Fueling Up for the Long Run
By Group R Motorsports owner Bob Bogwicz
Note: Submitted by author as published in the Oswego Speedway Eagle International Classic 200 Yearbook August 28, 2013
Welcome to International Classic weekend 2013! Even though the centerpiece of the weekend is 200 laps of the most exciting racing one can find anywhere, it is so much more than that. I have friends spread all across the country and one of the few times I get to see them is on Classic weekend. It truly is a special weekend.
But we’re really here to talk tech. The Classic weekend topic will be fuel. This is an important aspect of the weekend because the teams at Oswego typically run a weekly 50 lap feature with an occasional 75 lapper thrown in. Making it to the checkers in the Classic without a pit stop is a challenge and fuel (or the lack, there of) has determined the outcome of more than several classics.
Getting Some Mileage
First, let’s look at fuel mileage. A typical supermodified motor, generally a big block Chevy bored out to 467 cubic inches and running a mechanical fuel injection system and methanol as fuel will get about 4 laps per gallon at racing speed. For the most part, every racing engine in the world gets double the fuel mileage under caution, so a super at caution speed will get 8 laps per gallon.
On a Saturday night, the teams are instructed to fuel up for a combination of green flag laps and yellow laps. For a 50 lap feature, this number is 105 laps: 50 green laps and 55 caution laps. At 4 laps/gallon under green and 8 laps/gallon under yellow that would be 50/4 + 55/8, or 12.5 + 6.9 or a total fuel load of 19.4 gallons. So, dump in 20 gallons and hit the throttle!
Now, the Classic is different because first, its 200 laps and caution laps count. In addition, the first push-off and parade laps need to be calculated into the equation and these laps can be anywhere between 7 and 11 laps. Keep in mind, the push-off and parade laps count for nothing towards the real race and race director Chuck Handley is keenly aware if this. It is his job to make sure that these laps are kept to a minimum.
Now, given all these numbers, race teams will fuel up for the worst case scenario which would be 200 green flag laps (writers note: I’m pretty sure The Classic has never gone flag-to-flag) plus up to 11 push-off laps. That would be 52 gallons of methanol. Believe me, 34 cars, each with 52 gallons of fuel on board makes for a nervous safety crew in the opening laps of the classic.
Where to Put All of That Fuel?
One of the main problems race teams face is that supermodifieds do not normally carry 52 gallons of fuel. The car needs to be re-tooled for the Classic by adding an extra fuel cell, usually to the driver’s left, behind the engine or by replacing the normal rear cell with one that has the extra capacity. Usually, when a team runs a side cell, the fuel system doesn’t change; the engine draws fuel from the rear cell like it always has and about half way through the race, the driver must turn on an electric pump on the side cell and transfer fuel from the side cell to the rear cell.
I’ve seen all sorts of side fuel cell configurations with hoses going every which way like spaghetti. Since they run this configuration just once a year, I’ve seen these teams spending more time trouble-shooting fuel system problems and not going fast. Many classics have been lost because the engine could not get the fuel it needed, even though there was still fuel in the cell. When it comes to Classic fuel systems, the “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid!) method is always best.
One last issue to be dealt with; 52 gallons of fuel weighs over 400 pounds! That creates a huge difference in handling in a high-powered 1800 pound supermodified. You will rarely see fast laps at the beginning of the classic. Most drivers will be taking it easy until the fuel load burns off. Classic winner Doug Didero said in an Open Wheel Magazine interview that “you have to let the car float while it’s heavy”. Sounds like good advice!
We will be posting updates during the off-season on my Twitter account, @GroupRmtrsports.
Thanks again for all your support this season. Enjoy your Classic weekend, have fun partying but be safe doing it. We all want to see you next season at the “Steel Palace”.
If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me at rbogwicz@groupRtech.com