News & Media

Strategic pitting makes for runners-up race in Iowa

May 21, 2012, Mark Aumann,

NEWTON, Iowa -- McDowell, Allgaier, Whitt use different plans for position behind Stenhouse

A race with just four cautions, like Sunday's Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 at Iowa Speedway, doesn't lend itself to much in the way of pit strategy.

But that didn't keep several contenders from trying their best to outsmart eventual winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Winning isn't everything

Justin Allgaier and Michael McDowell did all they could to run away from the rest of the field at Iowa, making for a great show behind runaway winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Here's another look.

Michael McDowell, Justin Allgaier and Cole Whitt all took the contrarian approach at various points Sunday, each winding up in the top 10 at the checkered flag. But nobody had anything for Stenhouse, who led all but 41 of the 250 laps.

McDowell and Allgaier ducked onto pit road for fresh rubber with 46 laps remaining, allowing both to race their way back through cars with worn tires. McDowell eventually finished third and Allgaier sixth.

McDowell's situation was somewhat predestined after he was penalized for speeding on pit road on his previous stop. Running among the leaders for most of the afternoon, McDowell had made his way up to third behind Stenhouse and pole-winner Elliott Sadler when the caution came out for Taylor Malsam's crash on Lap 182.

"I just made a mistake," McDowell said. "I just sped on the entrance to pit road. There [were] a lot of lapped cars in between first and second. I was just trying to close the gap a little bit and just overdid it."

The penalty placed McDowell deep in the pack for the restart six laps later.

"These races, to go to the tail end of the longest line with 60 or 70 laps to go, it's hard to make it up," McDowell said.

But when Travis Pastrana slowed on the track with electrical issues on Lap 203, bringing out the fourth and final yellow, McDowell had a second chance.

With most of the lead-lap cars opting to stay out, McDowell -- along with Allgaier and Brendan Gaughan -- bolted on new tires. It also allowed McDowell to line back up with the other leaders.

"We had a great car and drove through the field," McDowell said. "We got a lucky break and got one caution and restarted 11th."

While McDowell was trying to make up for past transgressions, Allgaier was trying to find a fix. His car had been superb during Saturday's practice in bright sunshine, but the No. 31 Chevrolet just didn't respond to the cool and cloudy conditions on race day.

So Allgaier was more than willing to give up track position to gamble on new tires.

"At the end of the day, we were in about the same position when it all shook out," Allgaier said. "Had we stayed out on old tires, I think we would have faded. So it was the right call.

"[Crew chief] Jimmy Elledge and the guys did a great job. We had great pit stops all day. That was something they did awesome on. We just missed it a little there and needed a little more speed."

Earlier in the race, Whitt made a two-tire stop that gave him a very short-lived lead, although he remained in contention the rest of the day, winding up seventh.

Because of the way the cautions fell from that point forward, no one else had the need -- or the opportunity -- to attempt to copy that strategy.