Who’s best at making
a little go a long way?
Fuel-mileage racing is like
any other part of the sport:
Jimmie Johnson is awful at it. At
Michigan International Speedway in
2009, Johnson led 279 of a combined
400 laps in the two NASCAR Sprint
Cup races at the two-mile track, but
finished 22nd and 33rd after running
out of gas both times.
On the flip side, Kevin Harvick
(BELOW) and Carl Edwards excel at it.
“A lot of it is preparation,” says
Harvick. “A lot of it is down to the
crew chief telling you soon enough
for you to make a difference. They
have a lot of ways they can look at
it from the pit box. They can
guestimate in terms of what the
ideal lap time is, what they think the
fuel consumption will be and how to
be efficient enough to use all the fuel
in the cell and not waste any.
“It’s not just my responsibility.
There’s a lot of preparation and
responsibility that goes in it, from
when the car leaves the shop with
fuel cells and carburetors, fuel lines
and all the things that go with that.”
Edwards, too, feels comfortable
only to speak in generalities.
“Our new FR9 engine makes a
little more power and doesn’t get
that amazing fuel mileage that our
other engine did, but it’s something
we’re working on,” Edwards says.
“The engineers are working on it, the
engine guys are working on it.”
Edwards does appear best in class.
“In 2008 Carl won a lot of races
— I think four or five — on fuel
mileage,” says his Roush Fenway
Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.
“There have been years like that in
the past, if you look through. And I
think most people would like to see
it all be about performance, but that
“Fuel mileage racing
feels like everything
you’ve worked at
means nothing ”
just backing the corner up and slowing
the pace down. There are a lot of
different ways that you can go about it.
One of the things we are doing now is
when we go test, we try out all those
things to see which one works best.”
Even the drivers who get good fuel
mileage hate racing that way.
“I’ve lost a lot more races like that
than I’ve won,” says Stewart, who ran
out of gas near the end of the fall 2010
New Hampshire race and lost it, yet won
it a year later when Bowyer ran out. “To
be in a situation where your speed is
dictated by the guy behind you and not
by what you can do…it’s a different style
of racing. It’s just as tough, if not
tougher, than trying to run 100 percent.”
And it can also strain relationships between a team’s
principal players, the driver and crew chief.