Sunday at Las Vegas was a picture-perfect example of how this new Chase format that was put in place for 2014 affected the outcome of a race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said if it had been under the old system, he wouldn’t have gambled on fuel and gone for the win. It’s because of the new system and the fact that he has a win under his belt already from Daytona, that he and his team rolled the dice. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t work, but they were at least willing to go for the win and not worry about the points.
I sure hope this is what we see for the remainder of the year from these teams and drivers. After that last pit stop Sunday, in addition to Dale Jr., you had Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin who also stayed out and rolled the dice. Like I mentioned, Dale Jr. had his win, so that’s why he gambled. Denny probably didn’t have a car strong enough to win the race, so he gambled hoping he could snag a win. Carl rolled the dice for the same reason.
So my point is everyone is gambling for various reasons hoping for the same reward — a win. I just think if it hadn’t been for the new Chase format that NASCAR introduced in 2014, there is no way no we would be seeing this type of gambling this early in the season.
The biggest gambler in the garage right now has to be Brad Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe. We’ve seen this time and time again for the four years that he and Brad have been in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. If you look at Sunday in Las Vegas, it looked like Paul was constantly and deliberately doing just the opposite of what the competition was doing. Granted, he had to have some luck on his side, especially on that first caution because he was just about to the point of having to bring Brad to pit road for a green flag stop, but then the caution came out.
Honestly, if you look at Paul and Brad’s 11 wins together — including Sunday’s victory in Vegas — they probably gambled to get six, seven and maybe even up to eight of them. They’ve shown they are the masters when it comes to gambling, so this new Chase format that puts the emphasis squarely on winning falls right into their wheelhouse.