Kyle Busch had 13 laps on his tires when that caution flew. Yes, Richmond eats up tires -- just as Kyle found out firsthand on Friday night -- but Busch had 21 cars one lap down. It was early enough in a tire cycle that Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers knew that the cars that were a lap down would stay out and get the wave around rule, putting them back on the lead lap if Kyle ducked to pit road.
Crew chief Dave Rogers, who won his first Sprint Cup Series race when Busch later wrapped it up, could have kept all those cars a lap down by not bringing Busch into the pits. Asked later why he didn't -- because, wouldn't it be easier to beat just seven cars instead of having to contend with 26? -- Rogers said he preferred track position over eliminating the competition.
"It would have been great to keep that many cars a lap down," he said. "But it would have been selfish. Everybody behind us was going to pit. If we stay out, we keep all those guys down. then the seven guys behind us are going to drive by us. It's not worth it."
I completely understand Rogers' reasoning for pitting, but I don't agree with it. Yes, tires are important, but the way that Busch's car was running, it was highly unlikely that all eight cars on the lead lap would have passed him. (For math's sake, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton didn't take the wave around and pitted. That's why the numbers may not add up at first glance)
The race had a very green flag look to it at that point, but history has been predictable so far in 2010, so it was only a matter of time that cautions would have started to fall. Could Busch have conceivably fallen to ninth? Of course. However, if he had stayed out and had a problem, he would have come out of the pits in the middle of the pack instead of behind 27 other cars.Busch and Rogers had a chance to step on the throat of the cars that were a lap down midway through Saturday night's race, and they're looking good right now because Busch was able to beat Jeff Gordon off of the final restart and win the race. But how second guessed would the decision be had a car -- let's say Marcos Ambrose -- used the wave around rule and made enough second half adjustments to win?
But no matter what you think of Busch and Rogers' decision, the wave around is better than the old rule that allowed cars on the tail end of the lead lap to restart in front of the leader. Remember Kansas in 2007? That rule took Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards out of the Chase, as the damage that Stewart had sustained in a restart wreck earlier led to a crash involving both of them.
- Dave Rogers