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NASCAR Guide to Saving Gas On/Off Track‏

Fuel-Saving Tips from NASCAR Insiders

 

With the continued economic downturn that is plaguing our country, Americans are increasingly concerned about what they can do to decrease their spending while still living the way they are accustomed. One key area where people throughout the country are trying to reduce spending is at the gas pump, and why wouldn’t they? Even with the recent reduction in gas prices, no one is certain how long this will last and as much time as people spend in their cars these days, commuting, traveling, etc., these costs quickly add up.

 

Even with the average price of gas being below $2 per gallon, the nation’s tough economy is causing consumers to budget how much they travel and spend at the pumps. The current economic situation makes it imperative that motorists get as many miles per gallon from their car as they can or risk running out of gas. According to the Allstate Motor Club, calls for roadside assistance due to lack of gas is up 52 percent nationwide.

 

So what can motorists do to maximize the fuel efficiency of their cars and ultimately spend less money at the pump? Allstate has enlisted the expertise of NASCAR Crew Chief Kenny Francis, whose job it is to take care of Kasey Kahne’s No. 9 Dodge on a weekly basis and make sure he gets the most out of his Sunoco fuel, and Kahne’s Allstate agent Jason Efland who regularly provides his customers with safe-driving tactics that can make their cars even more fuel efficient.

 

Kenny Francis – No. 9 Crew Chief
Jason Efland – Kasey Kahne’s Allstate Agent

 

KF: Are there any specific car setup and driving strategies teams use to conserve fuel at the end of a race to avoid a pit stop?

 

"The main way that a driver can conserve fuel during a race is to be smooth with the throttle when accelerating off each of the corners. Do not aggressively pump the throttle pedal. Also, lifting off the throttle early at the end of the straight will conserve a fair amount of fuel, but the lap times may be slower as a result."

 

KF: How does the engineering and setup that you and your pit crew manipulate on the No. 9 Dodge have an effect on the amount of fuel used during a race?

 

"Normally, a car that is loose will get better fuel mileage than a tight car because the driver has to be a little smoother with the throttle to keep from losing control. With a tight car, the car is harder to turn, so the driver will work the throttle more to give it the power to help turn the car which will hurt mileage."

 

JF: What are some examples of safe driving techniques that motorists can use to save gas?

o "Slow down. Aggressive driving wastes gas. Every 5 miles per hour that a person drives over 60 miles per hour is like paying an additional $0.26 per gallon for gas." (fueleconomy.gov)

o "Keep your car maintained and running smoothly with regular tune-ups and upkeep. Checking and replacing air filters can improve your car's gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, and will help protect your engine. Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by around 3.3 percent." (fueleconomy.gov)

o "Plan your routes. By planning your route in advance you can find the shortest distance making your commute quicker and cheaper."

o "Keep to the right. Often, the right-most lanes keep moving more than the left-most in areas prone to traffic-jams. This is usually due to cars exiting the highway on the right."

 

KF: How many gallons of fuel does the No. 9 Dodge go through during a typical 400-mile race?

 

"A typical Sprint Cup stock car has about 800 horsepower, weighs more than 3,000 pounds and goes from 0-60 in around three seconds, so you can imagine the fuel efficiency isn’t going to be as good as the cars you and I drive on the road. Typically, we can expect to get about four and half miles per gallon on a mile-and-a-half track, so we will use about 90 total gallons of fuel during the course of a 400-mile race."

 

JF: Have you seen more of your customers turning to compact cars and hybrids that get better gas mileage?

 

"I have seen a lot more customers looking at and purchasing compact cars over the past six months compared to years past. Hybrids are becoming popular but still seem to be more expensive compared to the same gasoline model and thus not as popular as compact cars. For 2009, automobiles that use clean-burning diesel are really taking the car market by storm. There are many cars just now arriving on lots that are getting 30-45 miles per gallon."

 

JF: Have you seen a trend in people giving up traditional automobiles for motorcycles because of the rising fuel costs?

 

"We have had a few, but most of them are buying motorcycles and scooters as secondary forms of transportation to save on fuel consumption and costs. The average motorcycle user reports fuel consumption of around 56 miles per gallon while the average automobile owner reports an average of 22 miles per gallon. This represents a lot of savings for motorcycle owners. But people still like having a car to drive when it is raining or cold outside."

