The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: Fans Sound Off On Earnhardt And Fuel Mileage by John Potts -- Thursday October 6, 2011

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Potts' Shots: Fans Sound Off On Earnhardt And Fuel Mileage

NASCAR Fan Q & A · John Potts · Thursday October 6, 2011


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Identifying himself (or herself) only as “Pepi35,” a regular newsletter reader asks:

“Why isn’t Junior like the rest of the crybabies, and firing crew members, like the right-front tire changer for Sunday’s race?”

Pepi35, I’ll admit to not having any inside information on this kind of thing, but I think I can do something of an analysis. I don’t know Dale Earnhardt, Jr. very well, only having met him a couple of times when he was running in what was the Busch Series. However, I did know and like his father, and I suspect staying the course has to do with Junior’s personality being similar.

I don’t think he’s the kind of guy to publicly blame any problems on anybody else, no matter what the actual cause. Unless my memory is off, I can’t recall him saying anything but “we” when referring to his team’s mistakes.

I suspect that if Earnhardt has concerns, he goes to Rick Hendrick with them, and lets the fallout come from there. I’m sure that he realizes what a good deal he has right now, and he knows he can drive a race car.

He’s just not the type of fellow who wants to throw somebody under the bus.

- – - – - – - –

Albert in South Dakota asks:

“What’s your take on the ‘fuel mileage’ races, and what can be done about them?”

Albert, it’s a problem that comes with the territory. By “the territory,” I mean long distance races. First, let me say that an old hand told me many years ago success in this sport, whether in open wheel or stock cars, depends on “having it all.” When I asked what he meant, he said, “You have to have a driver who can make the car capable of doing as good as it possibly can. Second, you have to have a really good car. Finally, you have to have someone who is capable of making that car as good as it can possibly be.” I think that includes getting the most out of a tank of fuel.

What can be done about the current concern over fuel mileage deciding races? That’s an easy fix, but it won’t be a popular one, I can assure you. Simply plug in a “competition caution” somewhere inside the last fuel window. Example: If all the cars are capable of going 75 laps on a tank, put the caution at 50 laps.

Still, under that scenario the pit crews may decide the race instead of the driver. Drivers talk about all these tracks being very hard to pass on, and how much easier it is to gain positions in the pits, so would we really put the race back in the drivers’ hands by doing this? I’m not sure.

The new epidemic of fuel mileage races can be cured by one simple solution… shorter races.

My own remedy wouldn’t be any more popular, but it’s my opinion, and this is my space according to the editors, so I’m going to throw it out there.

Shorter races.

Right, shorter races. I don’t mean 300 miles instead of 400 or 500, I mean SHORTER races.

When ASA first got started, we ran all 100-lap races except for the big events. ARCA was pretty much doing the same thing. Fuel mileage wasn’t a problem. I’m not advocating a return to those days, of course. To me, our most exciting events in those days were what we called “Twin 50s.” And one of the most entertaining big races we had at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville was the Bluegrass 300 – three 100-lap legs.

We lined ‘em up according to qualifying for the first one, lined ‘em up inverted for the second one according to the order of those still running at the end of the first 100 (those not running at the finish but could now continue went to the rear. Then, all cars lined up according to the finish of the second 100 for the last race. Each finish position earned points on a 1-2-3, etc. basis. Lowest point total was the overall winner.)

Only two drivers – Jesse Baird and John Anderson – ever won all three.

I understand that something like this major change isn’t going to happen. But how about this one…

Leave the Daytona 500 and a couple of other big races alone and make every other NASCAR event two separate races, each one long enough to require one fuel stop or possibly two?

That would definitely take the fuel mileage aspect out of it, but you’d still be depending on your pit crew to get you back out there in good track position. Yeah, it would be like a program involving a couple of expanded Gatorade Duel races, but aren’t those usually a couple of the most exciting events of the season? And a couple of 200 or 250-milers would make for a full afternoon of racing.

OK, so sometimes I think so far outside the box I can’t see it, but it’s an idea.

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10/06/2011 02:22 PM

I think it would be great if at least a few races had a different format. Wouldn’t you love to see an event run like a Saturday night show. (4-5 heats, a last-chance B-main and then a 100 lap feature. Golf has the occasional tournament using an alternate method of play (match play, Stableford, skins-game) Why not Nascar?

Also, just a question about the 3 100 lap races. Did anyone ever win the event without winning one of the legs?

10/06/2011 04:31 PM

I believe the year Joe Shear won it that he didn’t win a single leg.

10/06/2011 08:32 PM

Hi, Here are my two cents. (1) Jr. does not have to fire any crew members because the 88 and the 48 share 3 full teams for two cars. (2) The best way to get better NASCAR fuel mileage is to get their corn (ethanol) out of their gas. A gallon of ethanol gets 60% of the milage of of a gallon of gasoline. A 90/10 blend at the local store will cost you 6% if you have a Vespa or a F-250. If that wasn’t bad enough, wait until your fuel pump dies. :)

10/06/2011 08:45 PM

Okay, so I have a third one. (3) Denny Hamlin could be third or so in points if he had real gas for the first two races in the playoffs. Who knew?

10/07/2011 11:39 AM

Fuel mileage is an easy fix. Go back to the old bigger fuel cells. A few seasons back Na$car reduced the size of the fuel cell, apparently to “increase competition” or to reduce pit road time by not having to put as much fuel in. So go back to the bigger fuel cells. Easy.

That said, maybe the Na$car fan just needs to be willing to use their brain a little more to enjoy a race. Watch any other form of professional racing and fuel and pit strategy is a huge part of winning the race. Na$car has been dumbed down for decades, we simply expect every car to get 4 tires and a full load of gas during every (all too frequent) caution, and have no fuel or pit strategy at all. Wake up fans! Use your brains! There is more than one legitimate way to win a race!