So at the beginning of the year after the Daytona 500 Dale Jr. made a comment in an interview that instantly made me not hate the new chase format as much as I did. With just 26 (or 29 I forget) races to qualify for the chase 1 win will essentially lock you in. After you have that win you can gamble because 2nd place finishes are meaningless when you reach the chase. Wins give you bonus points second place finishes give you nothing.
So that's exactly what Dale Jr did Sunday. He gambled on fuel mileage. Clean air at the 1.5mile tracks still rules the day. Jr. was competitive most of the day, but getting in clean air for a restart with 47 laps to go put him in a strong position. The pit window for most teams was around lap 50. Jr. made it 55 laps on the previous fuel run and including caution laps would need approximately 58 laps on this run.
Keslowski pushed Jr. as hard as he could, but couldn't get by him despite being the faster car. (needed DRS) On the last lap Jr. ran out of fuel coming out of Turn 2. Keslowski cruised by on the back straight and Jr. sputtered to the line 1.5 seconds back but still enough to keep 2nd place. There is no way if Jr. was points racing that he gambles on fuel like that. It made for an interesting finish to an otherwise relatively boring race. It is a shame Harvick had a mechanical failure. He seemed to have the strongest car in the field again this week. With that said Jr has an average finish of 1.66 and Keslowski an average finish of 2.33. That's a pretty good start to the season for those two drivers.