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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fuel Mileage Silliness

Oops, Kansas was supposed to be the boring race in the Chase. It is a flatter 1.5 mile track where it was presumed, most of the Chasers would finish near the front and the points wouldn’t change much. Instead there was racing all day long, several Chasers had trouble and only four finished in the top ten. It was so crazy that Denny Hamlin struggled all day, spun out, got penalized for speeding, finished 18th and moved up two spots in the points.

When a team wins a race on fuel mileage, it is often referred to as a stolen win. I disagree. A stolen win would be a team doing something illegal to win. Outsmarting, outlasting or outdriving the competition is what racing should be. Hypothetically, let’s say Greg Biffle leads 168 laps at the February race in California sponsored as the Auto Club 500. After dominating the majority fo the race, he loses his engine with 22 laps to go. Biffle was easily the best car in the race, but no one would dare say he was robbed of the win. Matt Kenseth wins the race and is rightfully considered the winner. Why is good fuel mileage considered a cheap win?

At Kansas Sunday, Tony Stewart was in the top ten most of the day, and at the end of the race he was a top 3 car. The fact that he was able to conserve more fuel than the rest of the field is a coup. It resulted in a win and no one at Joe Gibbs should apologize for winning and futher, no one should complain about thievery. The amount of time, money and research that goes into building reliable and economic engines deserves credit.

The same thing happened for Jeremy Mayfield last year at Michigan on fuel. At the time Evernham Motorsports was struggling on intermediate tracks. So they spent time improving their fuel mileage. As a result they won a race they had no business winning. It isn’t stealing. They deserve credit for properly preparing. It also makes sense that if you can’t beat a team in flat out speed, you had better find a different way to beat them.

Other Notes:
-After three cautions in the first 19 laps, I feared a tire problem. How else could you explain cars spinning out for no apparent reason? I never heard an answer to the spinouts, but the tires were obviously fine.

-After leading the early laps of the race from the pole, Kasey Kahne never threatened the top five again. He still had a top ten car, but running out of fuel plus a spinout on pit road killed his chances. Not to mention any visions of a top 5 finish in the Chase. All three Evernham cars qualified well, but all finished in the bottom ten.

-Jamie McMurray has now qualified worse than 30th in the last seven races. While qualifying is kind of overrated, it still shows how off the 26 team is. How can a team with the resources of Roush Racing not be able to find more speed than the Chad Chaffins and Kevin LePages?

-Thankfully the Banquet commercials with Tony Stewart were a one-off deal. The first time was entertaining, especially considering the dire lack of new NASCAR commercials during a season, but by the end of the race I wanted nothing to do with Pot-Pies. It must have aired 10 times.

-David Gilliland had his best Cup finish in his young career. He was on the lead lap most of the day before finishing 22nd. To the delight of Yates' fabricators, he also brought it home in one piece for the first time this year.

-After the crazy finish, NBC did a lousy job reporting the final results. Stewart crossed the line, Bill Webber said Casey Mears was second, but didn’t announce anyone else right away. It took quite a while before the results were posted. Not a major issue, but it’s a simple thing that escapes NBC.