Chad Knaus’s bold pit call gamble backfires

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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.

Make sure to follow all of Friday’s Indy 500 ‘Carb Day’ action on NBCSN from Indianapolis

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It’s known as “Carburetor Day” – or in its simplest term, just “Carb Day.”

But the final day of on-track action Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 is so much more.

Especially on NBCSN, which will have wall-to-wall live coverage starting Friday morning.

Here’s how Friday’s schedule breaks down:

  • 11 a.m. ET: Carb Day kicks off with the final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500. The session will last one hour in length.
  • 12 p.m. ET: We’re going racing! Strap in for coverage of the Indy Lights’ Freedom 100 on the famous Brickyard.
  • 1:30 p.m. ET: We’ll have coverage of the annual IndyCar Pit Stop Challenge. Which teams have the best – and most importantly, fastest and accurate – pit crews? Team Penske has won 10 of the last 12, including the last two years edging out Schmidt Peterson Motorsports each time. Who can potentially beat them this year?
  • 3:30 p.m. ET: We’ll have our annual Motorsports Special. Among segments included will be:

    1) 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi will discuss how it used to upset him when people suggested he “backed into” his big win and how he didn’t really feel vindicated until he qualified on the front row for last year’s race.
    2) Defending 500 winner Takuma Sato, the first Japanese driver to ever win at Indianapolis, discusses the impact of his big win personally and professionally, particularly back in his native land.
    3) An essay by Robin Miller on Stefan Wilson giving up his ride last year to allow Fernando Alonso to race for Andretti Autosport.

Check your local listings for replay times.

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