Opinion: Something needs to change with fuel mileage games at Superspeedways

Since the dawn of superspeedways, it’s been a high-speed chess match of wide-open racing at insane speeds just inches or less apart from one another. In fact, it was so fast at times that NASCAR implemented a restrictor plate on the old engines to starve the engine of air therefore slowing the cars down to sub-200 mph.

But with the new car this year has changed the mentality of drivers and teams to willingly slow the cars on their own in an effort save a half-second to a second or more on pit road during pit stops. Now when there were five lugs on the car there was more than sufficient time to service the car and pack the fuel cell full.

Yet with the single lug pit stops are more common in the single-digit timeframes and with smaller fuel cells and fueling cans the effort to balance fast pit times with fueling and servicing of the car is causing teams and drivers to slow the pace on track.

For example, just this past weekend at Talladega Superspeedway at times in the event with an almost even number of laps per stage the pace was as much as six-plus seconds off the pole speed and as much as seven to eight seconds off the fastest lap of the race.

At points during the GEICO 500 teams and event TV were remarking at the lack of throttle being employed with some as low as 30% throttle with teams on the radio letting their drivers know.

With teams slowing the pace to such a drastic level it was hard to see due to the pack running three-wide within less than two seconds from the first to the last car in the drafting pack.

But this is now cause for concern within the fanbase who feel drafting style superspeedways are meant for speed even if slower than previous generations of the car.

Now with both Daytona and Talladega behind us we won’t see another superspeedway race until later in the summer with a return to Daytona and in doing so a change must be made to help fix this.

We have rules to keep teams above the double yellow line in the racing groove with penalties for going below to make a pass or forcing another competitor below the line. Another rule NASCAR has that would be perfect to fix the issue would be the minimum speed rule.

Each weekend NASCAR sets a minimum speed which is approximately 115% of the fastest lap set in practice. And to quote the rulebook “Unless otherwise authorized, all vehicles will be subject to a minimum speed requirement.”

Failing to meet the speed on track typically results in a warning sending the car to pit road and giving them an opportunity to fix the car to meet the minimum speed. Sometime, NASCAR will adjust the minimum speed during the event depending on conditions.

Going forward, however, using the minimum speed rule to adjust the speed during the event could be the fix to the fuel mileage games being employed to slow the field considerably. Even further adjusting during the event to keep the field from slowing the pace considerably.

It should be announced during the pre-race drivers meetings that the minimum speed may become more fluid and drivers should expect to be warned to pick up the pace or risk being parked for the remainder of the event.