News & Media


Edwards: Pit calls not about luck, but taking risks

October 01, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

DOVER, Del. -- Pit strategy can negate any advantage a faster car may have on the race track

When it comes to winning Cup races, the discussion has always revolved around the combination of car and driver, and what percentages they provide to the mix. But based on the number of fuel mileage races in 2011, Carl Edwards said you might want to add a third element: the crew chief.

"You will not win these races repeatedly if you don't have the right calls on the pit box," Edwards said Friday at Dover International Speedway. "If you look at the guys who have won races this year, I'd say a huge number -- it feels like half or more -- of the races have been won by kind of a gutsy pit call, so it does take that crew chief right now."

On their shoulders


David Caraviello writes that crew chiefs get little credit when things go right and all of the blame when they go wrong. The job is an invitation to the most difficult, thankless job in NASCAR, and one that gets tougher with time.

What's happened, according to Edwards, is that pit strategy can negate any advantage a faster car may have on the track.

"I think this season has been different than previous seasons in that when you have a dominant car, it is very easy to fall victim to someone else's strategy," Edwards said. "It's interesting that the only race we've won this year, we did not dominate. The races that we dominated we weren't able to win and it all comes down to that last pit stop.

"Matt [Kenseth] and I talked about it after he won the race here earlier this year. I called him and I was a little jealous because he won and our car was so fast and he said, 'Man, it was an easy situation for us. We were running 10th all day, so of course we'll take two tires and go see what we can get,' and it worked."

But don't think that the guys celebrating in Victory Lane are "lucking" into wins. Edwards said pit calls are less about luck and more about take more chances late in the race.

"I think it's easier to make that risky call when you're in 10th and you haven't done anything all day and you think, 'Hey, why not? Let's take two tires or no tires or let's gamble,' " Edwards said. "It is easier, but, yes, I do feel like we're at a time in this sport right now where the fastest car probably wins a lesser percentage of the races than they used to because it is harder to pass and it is more dependent on your strategy."

Edwards is fourth in the points heading into Sunday's AAA 400, but he's on a streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes. In addition, he has a win and 10 top-10 finishes in 14 career starts at the Monster Mile.

Winning the championship requires a certain level of consistency. And the key, in his opinion, is walking that delicate balance of knowing when to be aggressive and when to be cautious.

"You have to not make any mistakes, but also go as fast as you can," Edwards said. "If you watch guys in just the first two races, guys have put themselves behind through mistakes or miscalculations with fuel and we can do that just as easily as anyone, but our goal is not to.

"At the same time, we are coming here to win these races and if I have a shot to win this on Sunday, then that's what I'm going for. We're not holding back anything, is the only way to put it. We're going as fast as we can every week."