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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Master of the Restart May Be the NASCAR Champion

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By Mary Jo Buchanan – Green flag racing is most certainly critical, but this year the driver that masters the restart may just be the next NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. And the importance of restarts was never more evident than at the second race in the Chase at the track known as the Magic Mile.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway race winner @JoeyLogano certainly credited his restarts for his trip to Victory Lane where he claimed his lobster trophy and punched his ticked to the next Chase round.

“Restarts you never know what’s gonna happen, but Todd (Gordon, crew chief) game me a really good car that I can be aggressive with on restarts and I think that’s a big deal because the more in control I am the more aggressive I can be, and the more aggressive you are in restarts the more you’re in control of the restart,” Logano said.

“You don’t want to be the guy going the wrong way. Todd said a second ago about being on the offense and not on the defense. It’s not just putting tires on that makes it like that, it’s having a car that’s capable of running in traffic and it’s something we work on a lot in practice and making sure that we have something that’s gonna be good in traffic and that can restart well.”

“We’ve seen it time and time again with these Sprint Cup races that it’s most likely gonna come down to a late-race caution, so you’ve got to be able to execute the restart and the first five laps around traffic,” the driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford continued. “That takes a good car and kind of knowing what to expect and trying to play it out in your head before it happens.”

The third place finisher and major Chase competitor @KevinHarvick had some critical things, however, to say about the victor’s restarts, which he felt definitely impacted the race finsih. In fact, the driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet indicated he might just be changing his restart style to mirror Logano’s so that he too can move on to the second round of the Chase competition.

“I thought it was pretty clear: on two stripes and one stripe, you start in between those two spots,” Harvick said. “It was pretty evident he was a car length or two car lengths starting before that. It was like nobody was watching upstairs.”

“Maybe I just need to be more aggressive on my restarts and start sooner than the double lines.”

NASCAR’s most popular driver and Chase contender @DaleJr. shared some candid comments about his restarts during the Sylvania 300 that ultimately resulted in a top-ten finish for the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet.

“Yeah, I like the way we worked all day,” Junior said. “We had to put on some real old tires there. We ran out of tires so that last set of tires we put on had some practice laps on them. We still hung in there and had some good restarts.”

“Everybody gets on my ass about them restarts; we had some pretty good ones today,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “The last one wasn’t too good, but I was on the inside slipping around. We had fun and I’m glad we were able to rebound that was pretty dramatic there for a while.”

“You just have to be patient. There are going to be so many yellows at the end of this race. There just are always, especially in the Chase as the season is winding down and the action is getting furious. Things are going to happen on the race track that you typically don’t see in these races.

“I was glad to get some track position and sort of get up there where things are a lot calmer and more organized.”

Even a six-time champion acknowledged that restarts may be the key to the championship in 2014.

“It was a wild day, especially with all of those restarts,” @JimmieJohnson said after finishing fifth. “Man I don’t know what it looked like from the grandstands today, but I can tell you that inside the car, I was hanging on trying not to spin out. We certainly had a lot of cautions, and all those restarts.”

In fact, six-time champ Johnson predicted that restarts would indeed determine the championship.

“Guys are going to have to – you know on the last restarts or those last cautions guys that need those points and aren’t going to get them any other way are going to have to take some crazy gamble on tires, fuel. You are going to have some guys out there on old tires trying to hold people off and it’s going to cause a lot of traffic,” Johnson said. “It’s going to get tight. It’s going to get furious. So if they get the opportunities in those late yellows to take those gambles, which I think they will, I think they will be assured of that. Guys are going to be pretty crazy on what they are willing to do.

“I mean what else are you going to do?”

And just as Johnson said, those most dependent on good restarts going forward, as well as having had good restarts in New Hampshire, were those drivers closest to the Chase bubble and potential elimination.

@RyanJNewman, who finished 18th, acknowledged the restart challenges, from New Hampshire to next weekend’s race at the Monster Mile.

“Restarts were tough and our car just did not want to go,” Newman said after the race at the Magic Mile. “We survived.”

“I’m just glad we made it out in one piece and still have a chance to transfer into the next round. Dover is going to be big. We still have a chance.”

@AJDinger, who finished thirteenth at New Hampshire in his No. 47 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet, shared his restart frustration, as well as his goal to be that Cinderella Chase team as he improves in that area.

“In this race we were awful honestly,” Dinger said. “We really struggled. I was driving my butt off to keep us on the lead lap. We got lucky twice with the Lucky Dog. Then from there, we started making a couple of adjustments that were pretty good.”

“I was just bad on the restarts; really struggled on restarts,” Allmendinger continued. “Then with about 100 to go, we got a little bit of track position. I got a good restart there. I could start on the outside and the car was pretty good there. I got clear of everybody and thought at that point if we stayed green, we were going to be pretty good, but we had all those cautions.”

“Every caution I was on the inside and that just killed me. So to come home 13th is pretty good because at about 150, I thought we were going to be 25th, but also had a point where I thought we would be seventh.

“We are all digging hard. We are trying to be the little team that could.”

@Aric_Almirola, who desperately needed a good race after an engine failure the week before, summed up the importance of restarts to his Chase race. In fact, his good restarts at New Hampshire may have just kept his Chase hopes alive heading into the Dover race weekend.

“A couple cars spun and I missed some wrecks and got one good restart,” the driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford said. “I think on that one restart I gained seven or eight spots. That was probably the biggest difference and everything worked in our favor.”

“We cut it down to a realistic possibility going to Dover. I think were nine or 10 points out of 12th, so that’s manageable. If we went to Dover 28 points out, we might as well go ahead and just throw in the towel, but that’s exactly what we needed.”

“We’re down but we’re not out,” Almirola continued. “We can only control what we can control and today we did that and did a good job and finished sixth. We’ll do the same thing at Dover and we’ll see what happens.”

The Chase contenders will indeed see just how important restarts will be to the Chase when they take on the track known as the Monster Mile. And just in case anyone should doubt the importance of restarts at Dover, take a trip down Memory Lane with Jimmie Johnson, who went on to win the championship after jumping the restart at that very track one year ago.

EMAIL MARY JO AT mj.buchanan@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW MARY JO ON TWITTER: @maryjobuchanan

Mary Jo Buchanan

Mary Jo Buchanan has been a race fan since her childhood, having grown up at a local Pennsylvania dirt track. With her experience in the pits, she has developed an interest and expertise in all levels of racing, from the local scene to the highest level of the sport. Many of her articles focus on the ‘behind the scenes’ and sometimes ‘off the beaten path’ stories about the world of racing. Buchanan also enjoys writing about up and coming drivers and the people that make NASCAR work on a daily basis.

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