Fortunes turn on final Nashville caution flag, varying pit-stop decisions

A caution flag with eight laps remaining in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway brought out more than the yellow flag. It brought out the age-old NASCAR question: To pit or not to pit?

Strategies varied throughout the field, and ultimately results varied for both those who stayed out and those who went down pit road for fresh tires ahead of the final restart.

Comparison Graphic Function Main

Here’s a look at the results from several of the drivers who were in position to win Sunday — either before the caution fell or after.

You can also use our “Compare” feature in Race Center for additional information between any two drivers in the field.

MORE: Driver comparison from Nashville

Chase Elliott

Position at yellow flag: First
Decision: Stay out
Position after pit stops: First
Finish: Winner
Note: Elliott said post-race that it was crew chief Alan Gustafson’s call to make, and Gustafson elected to keep the No. 9 Chevrolet out on the track and maintain the lead. Several of the top cars behind Elliott pitted, but enough other drivers stayed out to make it difficult for those with new tires to drive back through the field and challenge Elliott for the win in the final four laps.

“I let Alan do his thing,” Elliott said. “He lets me do my thing, so I’m going to let him do his and just have confidence in that. It doesn’t do me any good to not. When I start questioning his decisions, I feel like is when we start going down a road that is not favorable for success. He has had a lot of respect for me and let me do my job and let me approach things a pretty unique way and kind of be me, so I’ve always respected him in return and let him do his thing and just had confidence in whatever that decision is.”

RELATED: Full race results

Kyle Busch

Position at yellow flag: Second
Decision: Pit for tires
Position after pit stops: 11th
Finish: 21st
Note: Busch was the highest running driver to pit for tires, but he dropped an additional 10 spots after the green flag. His No. 18 Toyota was directly behind an incident involving Brad Keselowski on the ensuing restart, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver couldn’t challenge for the win. He led 54 laps but dropped 20 positions over the final 10 laps.

 

Denny Hamlin

Position at yellow flag: Third
Decision: Pit for tires
Position after pit stops: 12th
Finish: Sixth
Note: Hamlin started from the Busch Light Pole position and led a race-high 114 laps. He finished the best out of the Joe Gibbs Racing trio — including Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — who pitted late from the top five.

Martin Truex Jr.

Position at yellow flag: Fourth
Decision: Pit for tires
Position after pit stops: 14th
Finish: 22nd
Note: Truex led 82 laps, but trouble on the final restart had the No. 19 Toyota outside the top 20 when the checkered flag dropped.

Kurt Busch

Position at yellow flag: Sixth
Decision: Stay out
Position after pit stops: Second
Finish: Second
Note: The decision to stay out put Kurt Busch on the front row for the final restart. While he couldn’t catch Chase Elliott for the lead, he did hold off the rest of the field for a runner-up finish that the veteran lamented after the race.

“I got soft on him,” Busch told NBC Sports. “I should have been throwing some fenders and moving some momentum around. I didn’t stick with our strength. … I wanted to throw some fenders, but I didn’t get the job done. Everybody on the team will be smiling, but I let them down. I should have come up with a better plan.”

Ryan Blaney

Position at yellow flag: Ninth
Decision: Stay out
Position after pit stops: Third
Finish: Third
Note: “Jonathan (Hassler) made a good call to stay out the last stop,” Blaney said in a tip of the cap to his crew chief after nabbing a top-five finish. “Why not, running ninth and was able to run third, so that was a good call by him.”