The crew chief of Hendrick Motorsports team decided not to pit under caution early in Stage 2 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The caution was brought when Joey Gase lost a tire and slammed hard into the Turn 2 wall on lap 92. During the caution, several drivers, including Hamlin, decided to pit for fuel. However, none of the four HMS drivers decided to pit. Hamlin went on to win the race.
Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Denny Hamlin, was surprised that HMS didn’t pit during the caution and called it the turning point of the race.
“It’s rare when you can look to one singular point in the race and that that was the turning point in the race, but it really was,” he said. “Hendrick cars are always strong at these tracks.
“I’m not saying we weren’t good. We were certainly capable. That gave us the leg up that we needed to take control of the race.”
The problem for not pitting during that caution was that the remainder of the lap went caution-free. This forced the HMS drivers to make a pit stop under green to take on fuel.
Kyle Larson’s crew chief took the blame for the strategy for his team.
“I certainly own my part in that,” he said. We just blew it. It was terrible.”
Elliott was the only driver to have a good run, finishing second behind Hamlin. Speaking about the pit strategy, Byron said:
“We had the strategy deal with not being able to make it on fuel and had to recover from that. We had to take two tires and that hurt us. We were able to drive all the way back to the front from the back again, so that was twice.
“And then we had the flat tire.”
After this bad run, both Byron and Bowman find themselves below the cut line, with the threat of elimination looming large.