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After a relatively uneventful debut in Daytona, NASCAR’s spec pit gun program ran into some problems on Sunday during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
At least four teams experienced problems with the Paoli-produced, NASCAR-mandated guns, including the race-winning No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing team. Driver Kevin Harvick dominated the afternoon but was impeded by a loose lug nut that forced him to pit twice from the lead after the Lap 30 competition caution.
Specifically, the air hose fell off the gun and prevented the tire changer from completely securing his tire. Despite the issue, crew chief Rodney Childers says he has very few problems with the program.
“I have to be honest, the people that took that on have really done an outstanding job,” Childers said. “There’s no way I could sit up here and complain about anything they’ve done because I can’t imagine taking that on during the winter, and what they did over a two-month span or a three-month span trying to get all that stuff ready for the teams.
“My opinion is we’re going to go through ups and downs and we need to go through them together and learn together, and [having problems is] part of it.”
On the other hand, Furniture Row Racing No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) crew chief Cole Pearn had several qualms, telling NBC Sports that the guns are “pieces of shit.”
He told NBC that his team went through three different guns during the 500-mile race before landing on a satisfactory product. Pearn said NASCAR issued his team something similar to the previous generation’s spec gun, calling that “a hunk of garbage.”
The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 (Alex Bowman) and Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 (Kyle Busch) teams also experience pit gun air pressure problems on Sunday.
The program was conceived by the Race Team Alliance and NASCAR as a cost containment and competition enhancing measure, with series official issuing three guns to each team before the race. NASCAR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski suggested it was a topic he wanted to steer clear of on Sunday night.
“It was a decision made by RTA and NASCAR,” Keselowski said. “I don’t think I’m allowed to have an opinion.”
In recent years, teams had started pouring considerable resources into building more efficient pit guns. Joe Gibbs Racing was considered to have the most innovative air gun program and the results showed it. JGR driver Denny Hamlin said in-house guns were also more reliable because they were built with their specific users in mind.
“I think the reason teams built them on their own is because they were more reliable that way,” Hamlin said. “They could control everything. That’s probably why — amongst the competition side of things, they don’t want to fail because it’s a bad luck thing. They want it to fail because they did a bad job. It’s your own fault then.”
– Matt Weaver is an associate motorsports editor at Autoweek. Before becoming a journalist, he was a dirt track racer and short track cheeseburger connoisseur.
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