Dover Fuel Mileage Dictates Winner

Fuel rules again at Dover By Dave Rodman DOVER, Del. (June 6, 1999) Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham once again came up just short on fuel mileage at Dover. For the second straight year, fuel mileage dictated the winner of the NASCAR Winston Cup...

Fuel rules again at Dover By Dave Rodman

DOVER, Del. (June 6, 1999) Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham once again came up just short on fuel mileage at Dover. For the second straight year, fuel mileage dictated the winner of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway. And for the second straight year, Jeff Gordon's chances for a win went away when he needed to make a late fuel stop. This time Bud Pole winner Bobby Labonte was the beneficiary of Gordon's stop with a handful of laps remaining in the 400-lap race. But Labonte didn't exactly back into the win. He led 44 laps during the day in the Interstate Batteries Pontiac.

Gordon said that in the end, circumstances did in his DuPont Automotive Refinishes Chevrolet team, which laid low for the first 266 laps, then led 104 of the final 135 laps. Gordon gave up the lead to Labonte when he pitted with six laps remaining, and the pair ended up the only ones to complete 400 miles.

Mark Martin, who led 100 laps in his Valvoline/Cummins Ford, also was done in when he couldn't make the final stretch run without a pit stop.

"I was having a lot of trouble hearing on the radio," said Gordon, who also said his pit decisions were based on the fact that he was the leader. Labonte pitted with just over 100 laps remaining under the last of four cautions. "I couldn't tell if Ray (Evernham, crew chief) was saying let off and stretch it or go for it and we're going to hope for a caution."

Gordon said despite his communication difficulties, he was confident his crew made the right choice.

"We knew we were gonna get beat, and then it's like, hope for a caution so we can win the race if a caution did come out. We did the right thing. Ray is smart with that stuff. When I'm in the car, it's frustrating not to know exactly what's going to happen.

"When they put that splash of gas in, that's what got us 2nd place."

Martin, to his great dismay, knew exactly what was in the cards down the stretch.

"We were going to have to stop, and it made no sense to run it out of gas hoping for a yellow," Martin said. He bristled a bit when a reported asked him to compare his team's strategy with Gordon's.

"You don't understand," he said before patiently explaining his position. "If you can't run that many laps, then you can't run that many laps whether it's 108 or whatever it was. If you can only run 100, and it's 108 to go -- there's no gambling to it. Man, you're eight miles short. That's the way it is.

"Bobby Labonte could run that far. And we could run a couple laps less than Jeff Gordon, and Jeff Gordon couldn't make it. It wasn't close enough. It wasn't a gamble because he was short. It just wasn't quite enough."

Martin thought the way his team played it, which resulted in his ninth top-5 in 13 races, was correct.

"It's not real complicated," he said. "It's just a matter of numbers and calculations and who's getting the best mileage and when the cautions fall. You can go for it if you're within a lap of making it -- that's one thing to roll the dice. But if you're not even close, there's no need to roll the dice.

"If your figures come up within one lap then it's gamble time, but if you're five laps off you can't gamble on something like that. You're just going to lose."

That paid off to Labonte's benefit Sunday. And the winner had the perfect solution, he said.

"I never look at them gauges anyway," said the man who won for the first time this season while maintaining third in the point standings.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Ray Evernham , Mark Martin