Have you ever? No I’ve never
These NASCAR races are like great Oscar-winning movies. Every week it seems we go to the track and my jaw drops open a little more. You have this great cast of characters where someone is the star of the show for awhile and then someone else takes over that role. The bottom line is, you have to watch to the very end because you never know who is going to get the girl.
The teams have finally figured out how to use the multiple green-white-checker, double-file restarts, the Lucky Dog rule, etc., to their advantage. For example at Martinsville, I never thought you could come into the pits, get four tires with so few laps remaining and win the race. I am still blown away that Denny Hamlin pulled that one off. You had a similar situation at Phoenix.
Here’s the confusing thing. Let’s say I am running 10th and there are five laps to go when the caution comes out. Let’s say that the nine cars ahead of me all peel off and head to pit road. Folks, I am licking my chops because I have this thing in the bag. That’s what I don’t get. Why aren’t these crew chiefs on cars that don’t have a chance to win following what the lead cars are doing and pitting also? Why would they do that?
I don’t understand why they aren’t willing to gamble. Look at Phoenix last Saturday night. There were 20-some cars on the lead lap when that caution came out with just a handful of laps to go. Everybody pitted. Why? If you were 10th or 12th, then why wouldn’t you have stayed out?
Now sure, Friday night Kyle Busch came in on that last caution and put tires on and restarted 10th and won the race. Folks, he had the fastest car, though. When you put four tires on the fastest car, you have an even better chance of winning the race.
My point, going back to Saturday’s race, is the folks that didn’t have the fastest car needed to gamble, but they didn’t. You have to take a chance. What really has me scratching my head is no one is willing to do that. I still maintain that these crew chiefs are so hung up on what Chad Knaus is going to do that it’s really what they base their decisions on.
The No. 18 team of Kyle Busch took four tires Saturday night because the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson did the same. That No. 18 team has been in position to win at Martinsville and at Phoenix but he couldn’t do it. Jimmie Johnson did a little better than Kyle did Saturday night, but Jimmie was in the right line.
See, that’s another crap shoot. If you are in the line that doesn’t go, well you are done. The double-file restarts have created that. Remember, back under the old system, with more than 10 laps to go, you had lapped cars to your inside. Then with fewer than 10 laps to go, you had a single-file restart.
Now you have cars inside or outside of you that are as equal as or better than you are. So you have to gamble, but it just isn’t happening. All we are seeing is a “monkey see, monkey do” kind of thing. I have to admit, it has given us some exciting races. It’s given a lot of folks a chance to roll into Victory Lane.
It does have these crew chiefs scratching their heads though. Do I take two tires? Do I take four tires? Do I stay out? My theory always was “when in doubt, I will stay out.” If I wasn’t sure what to do, I would always stay out.
Today however, different from when I was driving, is the green-white-checkers. If it’s a multiple attempt to finish the race under green, well that could really hurt you. See that’s where old tires will hurt you. But you have to only worry about what you do have at the time, not what you don’t have. What you do have is a chance to win the race if there isn’t another caution.
I just know from experience, if everyone else is doing the same thing, well by golly I am going to do the opposite. That has always paid off the most for me. I really think it would for these guys today, too. It’s like that Kenny Rogers song from back in the day, you need to know “when to hold’em and know when to fold’em.”
OH BY THE WAY – Congratulations to Ryan Newman, Tony Gibson and the entire No. 39 team Saturday night. It was the first win for this two-year old Stewart-Haas team. It was the first win as a crew chief for Tony Gibson. Something I think is really cool: It was the first win in NASCAR history for the No. 39.
OH BY THE WAY II – Here’s clear example of how exciting and unpredictable NASCAR racing is now. Saturday night we saw three different cars lead over 100 laps. Here’s the thing, though — none of those three cars won the race. Now we’ve seen this before this season where someone dominates the race but then doesn’t seal the deal. The competition is incredible and I have to say, NASCAR racing right now is the most intriguing I have ever seen in my career.