NASCAR

For teams it's time to roll the dice

Roll The Dice
Kurt Busch could use another win.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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Heading into this weekend’s race there are only eight races to go in what we now call NASCAR’s regular season. For teams that are say, 11th through 20th in the points, your season has just hit DefCon 1. It’s absolutely time to start taking chances to snag a win or two which will either propel you into the Top 10 in points or gain you a Wild Card spot for the Chase.

If you have one win or are just inside the Top 10 like a Kurt Busch, you have to be smart, but you also have to gamble to try and get a win. For a couple drivers who already have a win, that second win will all but secure you a spot in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase. These drivers have to do what they have to do to keep their team and season in contention for the 10-race Chase.

If you are down near the bottom of the Top 20, which is the cut-off for possibly qualifying the Chase, and you don’t have a win, well now’s the time to swing for the fences. You have nothing to lose. The only way left in these eight races those drivers at the bottom have to make the Chase is to win. There simply isn’t enough time to leap-frog over the other drivers via points. There’s only one option left and that’s by visiting Victory Lane.

If you have any tests left and if you are really good at any of these eight tracks that are left, well you need to put all your eggs in one basket and go for broke at that track. Now granted, winning any time in NASCAR is hard and it’s a special event. However, if you don’t make the Chase and then win one of the last 10 Chase races, while that’s great, it’s defeated the whole purpose of your season because you don’t have a shot at the title.

For a crew chief, the easiest gamble you can make now is rolling the dice on a gas mileage situation. Where you might not have taken the risk 10 races ago, right now today is all that matters and if you can figure a way to out-fox the other teams and snag a win on fuel mileage strategy, well then you just helped your team, organization and sponsor immensely.

Pocono is coming up in a few weeks, as is Watkins Glen. Both are excellent tracks for getting yourself off-sequence with everyone else on pit road and putting it out there to steal a win on having just that little bit of extra gas in your tank.

Only taking two tires, especially when everyone else it going for a four-tire green flag stop is another way to gain you track position and possibly set yourself up to snag a checkered flag. Right now it’s all about reading the poker table and capitalizing on an opening when it’s presented to you.

Don’t think for one second that you will be the only crew chief looking at this and even attempting this. Everyone knows how high the stakes are right now. So expect company when you roll the dice and try to use strategy to grab a win away.

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