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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 Pro Services Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, qualifies for tenth position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Johnson is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place with Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS who finished in 20th place Sunday, August 16, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at New Hampshire on July 7, 2014. (Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at Chicago on July 18, 2014. (Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway on 30 May 2015. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Chevrolet, Alex Tagliani, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, and Chris Buescher driver of the #60 Zest Ford, drive during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 15, 2015 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eighth position Friday, August 14, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Johnson is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, August 14, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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