Strategy is What Makes NASCAR, Well NASCAR

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.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 309345 Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Why is Everyone up in arms about the Kyle Busch Chase Waiver?

NASCAR has granted Kyle Busch a waiver to make the Chase via winning a race even though he missed the first 11 races of the season due to injury. Many NASCAR fans are up in arms about this and cannot fathom the possibility that Busch could make the Chase and potentially win a championship after missing so many races.

NASCAR instituted the new Chase format to emphasize wining and to allow drivers a way to make the Chase even though they may miss a number of races due to unmentioned circumstances. Denny Hamlin made the Chase last year even though he missed a race. It appears the Kyle Busch’s brother Kurt Busch will make the Chase this year even though he missed the first three races of the season. Tony Stewart was granted a waiver but failed to win a race.  What makes Kyle’s circumstances any different?

The Purists already dislike the Chase. They still like the championship the way it was, a whole season of racing and the driver who has the most points wins. That style led to many races at the end of the season where the points leader was simply racing for points not to win the race. Many Championships were sown up before the last race of the year.  Sorry but that left in 2003 and is not coming back.

The original Chase for the Sprint Cup helped but many seasons the last race of the year was watching the points leader race himself for 15th or some other low number and not the win. But then we had Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart race for the win and the championship at the last race of the season. That is what this new Chase is all about.

So what if Kyle Busch does win a race and makes the Chase? Well for one he would have to step in the car and perform up to his ability right away after a pretty severe injury. He still has to be in the top 30 in points.  According to NBCSports he would have to have an average finish of 15th in order to get into the top 30 in points. Since his average finish for the next 15 races is 13.8 that is certainly doable. But remember, he was severely injured, the odds of him being on his typical game is not good. He is Kyle Busch though.

Let’s assume he does it. He wins a race, gets into the top 30 in points and makes the Chase. That would be a great feat and make for a great story. History has shown that having an average finish of 13th doesn’t make you instantly superman to win a Championship.

Consider that Kyle Busch does come on strong at the end. Wins a race or two and gets many top five finishes to stay in each round of the Chase. He then wins at Homestead Miami Speedway to win the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. I can’t find any reason why one would put an asterisk next to his name on the Cup. He would have fought hard against adversity and raced hard which is everything that one would want from a Champion.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 305051 Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

NASCAR and SpongeBob SquarePants It Just Makes Sense

This week NASCAR returns to the Kansas Speedway for the for the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 Sprint Cup Series race. In addition to being the title sponsor of the race there will be cars featuring some of the characters.

The kids cable channel Nickelodeon is sponsoring the race and featuring one of their most popular shows SpongeBob SquarePants. NASCAR racing is lots of fun but how about adding in some guaranteed fun including some specially painted cars.

Greg Biffle, driving the No. 16 Cheez-It/ Patrick Star Ford Fusion

Michael McDowell, driving the No. 95 WRL/Larry the Lobster Ford Fusion

Casey Mears, driving the No. 13 Squidward Tentacles Chevrolet SS

David Ragan, driving the No. 55 Aarons/SpongeBob SquarePants Toyota Camry

It is sad that because of sponsorship issues there aren’t more cars getting in on the fun and getting painted up with some of the other Bikini Bottom characters. We need Krusty Krab and Plankton. We could have a crew chief sporting the Sandy Cheeks character because in Bikini Bottom anything is possible even a scientist squirrel from Texas.

It’s really fun to be part of the Nickelodeon lineup for the Kansas race and get to feature Patrick Star and Cheez-It on our No. 16 Ford,” Biffle added, “Nickelodeon does a lot to bring sports to kids, which is something that is important and I’m glad to be a part of it.  Kansas is a good track for us and Saturday night races are always exciting.  Hopefully we can get another Kansas win.

Greg Biffle is on to something. Call it a gimmick or just special sponsorship, adding some extra fun to the whole NASCAR race makes it more memorable. If this can bring more fans to the sport and great memories; than this is a win for everyone.

Let’s keep the SpongeBob SquarePants fun going, nominate the driver you think should be Gary in the comment section below and remember “Life is EXTREME as you wanna MAKE IT.”

If you cannot make it to the Kansas Speedway for the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 Saturday, May 9 2015 at 7 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing You Tube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XjE4PggdY4

Jimmie Johnson with his SpongeBob Fire Suit at Charlotte in 2004. Credit: 85113 Sherryl Creekmore/NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson with his SpongeBob Fire Suit at Charlotte in 2004.
Credit: 85113 Sherryl Creekmore/NASCAR