CONCORD Running on fumes is a concept we can all understand. There are two types of drivers – the ones who have already run out of gas at some point in life and the ones who will.
But when fuel mileage is the biggest factor in who wins a race, it doesn’t make for terribly exciting racing. That’s the way it was Saturday night at the Bank of America 500, where Clint Bowyer won and then ran out of gas before he could get to Victory Lane. That meant Bowyer couldn’t do the post-race burnout he wanted to and that his crew had to push his car to the winner’s circle at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Second-place finisher Denny Hamlin and third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson played it smart behind Bowyer, with both worried enough about preserving track position that they really didn’t try to make a big final run at Bowyer. Each was too concerned about saving gas.
That caution allowed both Johnson and Hamlin to cut into Brad Keselowski’s points lead – Keselowski finished 11th after he ran out of gas with about 60 laps to go – but it didn’t give the fans much drama at the finish. On a cool October night, all the drivers were talking about fuel mileage rather than a great finish when the race ended.
“We saved the fuel that we needed and we slowed down just enough to finish second,” Hamlin said.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
“You’re just running the race backwards basically,” Hamlin said. “You’re seeing how slow you can go and maintain your track position.”
“That’s just the game you have to play,” said Johnson, whose third-place finish cut Keselowski’s points lead in half – it now stands at seven points.
Other race notes:
• I would place Nik Wallenda’s 750-foot high-wire walk above the asphalt surface at Charlotte Motor Speedway as one of the best pre-race acts I’ve ever seen. I know some would rather just see a lot of fire and stuff blowing up in the infield. But Wallenda – who recently walked over Niagara Falls in much more difficult conditions than Saturday night’s – does something you just don’t see every day.
Wallenda, 33, said afterward he is one of 16 members of the famous Wallenda family who still walk on the high wire. His three children – ages 14, 12 and 9 – are already high-wire walkers as well.
Once he wasn’t above the grandstands any longer, Wallenda took off the tether that would have saved his life (and protected the race fans) had he fallen. That flamboyant gesture made his walk seem all the more dangerous, although Wallenda admitted he has walked the wire so often he sometimes gets “complacent” about it.
• Strong words on the Bank of America 500 pregame race show from ESPN’s Brad Daugherty, who said given Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recent concussion problems that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Dale Jr. never races again.
I would be very surprised if Earnhardt, 38, shuts his career down for good. But I could certainly see him shutting it down for the rest of the season rather than just two races (which is the current plan). You have to be so careful with multiple concussions.