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Will We See More Slow Fuel Saving Strats at Atlanta?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

If there was one thing drivers could agree on about the Daytona 500, it’s that fuel-saving on superspeedways is no fun. NASCAR heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, which is essentially a mini-version of a superspeedway. Will we see the same strategy being pulled at Atlanta, or will fuel saving be a thing of the past?

  • For most of the 2024 Daytona 500, drivers were saving fuel. It got so extreme in stage one that the pack was running significantly slower than cars that were running out of the draft by themselves on the track.
  • Atlanta races like a superspeedway, but, it is not the same track as Daytona or Talladega. Atlanta is 1.5 miles, while Daytona and Talladega are 2.5 and 2.66 miles respectively. How much different will Atlanta race?
  • Fans are split on the fuel-saving strategies. However, the drivers seem to universally not like it.

Looking at the Race Lengths

A big reason why fuel saving was so prominent at Daytona was because every stage was longer than the average fuel run. Teams had no choice but to pit, and the best strategy was to save fuel and limit the amount of time on pit road.

Atlanta is a little bit different. The race is 260 laps with stage 1 being 60 laps, and both stages 2 and 3 being 100 laps. The fuel window at Atlanta in 2023 was roughly about 65 laps, so, unless that changes drastically, drivers should be able to complete stage one without having to pit.

There may be some fuel saving to get to the end of stage one due to the pace laps burning a little bit of fuel, but, it shouldn’t be enough to force drivers to pit in stage one. There has also been at least one caution in stage one of all four Atlanta races under the new configuration, so, that helped with saving fuel as well.

Stage 2 is a little bit different. Since that stage is 100 laps long, drivers cannot make it to the end of the stage without fuel. You can see in the full race replay from last year that drivers were single-file late in stage two trying to conserve fuel at the end of stage two, which went caution-free.

A Look At Atlanta Races in the Past

What’s also important to consider is how caution flags fall. At the Daytona 500, there was an early caution flag in stage one, and no caution in stage two, and two very late cautions in stage three. With the way those flags fell, teams had to rely on green-flag pit stops.

A caution flag pit stop essentially resets the strategy for that stage. If a caution comes out after the point where teams can make it to the end of the stage on fuel, then fuel saving becomes obsolete for the stage. At Atlanta, it’s quite common for stages to have wrecks and other caution flags in them.

Since Atlanta was reconfigured in 2022, only stage 2 in the 2023 spring race went caution free. Atlanta has seen plenty of yellow lights and yellow laundry each of the last two seasons. A caution flag between about laps 35-65 in stage two or three would negate the need to save fuel for that stage.

Now there is still some incentive to save fuel because the drivers will inevitably pit under caution. Every precious tenth of a second is vital on pit road, and it can make the difference between restarting 1st or 5th. However, drivers are more likely to take tires under caution, and changing tires takes longer than partially filling up the fuel tank.

Will we see fuel saving at Atlanta? It seems the more green flag racing we see in stages two and three, the more likely we see it. Will it be as extreme as it was at Daytona? Maybe or maybe not.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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