The White Zone: Lighten up about saving fuel

Kyle Busch took his seat in the deadline room, Saturday, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Never one to mince words, gave his thoughts on the stretch of fuel-saving during the first stage of the Daytona 500.

“I believe it’s a problem,” he said.

After a multi-car wreck in the opening laps, while some drivers followed the typical green flag pit cycle pattern of restrictor plate racing, most of the field dropped their speed to save roughly 20+ laps of fuel. At one point, AJ Allmendinger (a lap down) ran faster laps by himself than the field ran, together.

“I felt disgraceful, myself, being a race car driver – wanting to go fast, lead laps and win the Daytona 500, and that was our strategy that we had to employ at the start of the race because everybody was doing it,” he said.

Now I say this with the utmost respect to Busch and the many fans who called into SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, this week, to share that sentiment.

Y’all overblew it.

Who would make it to the end of the stage on fuel? Could they make it to the end? That fuel-saving added a layer of strategy and intrigue to plate racing and demonstrated how skilled these drivers are. Rather than a wreck-fest embarrassment, like the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series displayed at Daytona, Phoenix and…well, really, most weekends now.

As a sports league, NASCAR sacrificed so much strategy and sport for entertainment value since in the last 10 years (after a decade of maintaining some semblance of both). It made the already controversial playoffs into a total game of chance and instituted arbitrary cautions that slow the pace of races and incentivize overly-chaotic restarts. What’s more, NASCAR all but made fuel-mileage races extinct.

NASCAR gave us a reprieve, last season, with no stage cautions for road courses. At Circuit of the Americas, William Byron and Tyler Reddick gave us some actual “quintessential NASCAR,” thanks to teams running varying pit strategies. In fact, the pit strategy was the only interesting thing to watch for most of the road course races.

Don’t point the finger at the artificial cautions that are nakedly meant to spice up the race (FOX and NBC don’t even hide it). Blame the terrible aero package NASCAR ran on road courses.

But enough of you complained, that NASCAR reversed course on it.

Say what you will about Formula 1 (and it gets bad), there’s still strategy at hand. With when you pit and what Pirelli tires you run. Yeah, most weeks, the same driver nails it better than the rest (welcome to Formula 1), but when it hits, IT HITS!

If you think you can’t do both strategy and entertainment, look at the NTT IndyCar Series. Tire strategy makes or breaks a driver’s day, most weeks. Scott Dixon ran a longer stint on tires to win at Gateway, last August.

Notice how neither F1 nor IndyCar (overly) sacrificed strategy and integrity for entertainment value.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Tucker White
Tucker White
I've followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of my life, both as a fan and now as a member of the media. As of 2024, I'm on my ninth season as a traveling NASCAR beat writer. For all its flaws and dumb moments, NASCAR at its best produces some of the best action you'll ever see in the sport of auto racing. Case in point: Kyle Larson's threading the needle pass at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2021. On used-up tires, racing on a worn surface and an aero package that put his car on the razor's edge of control, Larson demonstrated why he's a generational talent. Those are the stories I want to capture and break down. In addition to NASCAR, I also follow IndyCar and Formula 1. As a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I'm a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan (especially in regards to Tennessee football). If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me, down the road, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a diehard fan of the Atlanta Braves, and I lived long enough to see them win a World Series for the first time since 1995 (when I was just a year old). I've also sworn my fan allegiance to the Nashville Predators, though that's not paid out as much as the Braves. Furthermore, as a massive sports dork, I follow the NFL on a weekly basis. Though it's more out of an obligation than genuine passion (for sports dorks, following the NFL is basically an unwritten rule). Outside of sports, I'm a major cinema buff and a weeb. My favorite film is "Blazing Saddles" and my favorite anime is "Black Lagoon."


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