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Okay, okay … I admit it. I didn’t pick the winner and things didn’t turn out quite the way I expected. I also admit it did turn out there was an exciting finish to a relatively uneventful and boring race with very little passing for position, except for the person that won and he seemed to be able to pass at will.
Hard charging Carl Edwards dominated the field right down to the last pit stop and his inability to advance after that last stop may have been a lot of smoke and mirrors in a effort to conserve fuel for the end of the race. His crew chief, Bob Osborn, made a call that everyone just figured was impossible and it proved to be the deciding factor in Carl’s trip to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
Now that I’ve gotten all of the cliches and expected statements out of my thought processes, I look back at a race that was dominated by one team, (the 99 team), and could have been one of the least exciting races of the 2008 Chase. Although it did turn out to be somewhat of a nail-biter at the end, for the most part, it looked as though Carl Edwards was going to lap the entire field at least once.
The gamble on fuel mileage at the end by the 99, 88 and 24 teams, ended any chance of the finish being completely boring because any of the three of them could have run out of fuel at any time. A quick mention of the top five finishers shows Carl Edwards first, Jeff Gordon second (a miracle in itself), Jamie McMurray third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Dale junior in the 88 car ran out of gas with about five to go and finished twentieth.
Any way you look at it, the race once again came down to a risky call made in the pits late in the race that resulted in another unexpected finish. It seems that strategy plays a bigger roll than ever in how the top competitors finish consistently, and sometimes unexpectedly, ahead of the rest. If Bob Osborn’s estimate of fuel mileage had been wrong by just a little bit, Jeff Gordon would have won the race.
In fairness we need to remember an interesting fact about risk-taking — you either end up ‘the Hero’ or ‘the Zero’. Fortunately for Chad Knaus at Atlanta last week and Bob Osborn at Texas this week, they both wear ‘the Hero’ hat. Had Chad Knaus not taken the chance in Atlanta, Jimmy Johnson’s lead would be even less this week than it is. My opinion is that it was a 35 to a 40 point decision the same as the fuel mileage chance Bob Osborn made in Texas.
It is interesting to watch these two crew chiefs go about their work week after week. They are both very talented and have fared quite well with what I am sure they would call their “calculated risks”. They both continue to make tough, gutsy calls and both have come out winning the praise of those they compete with. I guess at some point it does beg the question though, “When will the luck run out for either of them?”
As it stands right now, the Chase is closer than it was a week ago but it is still Jimmy Johnson’s to lose. The next race could either increase his lead or could decrease it and make the Chase even more interesting by the time the teams arrive in Homestead. It is expected that both the 99 and the 48 teams will run well at Phoenix, but there is no guarantee that either of them will win.
There are others that have the opportunity to make the trip to victory lane in Phoenix. Tune in to the Saturday edition of “Just A Fan’s View” when we will discuss the possibilities. For now, though, it is time to say goodbye to Texas for this year and hope that next year will be at least a little more exciting of a race before the last ten laps or so.
See ya next time …
©2008 PCN Productions and Rusty Norman