Crew chiefs making impact on Chase

BY Jeff Hammond • October 11, 2011

I think you are seeing the crew chiefs of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup cars really shining this year. It doesn’t matter whether it is in the beginning of the race, the middle of the race or even near the end, they are making some great calls. Naturally a big component of that is good feedback they are getting from their drivers.

We fans are getting the benefit of seeing what a race team is all about. It’s not just the driver or crew chief. It is everybody working together towards the same goal. I can’t emphasize that enough. I enjoy watching these guys put it all together. You saw a great example of that last Sunday in Kansas.

Let's be honest, that No. 48 team has been taking it on the chin pretty much all season. Up until last Sunday, they had only won a single race. They’ve never done that, even back to Jimmie’s rookie year when they won three races. You’ve seen Jimmie more animated and upset at times than in years past. You’ve heard Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus go at each other on the radio more than ever too.

These guys have held up under all that pressure and scrutiny. On top of all that, there is the pressure of being a five-time champion who is trying to win a sixth. Oh, and let's also not forget that is five consecutive championships going for a sixth straight. Now after last Sunday’s win, they are right back in the thick of the hunt.

The other thing I took out of the Kansas race is how good and consistent Brad Keselowski is. This team is the real deal. He started 12th and finished third. He’s fourth in the Chase, only 11 points out of the top spot. I keep preaching to all that will listen that the No. 2 car is not going away. I’ve continue to say that these guys have everything to gain and nothing to lose. That makes them dangerous.

They actually might do something for Roger Penske that Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch and others haven’t been able to do. That is to deliver Roger Penske his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. What an incredible feat that would be if they can pull it off.

For the teams that are struggling right now, they have to be extremely frustrated. They fought and clawed all year just to get into the Chase. Then the points are re-racked and it becomes a 10-race playoff with only 12 teams. To come this far and to work so hard only to struggle really has to be beating them down. I really feel for those guys.

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