Being fast on a race track often has more to do with feeling how much grip your car has than actually knowing what speed you’re traveling, which is why stock cars don’t have speedometers. However, that can make adhering to the pit lane speed limit a bit tricky.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. found that out the hard way Sunday during the Toyota Owners 400, in which he ultimately finished 30th after a speeding penalty dropped him down the order. The penalty was Earnhardt’s third for going too fast on pit road through the first nine races, so the Hendrick Motorsports driver spent time Sunday explaining why it’s easier to exceed the 40 mph limit than many realize, according to For The Win.
During his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast he talked about how, without a speedometer, drivers have to estimate their speed based on their engine’s rpm. What’s more, Dale Jr. said the cars that run in the Monster Energy Cup Series don’t actually have tachometers that tell them that information.
“I have lights on the dash and they start green, then they turn yellow,” Earnhardt said, via For The Win. “There’s basically four green lights, two yellow lights, two orange lights and then red lights, and they all kind of light up just like a rpm bar would.”
Interestingly, not having physical gauges seemingly simplifies everything for drivers, as Earnhardt reportedly said they’ve worked out a system based on the colored lights.
“So you’re going down pit road — if you’ve got just green lights, you’re going too slow,” Earnhardt said. “If you’ve got two yellow lights, you’re going the speed limit or just under breaking the speed limit. So two yellow lights should be safe. When we have a pit road that has a bend in it, you run two orange lights and that should be safe. Anytime you see any red lights, you’re speeding.”
Based on the Earnhardt’s explanation, it’s seemingly very easy to stay below the speed limit. That’s why he suggested there might have been a problem with his rpm lights Sunday at Richmond International Raceway.
Thumbnail photo via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images
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