In the aftermath of Sunday's NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway, this was the question for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the other drivers who grappled with pit strategy on the final stop: What was the right call?
Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, Steve Letarte, walked up to the driver just as a reporter was asking about the team's strategy – two tires on the last pit stop.
"He wants to know if that was the right call," Earnhardt Jr. told Letarte, motioning toward the reporter.
"Rights?" Letarte asked, referring to his decision to take right-side tires only on the final pit stop.
The driver nodded.
"I don't think it was the wrong call," Earnhardt Jr. said helpfully.
"No, I think with (taking) four tires, we would have been worse," Letarte said.
"We got too tight and the balance, we weren't sure..." Earnhardt Jr. said.
"Yeah – it was the right call, wrong balance," Letarte added. "Four tires, heck – the 48 barely got us. We would have been stuck (back in traffic)."
"Yeah, I know, man," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I'm with you."
Letarte then retreated into the team's hauler, and Earnhardt Jr. remained sitting on the stoop. He looked somewhat pleased with how the day had gone.
"We got out-ran by the cars that beat us all day," he said matter-of-factly. "We could have ran eighth to 12th – and we finished 12th. Not terrible, and an improvement here."
"Terrible" is exactly the way he described his last few trips to Dover, so "not terrible" was more than just a slight improvement. Heading into this weekend, he only had one finish better than 20th in his last six Dover races.
"I felt good, because I was competitive," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I saw that we were running competitive and raced around some guys that are going to make the Chase."
Earnhardt Jr. is well on his way to making the Chase, too. He's fourth in points and 40 markers safely between himself and the 11th-place driver, Mark Martin.
There was one hiccup: During the middle portion of Sunday's race, Earnhardt Jr. said he lost his concentration and scrubbed the Turn 1 wall.
"That might have hurt my car more than we know," he said after doing his customary walk-around inspection of the vehicle following the race. "We might have knocked some speed out of it from there on out."
Earnhardt Jr. – who reiterated his dislike for concrete tracks – said the aforementioned two-tire call and the late air pressure adjustments were somewhat of a crapshoot. He criticized his own performance on the final restart, which saw him start third but quickly drop to seventh, and said he "just got beat at the end pretty bad."
"(The pit calls) could have went either way, but we deserved to finish around eighth or 12th today," he said. "So we'll take it."