Fanning the Flames · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday May 30, 2007
I love fuel mileage endings. Absolutely love â€˜em. Some fans, crewmen, drivers and media members do not share in my enthusiasm, however.
"He stole one," the sore loser cries. "The best car didn't win," the runner-up states. "It's not in the true spirit of racing," the purist pontificates. I've heard more people complain about fuel mileage races over the years than I care to remember, and I’ve never quite figured out why. More than likely, it was because "their guy" wound up hitting pit lane for fuel rather than taking the checkered flag first.
Well, let's dissect a fuel mileage victory for one moment. The object of racing is to be the first competitor to complete the allotted number of miles. Nowhere does any entry form claim you have to have the best chassis, strongest engine, or most superior driver to win. Horsepower? Yeah, it helps, but it doesn't guarantee a trophy. Just get to the line first using whatever methods (within the rulebook) needed to do so, and you're The Man till the tanks fill up all over again next Sunday.
Five teams made great strategic calls during the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday that got them to the finish line ahead of 38 other cars. Darian Grubb, Casey Mears, and the No. 25 team happened to have favorable track position ahead of J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty, Reed Sorenson, and Brian Vickers to earn the team its first win with Mears behind the wheel. It could be argued that Vickers had the most horsepower, Jimmie Johnson was the better driver, or Matt Kenseth's chassis setup was best in the field, making one of these drivers the most deserving on the list to chug champagne.
Frankly, that's B.S..
The story of Tiny Lund has been told a thousand times. However, his pre-race heroics overshadow the methods he used to score the most unlikely of wins in NASCAR history. Lund pulled Marvin Panch out of a burning racecar during practice for a sports car race at Daytona in 1963. Unable to compete in the Daytona 500, Panch suggested Lund drive the Wood Brothers Ford in his place. Lund, who ran all 500 miles on a single set of tires and used one less pit stop than the rest of the field, inherited the lead when Ned Jarrett was forced to pit with eight laps remaining. Lund eventually ran out of gas â€” on the final turn of the final lap â€” and coasted to a fuel mileage win in the most Cinderella of NASCAR stories. Think anyone cried foul then?
OK, on to some questions. Gimme a shout with your opinions, comments, questions or rants. We'd love to post them right here on The Frontstretch. The address, as always, is email@example.com.
Q: How big are the gas tanks in Cup cars this year? I know NASCAR changed it and we had the issue in play this week, but I am not sure anymore. â€” Kevin T.
A: 17 gallons of 112 octane.
Q: The All-Star race was a bore this year. That four quarters (stuff) just didn't fly. I say stage it like a battle royale: Throw them out one at a time. Go back to the 30-30-10 (laps)/three segment formula and award prize money for winning each segment. But during the two 30s, throw out the last two cars on the track every 10 laps so that the guys up front are racing for prize money and the guys in back are racing to avoid elimination. By my math, and assuming no one crashes out (far fetched, I know) you're looking at roughly 10 cars lined up for the final shootout. â€” Mighty Mega
A: After reading this one and thinking about it for a day, I'm all for it. Sure, there's some provisions that need to be made for those bowing out due to mechanical failures or wrecks, but the All-Star race was made to entertain and this year's 20 lap / four segment stinker was, well, a stinker.
Even better: Let's humor our favorite managing editor, Tom Bowles, and run this format at Bristol where the guys in the back can beat â€˜n' bang their way out of elimination.
Q: David Hyder was hired by Bill Davis Racing? It tells me something about BDR that they would hire someone who has already been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR and fired from one team already this season. I can't believe he would pull another stunt like the one (he pulled) at Michael Waltrip Racing (at Daytona), but doesn't the old saying, "Once a cheat, always a cheat" come to mind? â€” Kris J.
A: Kris, David Hyder is not some villain who should be banished to the Whelen Modified Tour. Yes, he was the crew chief of Waltrip's car that was caught with an illegal fuel additive; and yes, it's the crew chief's responsibility to have the car legal for inspection. But I view Hyder as more the fall guy than the dastardly rules-breaker. Someone had to be the sacrificial lamb for Waltrip's team and Hyder, being the crew chief, was just high-profile enough for MWR to show NASCAR it was attempting to get to the bottom of the "sabotage."
Also, I'm sure I don't have to explain this but if you think hiring a "cheat" like Hyder is so reprehensible, check out the NBA sometime. Some of those guys have real rap sheets a mile long, yet they continue to remain employed.
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