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Minter: Some Would Like To Kick The New Can

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 19 2011

The new fueling cans are contributing to fuel-mileage racing and headaches in Sprint Cup this year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway, where the circuit is racing this weekend, have a way of turning into gas mileage/strategy races, as have several recent races in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

The reasons races play out that way are numerous. For starters, the caution periods in the latter part of the race have to fall at times that allow some teams to stretch their remaining fuel to the end, and lately, NASCAR officials haven’t seemed too inclined to throw cautions for “debris” as the laps wind down.

And then there are the smaller fuel cells – 18 gallons versus 22 in the past. The size of the tank doesn’t necessarily mean that a fuel mileage race is more likely, but it does affect the strategy.

Perhaps the biggest factor is the new self-venting fuel cans.

Teams up and down pit road have had difficulty getting their cars full of fuel. It’s hard to

Greg Biffle says new fuel cans creating problems. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

tell when the tank is full, and since the fuel flows slower than in the past, teams are forced to choose between leaving when the tires are on and gaining or keeping track position, or waiting for the tank to fill, losing time on the track but extending their range.

Greg Biffle weighed in on the issue on a recent NASCAR teleconference.

“None of our teams on a consistent basis are getting the cars what we call full of gas, just because of the system we’re using,” he said. “I’m not going to call it flawed, but it’s not the optimum for trying to put 18 gallons of fuel in a car in 11 seconds. It’s challenging, and it has a lot of challenges for plugging the system in, not getting air trapped in it.

“If you move the can two degrees it will allow fuel to get into the returning air side. It spills a lot of gas on the ground. It’s a difficult system to get down. With anything new, they’ll be next generation or next, and we’ll hopefully get it better over time.”

Biffle went on to explain that the issue arises because crews typically can change all four tires before the fuel runs in.

“It’s tough to sit on pit road and wait for fuel versus going and getting that track position,” he said. “That’s why some guys are coming up a hair short on getting the cars full.”

Carl Edwards, the Sprint Cup points leader and NASCAR’s No. 1 free agent, is

Carl Edwards could be doing flips from cars not made by Ford in future. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

reportedly getting lucrative offers to leave Roush Fenway Racing and the Ford camp.

One can’t blame Edwards for going to work where he can make the most money, but a friend who’s as loyal to the Blue Oval brand as one can be pointed out that Edwards has a unique opportunity in the Ford camp.

If he sticks with Ford for the rest of his career, his place in history, especially in Ford’s history, would be greatly enhanced. Other fan-favorite drivers who have won big in Fords, like Bill Elliott and Mark Martin, have moved on to other manufacturers and their connections to Ford have been cut for the most part.

If he stays put, Edwards could become to Ford what Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon are to Chevrolet. It’s something for him to think about.

The five picks for this year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame won’t get any argument from this corner, but one does have to wonder when and if the hall will recognize pioneering drivers like Herb Thomas, Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, Buck Baker and Tim Flock, or owners like Raymond Parks.

It could be argued that their time will come, but it also won’t be long before a Rick Hendrick or a Rusty Wallace or a Bill Elliott or a Terry Labonte gets picked. When that starts happening, there will be no going back, which is why there should have been 20 or 25 in the inaugural class.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 19 2011
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