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Kyle Busch says excessive fuel saving strategy in Daytona 500 by all teams was ‘pathetic’

HAMPTON, Ga. — Kyle Busch said he felt “disgraceful” with all the fuel saving teams did in last weekend’s Daytona 500 and that NASCAR has a “problem” with the racing at superspeedways.

Busch’s opinion was the strongest among Cup drivers Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he wasn’t alone in his frustration.

“I believe it’s a problem,” Busch said. “The start of the race last week for the Daytona 500, we’re all sitting around running half-throttle not passing, riding in a line.

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

Fuel saving has always been a part of racing, but it was more paramount in the Daytona 500. With passing difficult, teams had drivers save fuel so they didn’t need to make as long of pit stops and could leapfrog competitors on pit road.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said this past week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the sanctioning body would take a “much deeper dive” into the fuel saving strategy.

Michael McDowell starts from the pole for the second week in a row.

Busch noted that lap times were about 46 seconds in the pack at Daytona when the field was running at full speed but that some lap times were around 50 seconds as the field saved fuel.

“It was pathetic,” Busch said. “I was like, ‘How slow are we going to go?’ I felt bad for the fans. I was like this is not good for them. It’s not what I wanted to be doing.”

Busch’s anguish was because there was “no passing. People want to see passing. The fans are about, ‘Hey, we want to see racing.’ … That’s not racing.”

And it was not enjoyable for Chris Buescher.

“That was the least amount of fun I’ve had in a Daytona 500 in a really, really long time, and I’ve hit head-on there in Turn 1 and still had more fun in that race at some point,” Buescher said.

He estimated teams spent 70-80% of the race saving fuel. He also noted that by running slower lap times, the cars didn’t handle as poorly. That meant that there were no gaps for cars to change lanes. Drivers were stuck with nowhere to go.

“I want to feel like we’re putting in 100% effort throughout the race,” Buescher said. “You’ll have some areas where you have to save (fuel) through any race, but I don’t want to run 400 miles of fuel saving and get out of the car and say, ‘We did what we needed to do.’ Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s right in my mind. I don’t care for it.”

As a champion, Ryan Blaney may play a larger role on key issues in the sport.

There are no simple solutions. Drivers struggled to come up with anything that wouldn’t create other potential issues.

Additional stage lengths were mentioned but few seemed to favor the notion that superspeedway racing would carry more points than most other races.

Another idea was to change the size of the fuel cell but shrinking it would mean more pit stops and more focus on limiting time on pit road.

Taking drag out of the car was an idea but that will take a change to the car and could lead, according to one driver, to more single-file racing.

“I don’t know what the fix is,” Joey Logano said.

“I don’t have the answers,” Chase Elliott said.

“I don’t know what you can do,” Ryan Blaney said.

Brad Keselowski said nothing needs to be done.

“I think we might be overreacting a little bit because a few people are angry,” he said. “This is not a problem.”

Keselowski said the fuel saving strategy is a sign of how good things are in Cup.

“It’s more a reflection of the quality of drivers than anything else,” he said. “You don’t save fuel in the Truck Series. You don’t save fuel in the Xfinity Series because there’s no chance you’re going to get a long green flag run where the pit stops are even going to matter because the drivers aren’t good enough to do a long green flag run.

“The Cup drivers are. Since they’re good enough to do a long green flag run, that’s how the race evolves and strategy evolves.”