Crew chief Brad Parrott sizes up deciding factors, lauds late gambles
Editor's note: Brad Parrott, a 19-time winner in NASCAR national series competition, has joined NASCAR.com as a guest writer for the 2014 season. Here is his first-person analysis after Sunday's Duck Commander 500 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway:
For Joey Logano, even rain, track dryers and muddy grass couldn't stop him from winning the Duck Commander 500 on Monday at Texas. Another solid drive by Logano, who's now our seventh winner in seven Sprint Cup races.
The Team Penske cars continued to show their strength with both Logano and Brad Keselowski leading a pile of laps. Logano's car came to life when the clouds broke, and he had the fastest car in the late stages.
For Keselowski, it shows you just can't speed on pit road. Still, that's a chance that Brad took since he's already won a race this year. If he'd gotten out front, he knew how valuable clean air could be, but unfortunately the speed limit busted him. Just a bad break for Brad, crew chief Paul Wolfe and the whole No. 2 Ford crew.
Everybody had race setups for night racing, anticipating this event was going to get in Sunday night. We ended up running during the day with a mix of sunshine, clouds, wind -- everybody was just hanging on to get everything they could.
The Hendrick Motorsports team for Jeff Gordon and the Michael Waltrip Racing team of Brian Vickers tried to win it on pit strategy. Great calls by crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Billy Scott to get their drivers top-five finishes. That's what it's all about -- making a call after 500 miles to give your team a chance to win or at least get a top-five finish.
Even though Joey Logano won the race, those two teams came out on top with the late pit call for just two tires. Who would've believed that two tires could hold these guys off, but being up in clean air after a long 24 hours of delays in getting the race in -- those guys made it happen for them.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is no longer the points leader, and it was a violent ride that dropped him back to sixth in the standings. These cars run so low to the ground now that even the top 2 1/2 inches of the spoiler is Plexiglas so other drivers can see through in front of you. Dale Jr. poked his nose out of traffic just enough to catch the grass, and with the splitter being so low and the ground being so soft and wet, it just destroyed a really fast race car that probably had a chance to win today. It shot him up into the wall, caught fire and just ruined his day.
The Joe Gibbs Racing cars ran up in the top 10 all day long, but even though they never quite contended for the win, they still showed their strengths at the 1.5-mile tracks. With Kyle Larson claiming another top-five finish, we're almost running out of great things to say about this rookie's talent.
For the first 500-mile race of the year beyond Daytona, I think we only had one engine failure Monday, and that one bit Kevin Harvick. That's a Hendrick motor and you very rarely see that. It's a good thing Harvick won at Phoenix earlier this year because right now, he's really struggling to even be in the top 30 in points.
How about Greg Biffle, who deserves a nod for his sixth-place run? Greg has struggled since Daytona this year and came back to run in the top five, leading the Roush Fenway cars this weekend. Still, the No. 17 team with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has some homework to do to make gains -- look for them to come on strong after crew chief Mike Kelley and his driver work more closely together on the Sprint Cup side of things.
After a solid but delayed day in the Lone Star State, it's on to Darlington Raceway to see if the track "Too Tough to Tame" will make it eight winning faces in eight different races to start the season.