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The perfect storm

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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Well folks, the perfect storm is basically what we had Sunday in Loudon, N.H. Now I have to tell you right up front, rain did not decide who was going to win that race — Gas did. Watching the race at home Sunday, I am not sure I understand why everybody didn't pit when there was a caution flag with 70 odd laps to go. During that stop, guys in the back of the field came down and topped off, which makes perfect sense. But I guess the argument is that if the guys with the lead came down and topped off then the guys in the back would have probably stayed out and assumed all that track position. But the thing is, there still would have been plenty of time to get it back if you were one of the lead cars.
To sit there and know that there was rain in the area; you can smell it, you can feel it and you knew it had been predicted all day long but to sit there and hope it was going to rain before the end of the race was a bit of a gamble. So the strategy that Kurt Busch, my brother Michael, J.J. Yeley and some of those guys who ended up with a great finish used, turned out to be the winning strategy. All the rain did was shorten up the agony. All the guys up front, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and the others, knew they were going to have to pit one more time if the race went the distance. They might have actually gotten even worse finishing positions than they got, if it hadn't been for the rain. Again, sure it was a little bit lucky for those guys that came down and topped off. Naturally they didn't have any idea it was going to be the winning move at the time but they knew it was probably going to help them get a better finish. Strategy, gas — that was a big thing on Sunday. Pardon the pun, but all the rain did was dampen everything at the end of the day. All the people wanted to talk about was Kurt didn't deserve to win and this car or that car didn't earn that great finish. Folks, part of winning races, no matter how good you are or how fast you are is, being able to put it all together. You have to make the right moves on the track. You have to make the right calls in the pits. That's a big part of winning races, particularly these days with this new car. I think one of the things that is making fuel mileage and fuel races so prominent right now is the 18-gallon fuel cell. I think switching to that changed things up a little bit. The tires are another factor. The tires they are using on the new car don't give up as much. You can stay out on a set of tires and put a lot of laps on them. I think back to Tony at Charlotte. He had that race won but was trying to go over 100 laps on one set of tires. His lap times didn't fall off but his tires wore out. The tire they are running this year stays fast and it doesn't give up. That's what you look for. Sunday you saw guys stay out on tires, take the lead and actually run fast. This new car likes to be out front. That is obvious. Passing is at a premium. I keep saying this but no one seems to pay much attention — it's the gear rule. It's the gear rule that makes it so hard to pass. Everybody has the same gear. Everybody is coming off the corner with the same gear, so obviously it's hard to pass and get a position if you are running the same thing as the guy beside you. So then you have to wait for the guy to mess up, or you have to mess him up to get by him. So that's what makes passing so hard because this car is not that pass-friendly anyway. All that combined makes it very difficult to pass. I am sick of hearing about track position every week. Please talk about something else other than track position! You know we saw fuel mileage races last year. We saw Casey Mears win the Coca Cola 600 last year plus Kyle Petty and J.J. Yeley got great finishes in that race due to it, too. We've seen Tony Stewart make it on fuel. We've seen Greg Biffle make it on fuel. We saw Jimmie Johnson this year win it on fuel. Hey, for that matter, we saw Danica Patrick win this year on fuel. Again I say, fuel strategy is a huge part of winning races. It's not about how fast you are, it's about who gets there first. That's what strategy is all about. It's figuring out how to beat the other guy with what you got, not with what he's got.

Oh, by the way

I think ol' Juan Pablo Montoya might be in a bit of trouble after its all said and done. You can rub, you can push, you can do lots of things but you simply can't take someone out and blatantly say you did it. I think NASCAR is probably going to frown on that. So I think Juan will be sorry that he did that, or at least Juan will be sorry that he admitted that he did that.

Oh, by the way, too

I don't know why no one is paying attention to what I am telling you — so pay attention. Believe what I am trying to tell you, as my old crew chief Jake Elder used to say — Tony Stewart is going to drive for Haas CNC Racing next year. Mark Martin is going to drive for Rick Hendrick next year. I just know that. Don't ask me how I know that, but I know that. Plus Ryan Newman or Martin Truex Jr. is probably going to be Tony's teammate. Again, don't ask me how I know that but I just do. I can see the writing on the wall. Nobody has told me these things, these are my opinions but I am telling you its going to happen. Even with Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle re-signed, we just haven't heard the end of all this yet.

One final 'oh, by the way'

Poor Tony. Poor Smoke. He had the best car Sunday and a good shot of winning that race. Things just didn't work out. He has been bitten like this two or three times this year. He has had great cars. The team is performing well but they just aren't getting great finishes. Jeff Gordon on the other hand, well that team is performing poorly but they are getting great finishes. Jimmie Johnson, like Tony, is performing well but not getting good finishes. But I think these guys will be real factors when it comes time for the Chase. They are working hard and getting their cars better than they have all year. So don't count some of these guys out who aren't doing that well right now. I see drastic improvement in their cars and how they are running. So there is going to be some action when the Chase starts, I think.

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