Brooklyn: Pontiac Racing preview

400 miles at Michigan could be settled on final pit stop. DETROIT, Mich., June 11, 2002 - Every NASCAR Winston Cup race is full of strategy and full of decisions, but perhaps no call is more critical than the one that has to be made prior to a...

400 miles at Michigan could be settled on final pit stop.

DETROIT, Mich., June 11, 2002 - Every NASCAR Winston Cup race is full of strategy and full of decisions, but perhaps no call is more critical than the one that has to be made prior to a team's final pit stop. Drivers and crew chiefs engage in a hasty debate over car performance and track position, and then must quickly settle on a formula capable of producing a victory.

Five Pontiac teams head to Michigan International Speedway this weekend looking for the manufacturer's fourth win of the year. For one of them to capture Sunday's 400-miler, it will undoubtedly take a great handling car, but will also hinge on the ability to out-think the rest of the field during their final trip to pit road.

Thoughts From Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix:

WHEN YOUR TEAM HAS TO DECIDE WHETHER TO TAKE NO TIRES, TWO TIRES OR FOUR TIRES NEAR THE END OF A RACE, HOW MUCH DO YOU WEIGH IN ON THAT DECISION? "I normally rely on Greg [Zipadelli]. I let him know how my car is driving, but he knows what the lap times are, he knows how the other competitors are on lap times and what they're doing. Typically in the past, I've just relied more on Greg's decision from that standpoint."

DO YOU LIKE HAVING OPTIONS OR WOULD YOU PREFER EVERYBODY NEEDING TO GET FOUR TIRES IN THAT SITUATION? "I liked it better when everybody came in and bolted on four [tires]. I thought it was better racing for the fans that way. You'd have that last pit stop with 20 to go and everybody knew it was going to be your last pit stop no matter what. You'd see those fans when guys were coming out of the pits and they'd either be cheering because their driver had a good stop or bummed because their driver had a bad stop. That was as much a part of the race as anything else was.

"Now, nobody really pays attention to the pit stop, because it doesn't really matter until they get back out there and get going again. They have to wait and see if their team made the right decision or not, so I don't think the pit stops are as exciting as they used to be."

Thoughts From Jimmy Makar, Crew Chief,
No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix:

YOU ARE THE ONE THAT HAS TO DECIDE WHAT STRATEGY TO USE WHEN A RACE COMES DOWN TO THAT LAST PIT STOP...HOW TOUGH IS IT TO MAKE THAT DECISION? "It's probably the toughest call on pit road because a lot depends on what everybody else does. You can make a good call for your call, but other people can do things that lose you track position. Even though you've got a better car by the changes you made or by the call you made, the track position kills you and you're not able to get back up to the front. It's just so interactive with what everybody else does anymore that you almost have to think about what the other guy's strategy is going to be and try to take a guess as to what is going to happen on pit road."

DO YOU LIKE IT BETTER THIS WAY? "It's a lot harder this way. There's no doubt about that. It's a lot tougher. It was nice when you used to know that when the caution came out, you were going to get four tires. There were no decisions. The driver was going to be happy. Today, you've got to fight the drivers a little bit sometimes. They want four tires, but you know two tires is a better call for track position and things like that. It's just a very different game than it used to be. I find it hard to do - and I think some of the other guys that have been around a long time find it hard to do - to not just come get four tires and know you've got a good race car that can race back to the front. If you don't have the track position, that doesn't happen anymore."

Thoughts From James Ince, Crew Chief, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix:

YOU ARE THE ONE THAT HAS TO DECIDE WHAT STRATEGY TO USE WHEN A RACE COMES DOWN TO THAT LAST PIT STOP...HOW TOUGH IS IT TO MAKE THAT DECISION? "It's not as tough as people think it is. It's a situation that when you're running good, it's actually the most fun part of the day for a crew chief. You take all the information that you've gathered all weekend long, usually take the information you got from the Busch race on Saturday, you know what your race car has done and you decide. 'Would you rather have clean air in the front of the deal and take two tires or no tires and be ahead of everybody, or do we think we can come back and pass people?' "A lot of that depends on what your car is doing. If you're really good at reading your race car and you know what your driver is capable of doing, then it's a really fun decision to make and you hope it goes right. "It's just like everything else we do. It's all about collecting data as you go."

IS IT ALMOST BETTER TO NOT BE LEADING WHEN IT COMES TO THAT TIME? "It used to be whatever the leader did, everybody else did. Anymore, whatever second place does is what everybody else does. It's not always a lot of fun to be the leader when it comes to that deal, real close to the end of the race. They (the rest of the field) can make you look real stupid by the stuff that they go and do. But, all you can do is make the best decisions you can about what your car is capable of, you go do that and you don't worry about it."

DO YOU EVER HAVE TO ARGUE WITH THE DRIVER ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO? "I'm sure some people have that problem. In our case, I make the calls on pit road and Johnny drives the race car. He believes in me to make the decisions. He knows I'm sitting there collecting data and I'm seeing things that he's not seeing all day long."

-pontiac-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart