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Late Race Pit Strategy

Why The Leader Often Appears To Be Wrong On A Late Race Pit Stop


This scenario plays out often in a NASCAR race. One driver dominates the late part of the event and has a big lead when the caution flag flies with 10-20 laps to go. When all eyes turn to pit strategy why is it that the leader is often the odd man out?

Definition Of Insanity

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If you have already raced 480 miles and can't beat the guy in front of you then it probably isn't going to do you any good to do the same thing that he does.

So when that late-race caution flies should you pit? If you do decide to pit should you take two tires or four?

The Leader's Options

As the leader of the race there isn't a lot that he can do to affect the drivers behind him. The best thing that the leading team can do is whatever gives him the best chance to win. This forces the other teams to make a different (hopefully worse) choice to try to gamble on the win.

Pit Strategy Plays Out Behind The Leader

The leader gets the privilege of making the best pit strategy call. This forces the other drivers to only take two tires when they might prefer four or not pit at all and try to beat him with track position. This would put them in front of the leader on the restart and force him to beat them back to the checkered flag.

The situation can also play out in reverse. The leader stays out to keep his track position but the cars behind him all dive to pit road for fresh tires. This pit strategy forces the leader to hold off cars on fresher rubber until the race is over.

The Leader Can Only Go Backwards

Either way, the pressure is on the leader's crew chief to make the race winning call. After all, as the leader of the race he can only go backwards. There are forty-two other drivers who all want his spot.

If the leader makes the right call and wins then he has only done what everyone expected him to do anyway. When he makes the wrong decision and loses the race then he looks like a fool.

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