NASCAR Mandates Nitrogen-Powered Pit Guns

In an attempt to squash faulty pit gun claims, NASCAR is requiring teams to power their pit guns with nitrogen.

byAmanda Vincent|
NASCAR photo

NASCAR is mandating the use of nitrogen to power pit guns, according to a tweet from ESPN motorsports writer Bob Pockrass. The Paoli guns are designed to use nitrogen, but the sanctioning body has discovered that some teams were powering their guns with other gases. The nitrogen mandate is in effect in time for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Prior to the 2018 season, teams chose the air guns they wanted to use, and some bigger-budget teams engineered faster guns to gain advantages on pit road. In efforts to even the playing field between the haves and the have-nots, NASCAR implemented a rule of sanctioning body-mandated equipment. NASCAR rents the pit guns to teams during race weekends, and teams are not allowed to make modifications to the guns.

Multiple drivers from the higher-budget teams have struggled with the NASCAR-mandated guns, blaming the guns themselves by classifying them as faulty. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin have been among the most vocal.

“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 after finishing 14th, a lap down, in the delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on April 16.

NASCAR and proponents of the mandated pit guns have pointed out that those struggling with the new guns are, primarily, from the bigger budget teams that were used to the highly engineered, faster pit guns. The side in favor of the mandated tools suggest that those teams are struggling because they haven’t gotten used to slower guns.

"Any gun that malfunctions is not acceptable to us, but there are some occasions where someone may be moving a little too fast on a stop, as well,” NASCAR Senior Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said during an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

David Ragan, of the smaller Front Row Motorsports, believes the pit gun mandate has enabled his team to better compete with the higher-funded teams like Joe Gibbs Racing.

"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 in an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Ragan also believes that at least some of the complaints may stem from drivers and teams avoiding self-blame.

"It's easy to blame NASCAR," Ragan said. "If it were a Joe Gibbs Racing’s pit gun, they're probably not going to blame Coach [Joe] Gibbs [team owner]. You're not going to say anything, so I think we've heard a little bit more talk about it, because it's someone else's part, and it's easy to throw that blame. But at the end of the day, it has allowed teams like Front Row Motorsports and I think a few other teams to have some really competitive pit stops.”