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Two-tyre call was right move — for wrong team

Jimmie Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus admits that two-tyre call for Jeff Gordon was key to Las Vegas win
Late in Sunday's Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, driver Jeff Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte put their heads together — and came up empty.

Gordon led the field to pit road on lap 230 during what turned out to be the final caution of the race. After a brief discussion of strategy before the stop, Gordon and Letarte opted for two tyres instead of four — and lost the race to team-mate Jimmie Johnson, who restarted with 34 laps left armed with new tyres on all four corners of his #48 Chevy.

On two tyres to Johnson's four, Gordon described himself as a “sitting duck.” He added that losing the lead to Johnson after the restart on lap 234 was “just a matter of time.”

After the race, crew chief Chad Knaus, who made the winning four-tyre call for Johnson, was charitable toward the team with whom he shares a massive shop on the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, N.C. Knaus was particularly gracious toward his fellow crew chief.

“I didn't outsmart him,” Knaus said with a straight face. “He did not make the wrong call. There wasn't a wrong call to make. They came in first. They wanted to maintain track position because track position is so critical. Only way for us to beat them was to do something different. I didn't know they were taking two tyres. He didn't know we were taking four tyres.

“So, you know, I went with my plan because I thought that's what we needed to do, because I assumed a bunch of people were going to take two tyres.”

Excuse me. In one sense Knaus was right. Taking two tyres was not a wrong call—from the standpoint of the #48 team. If the object was to get Gordon to victory lane for the first time since April 2009 at Texas, however, it was a colossal mistake.

Look at the facts. Gordon had dominated the race up to the final pit stop. On equal tires, he was able to hold off Johnson lap after lap. Yes, track position was important, but there were only eleven cars on the lead lap when Kevin Conway's Ford slid into the turn two wall to cause the final caution.

Gordon and Letarte should have known Knaus invariably will take four tyres with more than 30 laps left in a race. Just listen:




Related Pictures

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Jeff Gordon and Steve Letarte [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finished in ninth place, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. CPT Travis L. Patriquin, US Army, is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael S. Duskin is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eighth position, Thursday, May 21, 2015, for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. All 43 drivers will be participating in
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, sits in his car prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 21, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johnson’s car features Army 1st Lt. Robert L. Henderson II as part of the 600 Miles of Rememberance.  (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Ford EcoBoost Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Roush Performance Products Ford, leads Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Interstate Batteries Toyota, during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Roush Performance Products Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Saturday night, May 16, 2015, in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, races to victory Saturday night, May 9, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Racing with him is Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Saturday night, May 9, 2015 winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Saturday night, May 9, 2015 winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Saturday night, May 9, 2015 winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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