At the start of the 2014 season NASCAR changed the rules for qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The changes were supposed to make winning races more important. As much as that sounds silly when talking about racing, it isn’t so silly when talking about winning championships.
The past week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his crew chief Steve Letarte used pit strategy to almost win the race. They ran out of fuel on the last lap and finished second.
What may not be evident to many fans is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gave up a sure top ten finish in order to potentially win the race. This type of strategy would never happen without the new rules for qualifying for the Chase.
When asked if they would have tried that strategy Earnhardt, Jr. said, “Absolutely not. I can say that without a doubt.”
Earnhardt, Jr. further elaborated, “I think the way the new format is, nothing is perfect, right, but it definitely is showing it has tons of positives, and it’s better as far as entertainment for our sport. Yeah, it gives us freedom, and it’s nice to have that freedom to do the things that we did today, even though we knew our odds weren’t good. We really shouldn’t have made it, and we didn’t, but we got to try because of the new system. So yeah, I think it’s pretty cool.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet Team showed the other NASCAR teams the last few weeks how a little less conservative strategy can pay off on the track. This has only come about because NASCAR made changes that make winning a race more important than having a bad finish.
Its only three weeks into the season, imagine what will happen when all the crew chiefs eyes have been opened up to the potential gain of bailing on a sure decent finish for the potential of a win. A little swing for the fences attitude is just what NASCAR needed to add some excitement and it appears to already be working.
Feature Photo Credit: 295983 NASCAR Via Getty Images