NASCAR to examine fuel-saving strategy teams used in Daytona 500

NASCAR is taking a “much deeper dive” into the fuel-saving strategy Cup teams employed during Monday’s Daytona 500, which saw drivers racing at close to half-throttle at some points.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, made the comments Tuesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“Ultimately, we want to drop the green flag on the race and they’re racing as hard as they can until they drop the checkered flag,” Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s some strategy in between there, and we will definitely take a much deeper drive into this particular situation and the strategy that goes into it.”

Fuel saving has become a key element of superspeedway racing in recent years. The idea is that if a driver can save enough fuel on the track, it means they spend less time on pit road having their car refueled. That can help gain positions via pit road since passing on the track can be challenging.


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To achieve that goal, drivers run at slower speeds. On Lap 29 of Monday's Daytona 500, the leader’s time was 51.307 seconds. That was nearly four seconds slower than what the leader ran on Lap 37 (47.489 seconds).

As long as stages are longer than the distance a car can go on tank of fuel, then saving fuel will be a factor. While NASCAR is not likely to increase the fuel cell size or shorten the stages, a possible area to investigate would be making fuel flow faster from the can to the car during a pit stop.

Saving a gallon of fuel on the the track can shave nearly a second off a pit stop and get the driver back on track quicker. With a single lug nut attaching a wheel, tire changers are finishing their task before the fueler — so saving every bit of time on fueling a car can make a difference on the track.

NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500
NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500

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If NASCAR made the fuel flowed faster from the can, then the fueler and tire changers could complete their work at about the same time. But if that happened, would that return the focus to tire changers and could that lead to more cases of loose wheels? That would be among the issues NASCAR would have to consider.

Series officials are having to look at this matter because of how good teams are with their strategy.

“Just over time,” Sawyer said of the fuel-saving strategy used, “76 years of NASCAR racing and our race teams are just so good, and our teams are so good, and our drivers are so good, and the strategy and the preparation that goes into these events — they don’t leave any stones unturned.

“The Daytona 500 and superspeedway racing in general has kind of come down to that. Basically what you’re trying to do is spend the least amount of time on pit road that you can.”