Hull: Dixon saves fuel using intel, not just technique

Chip Ganassi Racing’s managing director Mike Hull says one of the keys to Scott Dixon’s ability to save fuel better than his rivals is his request for information from the start of each stint.

Hull: Dixon saves fuel using intel, not just technique
Mike Hull, Chip Ganassi Racing
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Winner Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Start: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads
Start: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads
Winner Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Mike Hull, Chip Ganassi Racing

In the wake of the four-time champion’s second victory of the season and fourth win at Watkins Glen, Hull, who also serves as strategist on the #9 car, told Motorsport.com: “Scott always wants to know the fuel mileage number he’s got to make from the very start of a run.

“The mistake many people make is that they don’t start the fuel save from the drop of the green flag, at the start of the race or on a restart. They’re focused on pulling a gap on the cars behind or trying to get past the cars ahead. And by the time they go into fuel-save mode, it’s impossible – the number required is too big and they can’t do it.

“Scott wants the number at the start of each stint, and then he works within those limits to see what is and isn’t possible as far as making progress relative to the competition.”

Hull admitted however, that the outright pace of Dixon and the #9 Ganassi-Chevrolet at Watkins Glen meant they had other eventualities covered, had he found himself shuffled back in the pack or had the race been 10 laps longer and therefore the fuel windows guaranteed that everyone could charge between their three pit stops.

“Yes, he obviously had a fantastic car this weekend, and Scott is an exceptional driver,” said Hull. “But so many things can go wrong, you only finally exhale when you cross the finish line! There have been races this year, and previous years, where we’ve encountered a closed pitlane, a mechanical issue or we got blocked just before a pitstop so we lost track position by the time we came out of the pits.

“This time, everything fell our way and that was really nice.”

Fuel, not tire choice, was key to victory

Hull said that although tires had been a puzzling issue going into the race, he felt that it would be fuel rather than rubber compounds that would decide how the race played out.

He said: “I had this feeling going into the race, that fuel would determine the race, not tires. At some point, you were going to need that lap – or two laps or three laps – around one of the three pit stops, to create some separation from the others.”

Hull added that when Helio Castroneves emerged ahead of Dixon from the final stops as they pitted under yellow, it was not unexpected.

“I like racing Roger [Penske, who calls strategy for Castroneves],” grinned Hull. “I confess I’ve learned a lot from watching how he goes racing with some of his great drivers, and how he coaches them on the radio to tell them they can do it.

“So I wasn’t surprised in the least when Helio came out ahead of us; I guessed they’d do something to get him in front because that’s what they do.”

However, Dixon immediately passed Castroneves at the restart and although he quickly dropped the #3 Penske, it was Castroneves who had to pit for a splash and dash in the closing stages, whereas Dixon made it to the checkered flag with no more stops. Hull admitted, however, that Dixon was proverbially running on fumes at the end.

“We were well into the fuel collector on the last lap,” said Hull, “and we used the shortcut [Watkins Glen's NASCAR track format] on the slow-down lap, and ran out of fuel just as he got into Victory Lane. So Chevrolet will have to change our fuel pump…”

 

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