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Chad Knaus’s bold pit call gamble backfires

Jun 23, 2013, 8:09 PM EDT

Toyota/Save Mart 350 - Practice Getty Images

Chad Knaus is one of the biggest gambling crew chiefs in Sprint Cup. He takes chances and plays the odds when other crew chiefs would rather play it safe.

More often than not, Knaus’s gambles have paid off quite handsomely, particularly during the record-setting, five-season Sprint Cup championship run by his driver, Jimmie Johnson, from 2006-2010.

But in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Knaus made a rare gamble that didn’t pay off.

Surprisingly, if not shockingly, Knaus called for just two tires on Johnson’s final pit stop of the race. You would think that with all the twists and turns Johnson had to do on the nearly 2-mile road course, that Knaus would outfit him with fresh rubber on all four corners of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Perhaps Knaus was trying to get Johnson a competitive advantage with the two-tire stop. After all, because of significantly cooler than expected temperatures during the race, both in the air and on the racing surface, tires did not wear as much as crew chiefs likely anticipated.

But in the end, Johnson faded in the closing laps as several drivers passed him. He ultimately finished ninth, when he appeared headed to an easy top-five, maybe even top-three showing.

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