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No longer sure there’s really a NASCAR pit-gun issue

FORT WORTH, TX – APRIL 08: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet, pits during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

After a few races into the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the talk of faulty air guns seemed to die down, and I was glad. Quite frankly, I got tired of all the complaining. Now, the NASCAR-mandated air guns are a big NASCAR news story, again. This time around, though, I think I’ve changed my stance on the debacle.

Originally, I sided with the complaining teams and drivers. If NASCAR was going to require the use of a specific gun, the sanctioning body should’ve made darn sure that gun was reliable, and at first I fell right in line with the complainers, thinking this gun wasn’t up to snuff.

Now, after hearing NASCAR’s defense and support of the move to the new NASCAR-mandated guns by some competitors — like David Ragan — mixed in with additional complaints from Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, I’m fine with admitting that maybe I jumped the gun (pardon the pun), and here’s why:

Have you noticed that those complaining about the mandated air guns are the teams and drivers from teams with big pockets that were engineering super-fast guns for their pit stops? Those teams got used to guns way faster than the ones they have to use now. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the loose wheels we’re seeing from those teams are a result of tire-changer rhythms being off as a result of moving to a much slower gun. Meanwhile, teams without those deep pockets that were already using slower guns aren’t having loose wheel problems.

Sure, drivers for those smaller, lower-budget teams aren’t interviewed as much as the Harvicks and Hamlins of the world, so it could be said that those smaller teams’ problems may just be going unpublicized, but that’s where Ragan comes in. After the recent Texas Motor Speedway race, the seventh race of the season, Ragan stated in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that his team hasn’t had any problems with the newly-mandated guns.

“Our crew has had as many pit stops as anyone this season, and we’ve not had one issue all season-long that I’m aware of,” Ragan said.

Has his team just been lucky? Maybe. But I’m thinking his team was just already used to slower air guns, and therefore, are better able to use them without incident.

“Last year, there was no chance we could average in the top-10 or 12 in pit stops over a weekend, because our equipment was inferior compared to the Joe Gibbs Racing teams, maybe the Penske teams and Hendrick Motorsports teams, because they had special components, parts and pieces in their air guns and maybe even jacks that allowed them to do it faster and more efficiently,” Ragan said.

That brings me back around to the complainers. JGR, specifically Hamlin, has been one of the most vocal, especially after JGR drivers Hamlin and Erik Jones each had a loose wheel in Sunday-Monday’s Food City 500 at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway.

“My frustration is that in absolutely no other professional sport does the league give you faulty equipment to play with, and that’s what we have here,” Hamlin said.

Again, I’m not so sure the equipment is faulty, or at least any more faulty than the teams’ own guns used previously. I think teams used to faster guns are just having a hard time adjusting to the slower ones, at least in most cases.

Daniel Suarez recently mentioned in an interview that he’s had three loose wheels, so far, this season after not having any last year. Well, Suarez is another Gibbs driver. You know, Joe Gibbs Racing, that team that was pouring all kinds of money into really fast guns this time a year ago. These newer, slower guns are, again, and adjustment for that team — an adjustment they, maybe, haven’t completely gotten adjusted to, yet.

I’ll use a basketball reference, since Hamlin is a baller in his spare time, even running his own league. If basketball leagues across the board — from the high school, college and professional levels — opted to go with a different-sized ball, of course those who have been playing the longest would have the hardest time adjusting to the new ball. After all, they played the longest with the old ball. Would that difficult adjustment mean the ball was faulty? No. I think this NASCAR air-gun issue is similar. Teams used to faster pit guns are having a harder time adjusting and changing their rhythm than teams already used to slower guns. If the guns are more faulty than what teams were using in the past, wouldn’t the smaller, lower-funded teams be having gun problems, too?

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Posted by on April 18, 2018. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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