You know what I don't like about racing ChumpCar? You have a fixed pit stop time. Said another way, in Chump, an opportunity for competitive advantage has been taken away. This annoys me.
The competitive side of racing isn't just behind the wheel. In a 30 minute sprint race, perhaps it is but that still requires a lot of thinking about your equipment and tires (especially when running race tires like Hoosiers). In endurance racing, however, the race is nearly always won and lost based upon the decision(s) made by the team (driver and pit wall) and most notably the race engineer (the person on the radio with the driver).
This last race at The Ridge was a great example of 'off track' decisions and strategy dictating the race. Car #77 (my car) and Car #82 (Dan Roger's car) had the same driver line up. 4 drivers would race two cars over 6 hours using a 'driver pool'. We opted for our fastest driver (Seth Thomas) to start my car, a calculated gamble because with only 18 cars entering the race the chance of Full Course Yellow (FCY) was low. For the first hour or so the strategy was working. Seth had amassed about a 1 minute lead and was looking strong to even put a lap on our nearest competition (the other SE46s) in the first stint of #77. That was the gamble; gain a lap from the fastest driver in the first stint allowing the other drivers (who are by no means slow) to have the pressure lifted from their race and reduce the risk of driver error.
The gambled didn't work as a FCY at the 90 minute mark reduced Seth's advantage to just a few car lengths. We still had track position after the first set of pit stops but car #82 would now have Seth finishing the race. Anyone who has seen competitive racing on TV will know the 'closer' is always the faster driver. This 'closer' advantage would have been muted with a 1 lap advantage from the first stint but alas it wasn't the case.
This is just one example of many that go through my mind and the team's mind during the race. When to pit, how fast you can fuel, how much fuel to put in (or are allowed put in) which driver to use, how fast can they get in and out of the car, what gears to use for fuel saving, how to roll speed to gain an extra lap or two, what tires to use, when to change tires are just a handful of factors.
There is a reason why Hank, Sam and their Advanced Auto Fab (AAF) team are nearly always on the podium or winning endurance races. It's because they think through everything and are fantastic strategists during a race. Some might say "well, you brought pro racers to a club race, of course you won" but at this last race, our driver speeds were 'on par' with other teams but yet we finished 1-2 laps ahead. Luck always plays a part in the race (#82 lost due to an electrical fire) but I firmly believe that if the pit work and strategy is planned out and executed well, it will make all the difference in an endurance race.
That's why I don't like the pit requirements in Chump. Everyone has to stop in the same allotted time which gives enough time for everyone to fuel, change drivers, have a cup of tea, partake in a little small talk and then go again. Sure, it's then only a driver competition but I want it all, I want on track and off track to dictate the result.
P.S. still do love ChumpCar racing though!