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How Much Fuel Does a NASCAR Stock Car Burn During a Race?

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Fuel mileage is a critical part of any NASCAR race, and saving every last ounce of fuel has often made the difference between winning and losing races. While fuel mileage races are not as common as they once were, fuel is still a necessity to make Cup Series cars go. The question we are here to answer today is, how much fuel does a NASCAR Cup Series car burn during a race?

  • NASCAR Cup Series cars are not equipped with fuel gauges like everyday passenger cars are. Cup Series teams determine fuel mileage based on math, experience, and instinct.
  • We will use math to determine the fuel mileage of a NASCAR Cup Series car. However, it is important to note that fuel mileage does depend slightly on the track and the speeds cars are running.
  • Fans are always curious about fuel mileage during a NASCAR race. It plays a large role in every team strategy, and gambles on fuel mileage can create drama and intrigue.

Cup Series Car Fuel Mileage

With no fuel gauge in the cars, it’s hard to know exactly how much fuel a Cup Series car burns throughout a race. What we can do is use math to estimate, keyword “estimate”, based on what we do know.

According to KLAS 8 Las Vegas, a Cup Series Next-Gen car uses an 18-gallon fuel tank. We can use that combined with the official fuel window from different NASCAR track types to roughly estimate how much fuel it would take to get through an entire NASCAR Cup Series race. Here are those figures in the table below.

TrackRace DistanceFuel Window
(According to Race Broadcasts)
Amount of Fuel Burned
Daytona (Superspeedway)200 Laps (500 Miles)40-44 Laps (100-110 Miles)~82-90 Gallons
Las Vegas (Intermediate)267 Laps (400 Miles)60-64 Laps (90-96 Miles)~75-80 Gallons
Phoenix (Short Intermediate)312 Laps (312 Miles)92-98 Laps (92-98 Miles)~57-61 Gallons
Martinsville (Short Track)500 Laps (263 Miles)150-160 Laps (79-84 Miles)~56-60 Gallons

It’s worth noting that these are very rough estimates, but they give an idea of how much fuel a car consumes.

We see here that fuel consumption depends largely on the length of the race in terms of miles. A 500 laps race at Martinsville sounds long, but, it’s also a short track which means the cars cover about half the distance they do in the Daytona 500 for example. We see that the shorter (In terms of distance) races on small tracks burn less fuel than the longer races on big tracks do.

However, this is under the assumption that the cars are running full speed from start to finish, which, we all know is not true. Other factors come into play that do affect fuel mileage.

Other Factors

The three factors that play a major role in fuel mileage are drivers saving fuel, drafting, and caution flags. We can’t measure exactly how much fuel a driver tries to save if they have to, so, we won’t look at that. We can estimate how much the other factors impact fuel consumption.

Drafting

This is most prevalent on superspeedways like Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta, but, it also exists on other tracks as well. Drafting allows drivers to maintain speed without mashing the foot to the floor. If you watch telemetry data at superspeedways, drivers in the middle of the pack are often at half throttle because the draft keeps them in the pack.

The less throttle you use, the fewer RPMs the engine turns, which means it consumes less fuel. We saw this in the Daytona 500 where the field was puttering around well off the pace early in the race to save fuel. This would allow them to pit later, meaning they had to take less fuel, meaning a shorter pit stop. Although, drivers are not keen on fuel saving.

Regardless, this does make an impact on how much fuel a car consumes. It’s hard to know exactly how much, but, we do know that drivers were able to go more than 50 laps on fuel during the first stage of the 2024 Daytona 500. However, there is another factor that played into that as well, caution flag laps.

Cautions

The cars run slower under caution flag conditions, so, they naturally burn less fuel. How much less? Well, a general rule of thumb from racing in the past is that 2 caution flag laps equals about 1 green flag lap of fuel consumption, meaning drivers consume about half as much fuel under caution. If we take that logic, here is how much fuel NASCAR Cup Series cars roughly used including caution flag laps.

TrackRace DistanceCaution LapsFuel Window
(According to Race Broadcasts)
Amount of Fuel Burned
Daytona (Superspeedway)200 Laps (500 Miles)20 Laps (50 Miles)40-44 Laps (100-110 Miles)~78-86 Gallons
Las Vegas (Intermediate)267 Laps (400 Miles)35 Laps (52.5 Miles)60-64 Laps (90-96 Miles)~70-75 Gallons
Phoenix (Short Intermediate)312 Laps (312 Miles)40 Laps (40 Miles)92-98 Laps (92-98 Miles)~53-57 Gallons
Martinsville (Short Track)500 Laps (263 Miles)38 Laps (~20 Miles) *Before OT150-160 Laps (79-84 Miles)~54-58 Gallons

Again, these are very rough calculations, but, they again give an idea about how much fuel was consumed by these cars during a race.

Caution flags can extend the fuel window of the cars quite far if there are enough yellow flags during a race. We see how the Phoenix race covered twice the amount of distance under caution as the Martinsville race (Before OT started), and that caused drivers to potentially use less fuel at Phoenix.

So, How Much Fuel Do They Consume?

The ultimate answer is that it depends on the race tracks. If cars are going over a shorter distance at a slower pace, the cars naturally burn less fuel. However, it’s impossible to know exact figures since we do not know exactly how much fuel the cars consume under caution, during the race when saving fuel, or in the draft of the car in front.

However, a safe ballpark estimate based on our calculations would roughly be between 50-60 gallons for the shorter tracks, 70-80 gallons for intermediates, and 80-90 gallons for superspeedways.

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