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Amid Widespread Backlash, Denny Hamlin Makes an Upsetting Verdict About Atlanta

Published 02/24/2024, 5:26 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

The NASCAR Cup Series 2024 season has not even picked up the pace, but it looks like we’ve already got a topic that has become the talk of the town. The perpetrator this time is not a team or a driver but rather the style of racing and the tactics put on display last week at the Daytona 500. Many have coined the term to describe it as fuel mileage racing.

It is a strategy put in place by teams that allows the drivers to spend more time on the track rather than eating up precious time pitting multiple times. However, there’s a downside to the formula, as it collectively slows the speed of the entire grid. Rather than battling for places or trying to switch positions, drivers form a draft and race in unison, thus leading to an optimal outcome. While such strategies prevailed for the initial part of the race, it has now come under the scrutiny of drivers.

Hamlin expects the same fuel-saving tactic to be in play at Atlanta Motor Speedway

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“It’s disgraceful,” were the words used by Kyle Busch to describe his experience racing at Daytona International Speedway. It was not just one team practicing the tactic of saving fuel, but the whole grid and the initial phase of the race was boring and a hard watch for the fans. With NASCAR at Atlanta this weekend, a track that has the same superspeedway characteristics, the growing trend could well continue.

Denny Hamlin has been outspoken about this underlying issue for some time now. But despite his protests, he feels that the race in Atlanta will see similar fuel-saving tactics. Speaking to FrontStretch in an interview, Hamlin stated, “Well, it’s a different track than it certainly used to be for sure. It’s more of a Speedway drafting-type track so it takes a little bit different technique.

I’ll probably won’t say anything about handling more than about three or four times the entire race. It’s just a very circumstantial of getting myself up there. Make sure we have a good strategy, do a good job on and off the pit road. It’s going to be the same story as last week and see what happens. But I don’t think fuel-saving stuff’s going away this week.”

There’s a fine line between considering this tactic as a problem or an evolution of the sport going forward. However, Denny Hamlin believes the fuel mileage racing has gone overboard now, leading to more problems.

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Hamlin explains how fuel-saving strategy has grown into a problem

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Drivers usually do not complain about an issue unless it is affecting their overall racing experience. For a brief period, very few teams and drivers were practicing this unpopular strategy. But it seems like every other team has seen how rewarding this system has been, especially in terms of track position. This is where it has now blown out to be a big problem, according to Hamlin.

He added, “It’s a problem because now everyone is doing it. I mean it works when a couple of guys do it and it doesn’t affect the racing but once the field starts slowing down five seconds, I think no fans want to see that. And certainly, we want to be racing for all the 200 laps, that’s the goal. We’ve crept the speeds of the cars down so much and got so much drag in them thus making fuel an important factor more than ever.”

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Do you agree with the opinions of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin on the current state of racing on speedways?

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Written by:

Chintan Devgania

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Chintan Mahesh Devgania is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As someone who likes to dive deep into the sport, he often takes up less explored topics to eventually see them make their way into top stories. His report on Toyota’s young recruit, Jade Avedisian, sharing her thoughts on Late Model Racing, was an example of that.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh