As part of the new rule changes for 2016, IndyCar announced that the pit-lane speed on ovals would be reduced from 60 mph to 50 mph. This is meant to make pit-stops safer for drivers, crew, and officials. Obviously since all drivers are subject to this rule, there isn’t going to be any change in the pit-lane racing. But let’s compare the two speeds to see how much of a difference it really makes in terms of track time lost between seasons.
First off, let’s switch the speeds to meters-per-second. It’s easier to work with. 60 mph comes out to 26.8 m/s and 50 mph is 22.4 m/s. Now let’s say the total length of pit-lane is 200 meters with the pit-box right in the middle (the location of the car in the box is immaterial). It would take a 60 mph car (we’ll call it Car A) 3.7 seconds to get to his box — ignoring braking time. Car B (50 mph) would arrive at his box 4.5 seconds after entering pit-lane, .8 seconds behind Car A. After the pit-stop is done (in 10 seconds), it takes another 3.7 seconds for Car A and 4.5 seconds for Car B to make it off of pit road.
Add the times together and Car A has a 17.4 second pit-lane delta and Car B has a 19 second delta. That’s a pretty sizable gap when it comes to racing. And it’s even more so when it comes to racing the other cars out on track. A car on track traveling at 200 mph (89.4 m/s) will have covered 1,556 meters in the time it takes Car A to complete his pit cycle, and 1,699 meters in the time it takes Car B. That’s almost a 150 meter difference, just shy of the length of the short straightaway at Indianapolis.
Pitting will cost a driver more track position at speedways in 2016 than it did in 2015. Pit-stops will take longer, meaning the timing of them could become even more important next year as teams try to avoid the green flag stop.