Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More NASCAR Sprint Cup teams need to gamble to win

For the past two weeks, staying out on old tires or just taking two tires have been winning moves for both Regan Smith and Matt Kenseth. The calls came out golden for those two, but maybe more teams need to take late-race gambles even if it doesn’t end up in a victory.

Races can be won several different ways. Having a fast car is a good start, but a fair amount of luck is needed throughout the course of the event, whether it comes down to fuel mileage, tires, or just keeping the car off the wall and out of trouble.

Smith took an opportunity to jump to the front when everybody else hit the pits at Darlington. The same sort of thing worked out Sunday at Dover for Kenseth, although he took two tires and had a lot more distance between him and the four-tire crowd.

This type of strategy won’t turn into a win, or even a top-five finish, every time, but that doesn’t mean teams having a mediocre race should always follow the leader and accept their fate.

I’m always shocked more drivers who are on the back half of the lead-lap cars don’t stay out. Yes, Smith and Brad Keselowski stayed out at Darlington when they were sitting between 10th and 20th, but that means eight other drivers came in for four tires when the only thing they really had to lose was just a couple of spots. Especially with less than 10 laps to go, as was the case in the Southern 500, most of those drivers would’ve finished well ahead of where they did even if they lost several positions on the restart.

Darlington is often considered the track that is the toughest on tires, but it has to be awful inviting to see all of the leaders come in for a stop and have nothing but the pace car ahead. One of the few benefits of being so far behind is the team gets to see what all of the teams ahead of them will do. If all of the leaders are coming in, why not take a shot at winning the race. Even if every single car on the lead lap passed them back, they still would end up close to where they were before the caution.

Sunday’s race was a little different, however, and it was surprising to see Kenseth and Mark Martin, who stayed out and didn’t take any tires, maintain their positions and drive away from the field. But, both had pretty good cars throughout the race, as Smith did at Darlington.

Let's face it, only a handful of teams show up to a race track with a legitimate chance to out-run the field and win a given race. Sure, there are exceptions based on the type of track, but there's usually a lot more teams that could benefit from making a risky call from pit road than could benefit from playing it safe and banking points.

Maybe in future races more teams will be willing to take a gamble on tires late in a race. It would sure keep the season interesting, especially with the new wild-card Chase implications. It could not only get a driver a rare win, but it might just put them in contention for the championship. That would have fans howling, but that’s a topic for another day.


  1. I like it! Throw out the mold, be proactive, take a chance... You might even get the girl!

    I think I'd want to be real good friends with the Goodyear guys for any insider info on those tires they dole out. They're getting better wear and I'll bet it's a big topic of discussion around the garages.

    Thanks jmayer!

  2. Dwindy1 - Ha! That explains why Tony Stewart hasn't won lately, if you've got to be friends with the Goodyear people. lol