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NASCAR taking deeper look into fuel saving tactics from Daytona 500

Syndication: Daytona Beach News-Journal
Credit: Nigel Cook/News-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

There was a point in the Daytona 500 on Monday that the big packs were saving so much fuel that AJ Allmendinger was running faster by himself than those drafting.

The reason for this much fuel conservation was explained by Denny Hamlin on Tuesday during an episode of his Actions Detrimental podcast.

“I couldn’t figure it out,” Hamlin said. “Fuel, yes, it’s always been somewhat of a big deal, but over the last few years of Next Gen racing on superspeedways, it’s been a dramatic deal. With the field all compressed into a one-and-a-half second group, you can save enough gas to be the last car in line and then jump to the first car in line after a pit cycle as long as you do a good job on entry of the pits, rolling down pit road, stopping, and then exiting pit road and then exiting with a group. You can flip-flop the field.”

While that has always been a part of the dynamic of superspeedway racing, it is now happening with this car as soon as the field takes the green flag.

“Everyone is trying to do it and then I realized, holy shit, these guys are doing it on Lap 2,” he said. “I think I was on the top line and I’m trying to push the (expletive) out of whoever was in front of me, and I’m like, ‘What the hell? Why aren’t these guys going? Push the guy in front of you now.’ When I’m trying to push someone mid-race, early race, whatever, that is me whispering in the competitor’s ear in front of me, ‘Go hit the guy in front of you now. Go push him.’ I’m trying to keep that line moving.”

It also factored into the first caution on Lap 6.

Hamlin said it would have made sense to save fuel in a single-file line but they were doing it sometimes two and three-wide and the pace continue to drop to under 175 mph.

“The field just kept getting slower and slower and slower.”

NASCAR did not like what they were seeing. Speaking on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday morning, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer said the league will take a deeper look into how to address this dynamic.

“I think that’s something that just over time, 76 years of NASCAR racing, 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,” Sawyer said. “The Daytona 500, or superspeedway racing in general, has kind of come down to that, and basically what you’re trying to do is spend the least amount of time on pit road that you can. So, you’re getting through those stoppages, whether it be Stage 1 or 2, you’re getting the opportunity to gain some track position.

“It is something that we’re looking into. Ultimately, we want to drop the green flag on the race, and they’re racing as hard as they can until we drop the checkered flag. There’s some strategy in between there. We’ll definitely take a much deeper dive at this particular situation and the strategy that goes into it.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter. 

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