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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 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS stops in his pit before victory Sunday, March 15, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS crosses the finish line Sunday, March 15, 2015 winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. This is Harvick`s fourth straight win at Phoenix. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates after winning after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/ Budweiser Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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