 

KF: Race cars don’t have fuel gauges. How do you calculate the fuel mileage for Kasey Kahne and the No. 9 Dodge during races?

 

"Trying to calculate fuel mileage on a Sprint Cup car during a race certainly keeps our mathematical skills strong because we have to figure it out the old fashioned way. We count the number of laps we complete between pit stops and multiply by the track length. We weigh the fuel dump cans before and after a pit stop then divide that difference in weight by the fuel's specific weight, typically 6.3 pounds per gallon. This way we know the distance and we know the amount of fuel used so we divide the distance by the gallons used to get the miles per gallon. Then we can multiply the miles per gallon by the fuel cell capacity and divide by the track length to calculate the number of laps we can run."

 

JF: If a race car driver runs out of gas during a race someone can push the car to pit road to get refueled. What should a motorist do if they run out of fuel and aren’t close to a gas station?

 

"If you run out of gas while driving, pull over to the side of the road. Make sure to turn on the car’s hazard lights to inform other motorists that you are having a problem. This is especially important if you run out of gas while driving at night. If you have access to road assistance such as Allstate Motor Club, give them a call and wait for the support car to arrive. If you do not have access to a road assistant service, call somebody you know, a friend or a family member."

 

KF: On a mile-and-a-half track how many laps can Kasey Kahne get out of a full tank of gas during a green flag run?

 

"Usually, the four and half miles per gallon give us about a 55-lap range with our 18.5 gallon fuel cell capacity. But obviously there are a lot of factors that can impact this, such as caution laps and whether the car is running in the middle of the pack in traffic or out in front in clean air."

 

JE: Do you think people are driving less because of fuel costs?

 

"Yes, I do. People are now starting to plan their trips and everyday errands more wisely. With fuel costs so low in the past we have not had to really think about where we drive each day, but now it makes a difference how many stops we make or if we want to go to a store on the other side of town versus a similar one nearby".

 

KF: How do the aerodynamics of a race car impact its fuel mileage? What specific features of the COT are designed to improve fuel mileage and how do these aerodynamic features differ from a regular passenger car?

 

"A car with less aerodynamic drag will get better fuel mileage, but the aerodynamic drag on Sprint Cup cars is not adjustable so we really don't consider it much with respect to fuel mileage. There are no specific features of the Car of Tomorrow that are designed to improve fuel mileage. The fuel cell is stronger, and has a slightly smaller capacity than the cars we were using before."

 

JE: Which types of cars get the best gas mileage and what physical factors of a vehicle contribute to its ability to achieve more miles per gallon?

o "Compact, mid-sized cars and station wagons are rated as the top fuel efficient vehicles by
www.fueleconomy.gov."

o "When looking for new tires, look for tires that are designated to have Low Rolling Resistance. According to fuelly.com, these tires can help improve fuel economy by up to 2-4 percent."

o "Watch your RPMs. The gearing of your transmission determines how fast you travel at a certain RPM. So if you keep the RPMs low then you will use less fuel." (
www.fuelly.com)

 

KF: What are the worst mistakes a race car driver can make on the track to negatively impact fuel mileage? What’s the best thing a driver can do?

 

"The worst thing a driver can do for fuel mileage is consistently pump the throttle. When this happens, unneeded fuel is sprayed into the engine with each pump of the accelerator. If the driver is smooth and gets the throttle down with a single motion only the fuel that is needed will be pumped into the engine and the car will get better fuel mileage."

 

JE: What are examples of driving practices that drivers may not be aware of that can negatively impact the fuel mileage of their car?

o Revving the engine, accelerating quickly, traveling at high speeds.

o Stop-and-go traffic, crowded roads and looking for a parking space all burn fuel as well.

o Stream line your car. Don’t fly flags and remove ski or bike racks after use. These items cause additional drag on your car.

o Park in the shade. Gasoline evaporates out of your tank faster if you’re parked directly in the sun. If there is no shade available, park so your tank is facing away from direct sunlight.

o Lighten up your load. Remove unnecessary items from the trunk of the car and don’t fill up the gas tank all the way. Depending on your tank size, your car will have 50-100 pounds less to haul all the time, which will equate to less gas used.

 

Photo Credit: daylife.com