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What the heck is going on in NASCAR's championship playoffs? Yet another gas mileage race?

  Ol' Smoke smokes 'em again....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   What?! Not another fuel mileage race?
   Yes, and this has become a disturbing trend on the NASCAR tour over the summer and now into the fall.
   "I hate these fuel mileage races," Greg Biffle said, after running out of gas the last lap while running second to winner Tony Stewart in the New Hampshire 300.

    "We like to run hard and go.
    "We had a really fast car that could have been second or third no matter what…but I just wish it didn't come down to that.  I would have liked to see how hard we could have run and see if we could have caught them."
    Like several in the field Biffle had to play a conservation game. And still it bit him.
    It was the dominant factor in last Monday's Chicago 400 playoff opener.
    And it was again the key in this 300.
    Jeff Gordon had the best car, running nine seconds in the lead, when he ran out just as he started to pit. He never got back in contention.
    So Clint Bowyer, getting really good gas mileage – much to the chagrin of his soon-to-be-ex-teammate Kevin Harvick – was in the lead down the stretch, holding Stewart at bay…until Bowyer ran out with two laps to go.
   That gave the win to Stewart.
   And then Biffle wound up giving second to Brad Keselowski when he ran out too.
   "I just had to save gas, and when you have to save gas, you can't go, you can't use gas," Biffle griped. 
   Teammate David Ragan pointed to the dimming effect of these gas mileage finishes: "We had a top-five in sight, but we had to save enough fuel at the end.
   "I didn't want to run out."



Tony Stewart at the finish line (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   "We were actually two laps to the good at the end," Darian Grubb, Stewart's crew chief, said. "Clint pitted two laps before we did, and we knew if he was pushing it, we were a little better."
   Grubb admitted last fall's gas mileage loss in this race hurt.
   "Darian told me we were two to three laps to go the good, so I could run hard and maintain that pace the last 100 laps," Stewart said.
   "This is huge. Now the race car doesn't know anything about momentum or stats. But momentum is about people, and this is huge for us, not just these two wins but the two weeks before that too.
   "All season it seems like we'd have to spend all day digging ourselves out of a hole.
   "I hope that bad luck streak is over.
    "The good thing is this sport is week to week.
    "A lot of guys at the back part of the chase right now are guys we all expected to be up front. But we've all still got a long, hard eight weeks ahead of us."

    A gas mileage afternoon?
   "You love winning races, but you hate to see somebody lose one that way," Stewart said.

    Got Lobstah? To the victor go the claws (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Stewart's cars have been much better the last few weeks. But again he won on a day when he didn't appear to have the best car.
   "I'll be honest, we were about a 10th place the majority of the day," Stewart said. "Once we got track position, it drove a little better.
    "Pretty much the first two-thirds of the day we were in traffic. We just never got clean air to do anything.
    "The closer to the front we got, the better it drove.
     "Man, what a way to win it. Such an irony from last year where we ran gas coming the white."
   Is there a certain stigma attached to winning on fuel mileage, rather than winning in a door-to-door finish? David Reutimann said yes, after he won Charlotte on fuel mileage and then waited nearly a year to win what he considered a heads-up race.
     But Stewart, while conceding "You hate to see anybody lose it that way," made clear at this point in the season "you'll take a win any way you can get it."

    Biffle: "We ran from second to sixth all day and just stayed there.  I wish it wasn't a fuel mileage race….I think we had a fast enough car to catch Clint and Tony possibly and race with them."
    But everyone was playing the gas mileage game.
    Biffle versus Jeff Gordon late, up front: "We were catching Jeff about a tenth-and-a-half a lap for that last green run, and I don't think he was saving fuel at that point," Biffle said. "I got within probably 15 car-lengths of him, and then he just like 'plug-checked' it and put it in neutral and moved over and just started saving gas all of a sudden.
    "I'd say Jeff was fast at the beginning and middle part of the race, but I don't know about the end."
    Gas mileage has become the operative phrase in NASCAR, much too prominent perhaps for a sport that prides itself on hard driving, not feather-footing.
   "It's funny how every race kind of comes down to it," Biffle said.
    "But people think that a fuel mileage race is the last run of the day….but we have the new engine (Ford's FR9), and we've struggled a little bit with fuel mileage as a group this year. 
    "What happens is anytime you have a green flag pit stop cycle, no matter what track you're at, that turns into a fuel mileage run, because we have to stop three or four laps short of the field.
    "And then if the caution comes out, you're a lap down.  That's happened to us I don't know how many times this year."
   The most disappointed man at the finish was probably Denny Hamlin, whose fuel mileage gambit failed. That's two straight bad runs to open the playoffs, and he goes to Dover for Round Three down 66 points, last place in the chase field.
   Since the race winner this season, under the new rules, gets only 47 points (or 48), and last place gets only 1, Hamlin is clearly in a deep, deep hole. If Hamlin were to win Dover, and no one else even showed up, he'd still be far behind in the standings.
   So Hamlin was depressed: "We thought we were good (on fuel)….and that's just strategy racing nowadays. We just came up short.
   "But that was the worst fuel mileage we got all day…and I was backing my corner up quite a bit."
   His crew chief, Mike Ford, said he was more than surprised: "It was kind of a shocker.
   "We went off the mileage we were seeing all day and took a gamble on mileage, which didn't seem like a gamble.  I fully expected to have about three laps extra.
    "But either we didn't have the fuel cell completely full the last run or we didn't get as good mileage. 
    "I know Denny was doing a good job of keeping everything backed up. I didn't expect to even be that close."

Well Mike next time that a

Well Mike next time that a race is going to come down to fuel mileage in the final Laps throw your recording device onto the track so we get a caution and can avoid another one of these situations

that sounds like a better

that sounds like a better plan than somebody throwing me out on the track to get a caution.....lol

fuel milage

First, fuel mileage racing is an oxymoron. Second, I believe the reason we have all the fuel mileage finishes is due to the switch to e-15 ethanol fuel. It is well documented that each drop of ethanol added to gasoline decreases the mpg. It is basic chemistry. NA$CAR already decreased the size of the fuel cell. With the races being the same length and the e-15 fuel resulting in a 10% loss in mpg, the result is predictable. Trouble is, it is not enough to warrant an extra stop so more teams gamble and lose. NA$CAR needs to either A) go back to the larger fuel cell; B) shorten the length of the races; C) go back to ethanol free gas; or D) all of the above.


Such an exciting chase.

This racing thing is so exciting! I don't think I can stand waiting to see who can save the most fuel so they win.

And NASCAR wonders why they are losing fans?

Blame NASCAR and their

Blame NASCAR and their laziness of not throwing a caution for "debris" just kidding. How much Fuel does a Sprint Cup Car Hold now a days anyway? Maybe NASCAR should increase the amount of Fuel a car can hold and we can prevent these fuel mileage races.... and I love Fuel Mileage racing at the end but maybe it's time NASCAR raise the amount of gallons in the car and it would reduce the amount of fuel mileage races.


Might as well race rental cars. Any other year, there would be a plethora of mystery cautions. Can we pay Robbie Gordon to thrown something out of his car late in a race? I'll start taking up a collection.......

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