From the Marbles - NASCAR

It was the most significant NASCAR employment news since Richard Petty Motorsports severed ties with Kasey Kahne. When Chad Knaus sent the 48's over-the-wall pit crew packing and brought in the team of Jeff Gordon, the whispers began. This was either cold-blooded, win-at-all-costs mentality or a sign of panic. Jimmie Johnson and Knaus were ditching the dates who'd brought them this far, the conventional wisdom went, turning their backs on a loyal crew.

Turns out that maybe Knaus knew exactly what he was doing. The 24 and 48 pitted in tandem four times on Sunday afternoon in Phoenix, and the results were definitive. According to's RaceView, the in-pit times were as follows:

Stop #1 (lap 60):
Johnson: 13.6 seconds
Gordon: 13.6 seconds

Stop #2 (lap 102):
Johnson: 13.6 seconds
Gordon: 16.0 seconds

Stop #3 (lap 162):
Johnson: 14.2 seconds
Gordon: 16.8 seconds

Stop #4 (lap 232):
Johnson: 13.6 seconds
Gordon: 15.6 seconds

That's three stops in favor of Johnson's team and one push. Tough to argue with those results.

Gordon did pit once more, but Johnson didn't, leading to the dramatic final laps of the race where Johnson, Carl Edwards and others raced a fuel-mileage run. It could be the defining strategic move of the Chase if Johnson is to come back and win, and it underscored the gambling mentality of Knaus.

Still, it's not like Johnson completely forgot about his old guys. "I went in the 24 truck to see my old boys [before the race]," Johnson said after the race, "they couldn't have been happier."

If Johnson manages to win his fifth straight championship, both crews may indeed find a way to be happier.

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