Race Tracks

We have put the above information in a table for easier reading.

Table 1: The expected number of Pit stops on different NASCAR tracks in 500 mile races

NASCAR Track TypeFrequency of Expected Pit stops Reasoning
Oval Track4-6Oval tracks are high speed putting causing more tire wear and high fuel consumption
Road Course2-3Although more cornering its more evenly displaced, the lack of flat out racing reduces fuel consumption
Dirt track2Pitstops are allowed, unless the car is damaged, only at the end of stages to stop racing from dirt to asphalt on and off the pit road and reduce risk of accident.

Why Do NASCAR Stock Cars Change 2 Or 4 Tires

In NASCAR drivers and their teams have a key decision to make when they come into the pit road. When replacing the tires, they can either change two or four tires. There is a clear trade-off between the two options.

Changing just two tires is faster than changing all four and changing two tires can take just eight seconds. The teams will either change the two right-side or two left-side tires when making a two-tire change. This change is faster than the four-tire change, but there will then be a difference in grip between the two sets of tires.

This issue can be solved by replacing all four of the tires, giving the car far more grip, which will allow the driver to go faster. However, changing the four tires will be slower as the pit crews in NASCAR are fairly small when compared with other motorsports.

There are two tire carriers who ensure that the tires are prepared and in the correct position. There are two tire changers who remove and tighten the lug nut of the tires using an ‘air gun’. this has been reduced from 5 to one in the Next Gen car. There is also a jackman who raises each side of the car to ensure that the tires can be changed. There is also the gas man who is responsible for the fuel.

What Difference does adding Fuel Make to the Pit Stop in NASCAR?

The gas man is in charge of filling the car with Sunoco Green E15 racing fuel. They use a special gas can to achieve this in a quick time, which will help to reduce the time that the car is idle on pit road. The fuel cans are self-venting which helps to reduce the level of spillage.

The gas man is not allowed to do anything else if they are putting fuel into the car, but if the car doesn’t need any fuel, they are allowed to help to pull old tires off of the race car if the lug nuts have already been loosened by another member of the crew.

Tracks that have faster speeds require more fuel as the engine burns fuel at a faster rate. Different driving styles can also increase the need for fuel as consumption varies.

there is also a trade off on amounts of fuel to add to the car, and how much to start with. The more weight, of any kind, you add to a NASCAR stock car the slower it will go, so teams have to plan their pit strategy both prior to the green flag, and as the race progresses.

Unexpected pit stops due to damage may allow the teams to top up fuel and add tires, and negate the need for a planned stop at any stage in the race.

However, the reasoning behind the change is to stop the pit road becoming competitive. The dirt on the asphalt is going to reduce grip and if drivers are racing to get back out it opens up safety issues. By giving everyone 3 mins (unless damaged) or so after each stage is stops the need to race out of pit road.

We have more articles on fuel and pitstops here on the site you can check out in the list below.

Final Thoughts

Although pit stops are planned well in advance of the race and vary depending on the track and conditions being raced, there are still accidents and race events that will change this strategy during the actual race. As a rule of thumb Oval tracks require more than road courses, and dirt track pit stops are only allowed during breaks.

However crashes, cautions, damage and all the other aspects that make NASCAR the spectacle it is to watch can throw these carefully laid plans to one side. this is where the crew chief and racing teams step up to manage the ever changing circumstances you find in a 500 mile NASCAR race.


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