The NASCAR Xfinity Series Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket at Dover International Speedway highlighted how pit strategy impacts racing especially NASCAR racing. Whether you like it or not sometimes the fastest car doesn’t win in racing. It happens in all racing but in some series because of the race format or length strategy doesn’t have an impact. In the top three series of NASCAR strategy always has some sort of impact. Chris Buescher won by some great race strategy.
In order to explain how strategy impacted the results of the race we need to go back into the race. In this case deep into the race because strategy presents itself like Chris Buescher or forces itself on you like Matt Kenseth.
On lap 31 of the 200 lap race Matt Kenseth came down pit road to have a loose wheel corrected. He gets four tires and fuel. This takes him off of the strategy of the entire rest of the field even though he has a very fast race car. His day is seemingly done. A different strategy has been forced upon him and his team.
The thing about strategy is when you are on a different strategy then everyone else you need some help to make yours better than theirs. In this case there was a caution within ten laps such that Kenseth could stay out, get the wave around to get back on the lead lap. During this caution for debris the leaders all pitted for tires and fuel. To visualize it Kenseth restarts the second to last car on the lead lap the only car without fresh tires and about 25 laps less on fuel.
Strategy keeps following Kenseth. There is another caution four laps after the last on lap 65. Matt Kenseth and his team since they are at the back of the field anyway pit for tires and fuel. Since all the other teams only had about six laps on their tires and fuel they stayed out. Matt is now closer in strategy and not out of the race.
The race restarts and goes 25 laps before another caution for a wreck. Kenseth stays out to lead the race. The tires at Dover are pretty good so he leads the race until he pits with 46 to go for his last four tires and fuel. He can make it to the end and if the race stays green he owns it.
It does stay green, Kenseth’s team looks brilliant. Except ….. Under the same last caution that Matt Kenseth gained his lead and his advantage over strategy Chris Buescher pits for four tires and fuel. Ironically he and his teammate are getting great fuel millage and end up racing one another for the lead after all the other leaders but Kenseth pit under green flag conditions. Buescher and Wallace get together and Wallace has to pit for damage. Because of this Buescher has been presented strategy to win the race on fuel. He has a 25 second lead on Kenseth on which to save fuel over eight laps.
“We got fortunate. We had a loose wheel and got a lap down and did the wave around and was able to lead a lap. We were one set short of tires, so we had to stay out that one round, but we were able to lead that whole stint.” Kenseth added, “It went green at the end and I thought we were going to win the race, I didn’t think anyone was going to be able to run that long on fuel. They (Chris Buescher) did so it was a good day for us.”
There it is two distinct different strategies racing to win a race. Which one would prevail? One would never have thought a car could go almost 100 laps on fuel but strategy presented itself and both teams accepted the challenge. It made it exciting for the fan that was paying attention not so for the fan that was not but that is what NASCAR racing is all about. That is what makes NASCAR racing interesting and also what makes it hard to understand. If there was a caution flag at any time in the last 50 laps you wouldn’t be reading this. Erik Jones would have won. That is NASCAR racing!
We will do it all again for the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday May 31st. If you cannot get to Dover International Speedway the race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 starting at 1 PM ET.
Feature Photo Credit: 309345 Todd Warshaw/Getty Images