Fuel management is key to success in NASCAR. Races are won and lost depending on a team’s ability to accurately measure the amount of fuel necessary to cover the distance. At this year’s Pocono 500, I asked Dr. Eric Warren, the director of competition for Richard Childress Racing, for some insight into gas mileage racing in NASCAR.
“Each race is a certain length,” Dr. Warren explained. “Say it’s a 400-mile race. The objective is to get to the finish line and 400 miles quicker than anyone else.” NASCAR cup cars have fuel tanks that hold approximately 18.5 gallons. “Let’s say we can get a hundred miles on a tank of gas depending upon the racetrack, that might be 60 laps or it might be 50 laps on a two-mile track,” Dr. Warren continued. “If that caution comes out with 53 laps to go or 110 miles to go you have to stretch and make sure you start saving fuel because making it to the end of the race is more important than having to make an extra pit stop.”
Austin Dillon, the driver of Richard Childress Racing’s #3 car, won his first NASCAR Monster Cup race, at his home track in Charlotte, North Carolina thanks to expert fuel management. He shared some detail on what it takes to cross the finish line in an MPG battle. “You have to be toward the front of the field to be able to go after a fuel mileage race. We had a good car that entire race,” said Dillon. “when it comes down to saving it’s really about being smooth on the throttle pedal, lifting early about 200 feet to get the amount of time needed off the fuel to be able to save laps.”
In order to be effective, you need to choose the right place to take your right foot off the accelerator pedal. It’s all about picking a point on the track and lifting, “then coasting using no brake,” Dillion said. “When you get off the brake pedal, it allows you to roll faster and longer. So no brake, lifting early, about 200 feet on both ends, and then just as I applied the gas I was really smooth. I wasn’t trying to jab the gas or get the full throttle too early, trying to really just smoothly lay the pedal down. That was able to make us go a couple laps longer than anybody.”
Disclaimer: This is not a paid post or video. I was American Ethanol’s guest at the Pocono 500. In 2011, NASCAR began using a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend exclusively in its three national racing series. In 2017, they eclipsed the Ten Million Mile mark on E15. This biofuel blend is a cornerstone of the NASCAR Green sustainability initiative, which has proven to be extremely successful in reducing the sport’s environmental impact.