NASCAR

Fuel mileage again story of the race

Brad Keselowski didn't enjoy his usual fuel-mileage dominance Saturday.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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The way Saturday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway started off, with three cautions in the first 36 laps, it seemed like it was going to be a long night. Then they settled down and ran 125 laps of green-flag racing, then there were two final cautions for debris.

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There was something about this fuel-mileage race, maybe because people were on a little different strategy, that it actually kept me on the edge of my seat. Who was going to be able to make it and who was not going to be able to make it?

With all the races Brad Keselowski and his team have played the fuel-mileage game into their hands and they’ve capitalized on it, this happened to be just one of the nights they didn’t. It was interesting that in one of Paul Wolfe’s postrace interviews, he said, “My gut told me that one time that we didn’t have it packed full of fuel and that’s probably what ended up having them run out of fuel.”

Of course, they still came out of the Charlotte race without taking a huge hit in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. They finished 11th, they had their points lead dwindled in half, but they still have a seven-point lead halfway through this Chase.

There were a lot of things that kept the race interesting where it was hard to turn away and miss any of it. A lot of Chase drivers fared well. Of course, Clint Bowyer gets his third win of the year for Michael Waltrip Racing and then two of the top three in the points finished well. Jimmie Johnson finished third and Denny Hamlin finished second. Hamlin’s finish kind of stopped the bleeding for that team a little bit.

Even though he went into the Chase leading the points and he dominated and won Loudon, Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing team had given up points kind of unnecessarily three of the four weeks in the Chase. Well this is where they got about a third of the 23-point deficit they were behind the leader entering this race and now they’re only about 15 back with five races to go.

Others fared well, too. Greg Biffle got his first top-five finish since his win at Michigan in August and then there were a lot of non-Chase guys that were up there. Kyle Busch finishes fifth; Mark Martin just keeps on keeping on, finishes sixth; Carl Edwards has another good run by finishing seventh in that No. 99 Ford and then Joey Logano, really outside of the mishaps and things that went on at Talladega, he’s had a pretty solid Chase.

Overall, it was an interesting night.

It was a race with a lot of twists and turns that had its share of cautions but also certainly had its share of long green-flag runs, especially the last one that went about 110 laps and ended up playing into someone’s favor and playing not into others.

Tagged: Denny Hamlin

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