In fact it’s a gas

AJ Allmendinger drives the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge through the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LONG POND, Pa. — Higher speeds at Pocono will increase fuel consumption in Sunday’s race and shorten the pit intervals for most teams. So don’t be surprised to see the first stop come much earlier than usual (probably well before the 30-lap mark), given that crew chiefs will be inclined to play it safe.

“The track is fast, incredibly fast, approaching 12 miles per hour faster than it was last year,” says Howard Comstock of SRT Motorsports Engineering, which supports the Penske Racing Dodge teams of Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger. “That’s a big deal, and it makes a big difference. . . .

“We all know that this is a very important place for fuel economy. You can’t risk running out on the backstretch on a flat track, or you’ll never get back to the pits. So the speed is great, but how bad does that hurt fuel economy? We’re in the throttle so long around the track now that it’s using fuel to get the kind of speeds that we’re seeing.”

Accordingly, crew chiefs and race engineers will have to be particularly vigilant in keeping track of fuel mileage.

“I think teams are going to have to be very careful about fuel economy,” Comstock said. “They’re going to have to be conservative for at least the first stop, and I think they’re going to have to watch it all day.”

There will also be intense pressure on the fuelers to make sure the cell is filled.

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