By admin | November 2, 2008
By Richard Allen
I have friends and co-workers who often ask me how I can sit for hours at a time and watch cars drive around in a circle. I used to respond that there was more to it than just cars riding around in a circle. After the last several races, I am going to have to change my response.
Sunday’s Dickies 500 featured what has become the norm in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing of late. Clean air domination and pit road activity play out seemingly every week. This race was no different. Carl Edwards got to the lead and stayed there lap after lap. That scenario played out last week in Atlanta as well, except it was Matt Kenseth who lead most of the race there.
If not for fast pit stops and gambles by crew chiefs these races would have had no intrigue at all. In Atlanta, crew chief Chad Knaus gambled by bringing driver Jimmie Johnson in for four tires during a late caution. Despite putting his driver back in traffic, Knaus’ ploy paid off with a 2nd place finish.
That moved helped Johnson maintain a solid points lead in the Chase for the Championship.
In Texas, crew chief Bob Osborne kept driver Carl Edwards on the track even though it was a stretch for the #99 car to make it to the finish on fuel. Had Edwards pitted late in the race, like many others, he would have fallen somewhere back in the pack.
The gamble resulted in Edwards and his team cutting into Johnson’s points lead.
Johnson now leads Edwards by 106 points with two races remaining on the NASCAR schedule.
A few weeks ago there were several races in a row in which it appeared as though the on track competition was improving. The past few weeks have dispelled that notion.
Whether it be the tracks, the tires or the Car of Tomorrow, it is discouraging to know there are no significant changes planned for either next year. So, it looks like more of the same.
Hopefully, the crew chiefs will keep up the good work. That way, when people ask me why I spend so much time watching cars go around in a circle, I can say that I want to see what gutsy decision a crew chief is going to make in the last twenty laps of a 500 mile race.
It’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorpsorts Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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