Crew chief Todd Gordon says he has a scar from Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a pit call he made in the 2017 race there. Sunday’s decision to pit Ryan Blaney from the lead cost Blaney the win and left Gordon with a deeper scar.
Instead of possibly winning, Blaney finished 11th.
Gordon spoke Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” about his pit call late in Sunday’s race.
Blaney led when the caution came out for Ross Chastain’s spin. It set up a two-lap shootout for the win. When pit road was opened, Blaney and Alex Bowman, running second, both peeled off the track, but Joey Logano, running third stayed out.
Logano was one of seven drivers who did not pit. He assumed the lead for the restart and went on to win the race.
Here’s what Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about his decision to pit:
“You knew you were going to come back to a two-lap run. We had scanned down pit road and it sounded like most of the top 10 were coming for tires. I wish I had that one back. I wish we had left him out there and let him defend. … I thought if we could (restart on the) second row on four tires or third row on four tires, we’d be alright, but to (restart on the) sixth row on four tires and just that in debacle back there and four-wide, didn’t look like maybe (Erik Jones‘) spotter let him know he had two outside and got caught up in (the last-lap accident).”
Gordon said a similar situation at the end of the first stage in the 2017 race at Las Vegas lingered in his mind as he decided what to do Sunday on the final pit stop.
“I think in the situation, I was waffling,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When it first came out, I thought we would stay. The more we talked about it, the more we scanned people, I let the information we gathered from that point forward skew me to pit and looking at it, and you think about this race track and where we were and you’ve got less than a second of falloff (in the tires from the beginning of a run to the end), so we don’t have a ton of power. So being able to hook up the rear tires on a restart isn’t as detrimental as it used to be.
“I’ve got a scar that comes back to me from the 2017 spring race. There was a caution, we had 40 laps on tires and there was a caution with like eight (laps) to go in a stage. We were leading and I stayed out because I felt like we’d have guys stay out to score stage points. We were the only car to stay out. We ended up 14th I think in five laps there.
“That scar still stuck, but you have to identify that’s when we had more power, we had less downforce. Getting good restarts was tough because you could hook the power up to the rear tires. We don’t really have that now.
“With this intermediate package, we’ve got with less power and more downforce and more drag. In hindsight, probably I wish I had it to do over again and went with the original (decision). … Kudos to Joey and (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) to adapting the call. I think they were talking about coming in, but when Joey saw he could get the front row, I think he made a diversion to it and ultimately won the race that way. Had (I) to do it all over again, probably leave Ryan in a position to see whether he could go and secure and defend the lead we had.”
While there seemed to be some communication issues between Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe if to pit during that late caution, Logano said it wasn’t the case.
“We talked about this scenario, whether it’s at the end of a stage or end of the race,” Logano said. “If it comes down to it, can we get clean air, or at what point are we comfortable staying out?
“So Paul came over the radio and said, stick to the plan. I said, okay, I’ll stick to the plan. That was it. You know, ultimately it was a good call, obviously, and got us in position to have a good restart. I had a good push with Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) behind me and had a good block on (William Byron) once I got the push.
“At that point, once you get that clean air, you’re in good shape. If I didn’t have a good restart and got swallowed up by the field, I’d have had the backup lights on pretty quick. But the call and then the execution to go together is what we needed to do.”
Said Wolfe about Logano not pitting at the end:
“It’s really about the clean air. If you can get clean air, it’s worth so much. The tires obviously were wearing some. Obviously that’s why we saw a lot of guys pit, obviously, from the lead. It seemed like … the left side (tire) wear was more accelerated than what we’ve seen in the past, and I think that was making guys favor wanting tires.
“But really still the falloff, if you look at the start of our run to the end, it wasn’t extreme, and in practice we were out there on older tires. When they have a chance to cool down, seemed to re‑fire and have decent speed.
“It’s kind of what we had talked about. If you can get to the front row and get that clean air, then it’s worth the gamble.
“Obviously we had a lot of cars behind us. At that point I felt pretty good as long as he executed the restart, the guys on tires weren’t going to catch you in two laps. Just not enough time.”