Martin Truex Jr was en route to his second championship; Until a crazy error on pit road
The pit crew for Martin truex Jr put the left side tires on the right side as Truex Jr was leading in the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Truex started the race from row two. By lap 20, he had just taken the race lead from Kevin Harvick.
The No. 19 driver went on to claim the win in stage one. He was dominating at the midway point in stage two.
On lap 121, Martin Truex Jr pitted under green for four fresh tires. He entered and exited with no delay.
The problem was, certain tires are bigger than others. The bigger ones end up on the right hand side of the car.
That is a setup technique. Bigger tires on the right hand side help the car turn. It’s like a cup that tapers larger from bottom to the top. If you lay that cup flat and push it then the cup will spin in a circle.
The problem was, the team accidentally reversed the tires. The bigger right side tires ended up on the left side. The car now struggled to turn at all.
The left side tires are marked with tape to indicate so. Yet, there is a human element to all of this. The tires ended up on the wrong side and Truex had to return to the pit lane for four new tires, yet again.
“I think we got the tires switched. Bring it back to me,” crew chief Cole Pearn said over the team radio as Truex pulled out of the pit stall.
The rest of the race
By lap 136, John Hunter Nemechek spun. Martin Truex Jr was in the free pass position and was able to get his lap back. By the end of stage two, Truex rebounded to finish 4th.
Stage three went caution free. Martin Truex Jr never found himself in the lead again (outside of a pit cycle). He was able to wrestle to 2nd.
Kyle Busch went on to win the race and the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series championship. For the second year in a row, Truex jr finished 2nd in points.
Martin Truex Jr on the tire swap during pit stop
“Yeah, I’ve never had that happen. No. No. I don’t even know what to say,” said Martin Truex after the race.
“No. It doesn’t drive good with the left-front on the right-front, though, I can tell you that. It’s very tight,” Truex concluded.
Every team is full of specialists. That includes one for the sets of four shoes.
Pit stops are highly coordinated. Several years ago, 7 crew members were allowed over the wall. They then cut it to 6 and now it’s only 5. Yet, the stops haven’t gotten any slower.
All that time and prep work at the shop nails down every square inch of a pit stop. Yet, sometimes, humans can still miscalculate the obvious.
“I’m not sure,” Tommy DiBlasi, tire specialist for Martin Truex Jr told NASCAR on why it happened.
“We had them laid out the same way we always have them laid out, and the tire carrier picks up the two tires that he goes over the wall with, and I guess he just accidentally grabbed the wrong one. It’s all that was.”
“We were coming in to pit, turned around, grabbed two, went over the wall and as soon as the jack dropped, we saw that it said right-rear on the left-front, so it is what it is. People make mistakes, I guess.”