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NASCAR needs more races decided on the track than the pits and gas pump

By admin | June 5, 2011

By Richard Allen


The famed Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest was once asked how he achieved so much success against the better equipped Union army during the Civil War. Supposedly, the old general replied, “I got there furstest with the mostest.”(And do note Civil War buffs that I used the word supposedly in regard to the disputed quote.)

If Forrest Gump’s alleged namesake were alive today he might consider taking up the career of NASCAR crew chief. It seems that with so little passing on the track and the recent trend for races to be won with fuel mileage gambles, getting out of the pits “furstest with the mostest” gas in the tank is the key to victory.

Granted, there is little NASCAR can do about the timing of the cautions in regard to having them come out at times just inside or outside the fuel windows for the last run of a race. However, there is quite a lot they can do to see to it that there is at least some passing on the track so that a car coming off pit road outside of second place actually has a chance to move to the front by some means other than having the cars in front run out of gas.

This past weekend, both the Sprint Cup race in Kansas and the Nationwide race in Chicago came down to fuel mileage stretch runs. This coming one week after the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte was decided in the same way. Again, this is a product of caution flag timing but the real problem is the lack of passing, especially at the front of the field, during these races.

Try as the television crew might, there is little that can be done to make it seem interesting week after week to watch guys drive around a full second or more slower than normal race pace in an effort to conserve fuel. Once in a while such a finish can be intriguing but without passing for the lead throughout the race, there is hardly enough drama to keep fans excited enough to still be watching at the end.

A few years ago NASCAR began a trend of controlling and dictating more and more pieces and parts on the cars. The end result is what we have today, which is a track full of aero-sensitive, look alike cars that are incapable of passing. Thus, the car out of the pits first with the most fuel on the last pit stop wins.

With NASCAR dictating cars with identical bodies which must race within a very tight box in terms of gear ratios, camber settings, spring and shock tensions, spoiler angles and tire pressures, there is little room for making one car better than the next. As a result, there are a bunch of cars all running in parade formation at the same speed.

Allowing more leeway in the areas mentioned above as well as allowing for some brand identity among the cars would create situations of so-called ‘comers and goers’ which would in turn allow for more passing on the track and less emphasis on regularly scheduled pit stop contests.

Too many races are being decided in the wrong place or in the wrong way. NASCAR has to lighten up on the mandates and put the emphasis back on the track and off pit road and the fuel pump.

Topics: Articles |

6 Responses to “NASCAR needs more races decided on the track than the pits and gas pump”

  1. Bill B Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 6:43 am

    NASCAR should apply a little of that “have at it boys” to the engineers as well.

    But,,, funny we are a third of the way through the season and there has not been ONE penalty assessed for an illegal car or part. When was the last time that has happened. Is it possible that with this new points system that NASCAR doesn’t know what a fair pentalty is. In fact, there have been no points penalties for anything has there?. Hmmm.

  2. Arnold Decker Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Fuel milage races. Throw a caution 30 laps from the end make every car pit, then race to the finish.

  3. jerseygirl Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Yep, they wanted parity, what they got was the IROC series and bored fans.

    I heard that Brian France went to the Indy 500 as a guest rather than show up at the 600.
    guess he’s bored with Nascar racing, too

  4. JPE Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Well Kansas certainly lived up to it’s low expectation:


  5. @GoDuke4382 Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I will agree that too many races decided by fuel mileage is a bad thing, but I don’t think that anything needs to be fixed just because we’ve had a couple in a row.

    It wasn’t too long ago that you heard and read a lot of complaints from fans (and occasionally from drivers.. I’m looking at you, Denny Hamlin), about the regularity of caution flags right at the end of races. This season, you have to go all the way back to race 2 at Phoenix to find a caution thrown for debris shortly before the end of the scheduled distance, (per’s official NASCAR results).

    I would much rather have the races finish without mystery debris cautions, even if that means that we see a few mileage races every year. Fuel mileage is just another part of the equation that teams have to master to win races, just like aerodynamics, horsepower, driver talent, and chassis setups.

    I guess I’m enough of a gearhead that it’s still interesting to me. I can appreciate the challenges that the teams have in the fuel calculations, and the skill of the gas man in filling the car completely during those later pit stops, and the different techniques that the drivers use to save fuel. I wouldn’t want to see mileage races every week, but I think that having a couple every so often is just part of the natural flow of the season.

  6. CFD Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Gas mileage races suck! I’m all for pit strategy helping decide a race but seeing how slow a car can go and still finish isn’t much of a race. When it comes down to fuel mileage racing throw a competition yellow, bunch up the field and put some RACING competition in the finish.