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Race Day: GWC Blues

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 18 2010

Tony Stewart will attempt to become just the second driver to win at Texas Motor Speedway from the pole position today. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: Persistent rain and a gloomy Sunday evening forecast caused NASCAR to postpone the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races that were scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Samsung Mobile 500 Sprint Cup race was rescheduled for noon (EDT) Monday, and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide event will follow at about 5 p.m. Drivers participating in both races will be running 800 miles in a pair of events almost back-to-back.

Sunday’s scheduled racing was postponed at about 4:30 p.m. (EDT).

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Chances are superb that Monday’s rescheduled Samsung Mobile 500 will turn out to be the Samsung Mobile 501.5 or 503 or some other multiple of the distance around Texas Motor Speedway.)

Quite simply: Green-white-checkered finishes have become the norm in 2010.

Because of that, it is not just the racing that has gone into overtime. So, too, has the noodle work.

The biggest object of team strategizing late in races has been; new tires vs. track position. That is, pit or not pit and if a team does pit, two tires or four?

Different teams have different ways of make the big, race-deciding decisions. Here is what a select group of drivers said about late-race strategizing:

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet (crew chief Darian Grubb): “You just have to evaluate it from where you’re at that point. I think a lot of it depends on how your car is driving.  Every track is going to be different.  A place like Atlanta where it’s really wide and you have a lot of opportunity to pass because there’s a lot of room, you have to take those four tires.  You can’t really take that chance of taking two.

“A place like Phoenix where it’s a little narrower, you have to evaluate the situation.  You can’t even evaluate it first thing off the start of the race, you have to wait until the end and see where your car is, how your balance is, see how your track position is and then you have to make that decision from there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (crew chief Lance McGrew): “I tell him (McGrew) what I want and he tells me what we’re going to do; that’s basically how it goes. That’s fine with me. He makes the call and he’s the crew chief so I want him to make the call and shoulder the burden.  If he asks my opinion, he’s going to get it whether or not he asks for it I think.  What he doesn’t like is for somebody to tell him, ‘I told you so’ afterwards if it doesn’t work out.  I just tell him what I think, and he does what he thinks we need to do and he can see that race a little differently than I can from where he’s at, so I just trust what he says.”

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (crew chief Steve Letarte): “I just give my feeling of what the car is doing and where we’re at with the tires that we currently have.  If I have a strong opinion either way then I’ll voice it and if not, then I try to most of the time leave it up to the crew chief.”

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (crew chief Chad Knaus): “It’s more what the masses do.  If you’re on two and there are a lot of guys that stay out on two, then you’re probably in good shape.  If there isn’t and you took two when a lot of guys took four, then you’re a sitting duck.”

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (crew chief Todd Berrier): “From a driver’s standpoint, what you have to be willing to do is you have to be willing when your crew chief says we’re going to do two or we’re going to do four, whatever that decision is, you can’t second guess it. You just have to go work and go make it happen.”

Fast facts

What: Samsung Mobile 500

Where: Texas Motor Speedway; Fort Worth, Texas

When: Monday, noon ET

TV: Fox

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

Banking in corners: 24 degrees

Race distance: 334 laps/501 miles

Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps

2009 polesitter: David Reutimann

2009 winner: Jeff Gordon

Monday’s polesitter: Tony Stewart

Points leaders: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 1,073; 2. Matt Kenseth, 1,037; 3. Greg Biffle, 981; 4. Kevin Harvick, 961; 5. Jeff Gordon, 948; 6. Clint Bowyer, 885; 7. Jeff Burton, 873; 8. Carl Edwards, 873; 9. Tony Stewart, 869; 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 866; 11. Joey Logano, 862; 12. Kyle Busch, 855.

Trivia Time

Who was the first Dodge driver to win a Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway?

Tire Talk

It’s not just spoilers which will be new on cars at Texas Monday. Goodyear has brought a new tire to the place.

Michael Nelson, VP of operations for Penske Racing, was asked about the new tires. Here is how that went:

Question: What can you tell us about the new tires?

Nelson: “We got a chance to come to Texas with Kurt (Busch) and the No. 2 car to do a test with Goodyear. We got a chance to talk with Goodyear on what they were looking for and what they hoped to get out of the test. We’re looking forward to see what we learned.”

Question: Did they bring back the same tire from the test?

Nelson: “I believe it’s a variation of the tire that we tested. I don’t think it’s exactly what we tested, but the final product is based upon what they brought to the test.”

Question: New tire and new spoiler – How difficult is the challenge?

Nelson: “There are a couple of variables there for sure. What we tried to do with all of our Dodge teams today was attack the track condition, all the changes for what they were and just try to work on the car. If it was tight, we loosen it up. If it was loose, we tighten it up. We took what the track gave us today and worked to find a combination.”

Texas tidbits

Number of races: 18

Number of winners: 12

Youngest pole winner: Brian Vickers (23 years, 12 days)

Oldest pole winner: Bill Elliott (46 years, 6 months, 22 days)

Youngest winner: Ryan Newman (25 years, 3 months, 22 days)

Oldest winner: Dale Jarrett (44 years, 4 months, 6 days)

Races won from the pole: 1

Four drivers have been in all 18 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin

Most victories: 3, by Carl Edwards

Most top-fives: 7, by Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth

Most top-10s: 10, by Kenseth, Martin and Stewart

Most lead-lap finishes: 18, by Martin

Most laps led: 498, by Kenseth

Most DNFs: 6, by Joe Nemechek

Milestones

Tony Stewart will be making his 400th start.

David Gilliland will be making his 125th start.

Brad Keselowski will be making his 25th start.

Trivia Answer

Ryan Newman won the 2003 Samsung/Radio Shack 500 driving a Penske Racing Dodge.

Up next

Race No. 9 on the schedule. It will be the Aarons 499 at Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday. Brad Keselowski won last year’s race and Juan Pablo Montoya was the polesitter.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 18 2010
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