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« Race Preview and Fantasy Picks: Toyota/Save Mart 350 | Main | NeSmith Chevrolet weekly preview(6-18-09) »

Sonoma race could produce another fuel mileage stretch winner

By admin | June 18, 2009


By Richard Allen

Tony Stewart won two weeks ago in Pocono by squeezing enough gas out of his fuel tank to beat everyone else to the finish line on fumes.

Mark Martin won last week in Michigan when the two drivers ahead of him ran out of gas on the last lap and he coasted across the finish just as his tank ran dry.

Well, if you like fuel mileage stretches, you may well be in luck for a third week in a row.

There was a bit of sarcasm in that previous statement. I know the fuel stretch runs are nerve racking for drivers and crew chiefs but if I wanted to watch people save gas I would go sit by the interstate and watch everyone coast along below the speed limit when fuel prices hit summertime highs. Although, yes TNT, there is at least some drama involved.

This week on the Infineon Raceway road course in Sonoma, California drivers and crew chiefs could again find themselves sweating it out over how many drops of the precious liquid is left in the tank for those last few laps. Calculators may again be smoking more than tires as the last ten laps are played out.

On road courses, the best strategy seems to be the first team to make their last pit stop wins. In doing so teams are able to obtain that all important track position. However, to be the first one to make the last pit stop teams have to gamble on just how far their car can go on one tank of fuel.

Once the track position is gained, it is up to the driver to hold it as well as conserve enough fuel to make it to the finish. Road courses provide drivers the best opportunity to save fuel. They can be easy on and off the gas pedal as well as adjust their shift points so as not to run the engine up to its maximum RPMs.

So, the bottom line is, don’t be surprised when pit reporters begin to interview worried looking crew chiefs sometime after halfway through the Toyota/Save Mart 350 about whether their cars can make it to the end of the race on the fuel they have in the tank.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

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