SPORTSDOC- Red flags: Blame fans for NASCAR fuel waste
Get ready for some math and politics.
On Monday morning, June 30, crude oil prices surged to over $143 a barrel. At 42 gallons a barrel, that's $3.04 a gallon (crude). Forty-two gallons of crude oil yields about 19.6 gallons of refined gasoline. That's $7.29 per refined gallon from a barrel of crude.
Four dollars a gallon seems a deal, doesn't it? If you drive a Toyota Camry, the most popular car in America, you get about 20-30 miles per gallon. Toyota got its own NASCAR team this year, and driver Denny Hamlin averages 4.5 mpg– and believe me, he's not using gasoline from Sheetz.
NASCAR uses special Sunoco 260 GTX fuel. Without getting into the chemistry, the fuel is as pure as the driven snow: no additives, alcohols, oxygenates, nitrobenzene, tetraethyl, etc. It's not street legal, it's about 98 octane, and it comes from a region with which we are at war.
It averages $6.75 per gallon. In a 500-mile race, each NASCAR vehicle would require about 143 gallons of this elixir. If 43 drivers qualify, that's 6,149 gallons, or nearly $42,000 in fuel.
Luckily for NASCAR and its drivers, they don't pay the gas bill. Sunoco provides all the fuel free, not only for the race itself but also for qualifying runs and sanctioned testing.
There's diesel fuel for team semis that get 5-7 mpg. Drivers, personnel, owners, and wives get flown hither and yon in jets that get less than one mpg.
Today, as in the '70s, NASCAR is on the receiving end of tremendous criticism for its fuel consumption. Movements are afoot to shorten races, practice less, and implement ethanol in what many see as a bloated and wasteful enterprise.
NASCAR fans disagree.
NASCAR does seem a bit Marie Antoinetteish, lounging in its well-appointed palace while we foot the bill. "Let them eat crude" it cackles, its belly full of free fuel while commoners scrimp and pinch to make it to work.
Aux armes, citoyens!
Shouldn't the fan with the skinny billfold and the empty tank stand up and say, "Take a good look around, NASCAR. You're feasting while we're starving."
It would seem so, but then– like the French before us– we would fall prey to the classic blunder: misplaced blame.
The Bourbons lived extravagantly, no question, but it was the American Revolution that took bread from the people. NASCAR may be gross in its fuel consumption, but they're not responsible for the gas crisis.
The $41,505.75 worth of fuel used in a NASCAR race is a drop in the barrel compared to what fans consume driving to and from the race. One needs only to turn on the TV to see the acres of RVS, SUVS, sedans, and trailers converged every weekend. There may be 43 cars on the track, but there are tens of thousands of vehicles in the lot (and not many are Camrys!).
Former Nextel Cup president Geoff Smith believes the American public doesn't view auto racing as a waste of energy. "I think [NASCAR's] fuel consumption is insignificant compared to the number of people who are enjoying the consumption of the fuel," he tells The Conservative Voice.
Smith is almost right, but the insignificance comes in comparing consumption to consumption.
On average, 150,000 people attend a race and average 100 miles round trip. Even at 20 MPG, that's 750,000 gallons of refined gasoline or 38,265 barrels of crude oil. If Iran's crude output is 4,000,000 barrels a day, well, you can take it from there.
"Personally, this is America, and people have a pastime," Krista Partin of Stockbridge says in the same article, "and this is my pastime. And this is what they have to use to make the cars run."
To Krista Partin and Geoff Smith, 43 cars on a track don't affect a crisis or a war. Forty-three plus the millions who drive to races every weekend just might be a different story.