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Friday, May 23, 2008

Race Weekend and the Price of Gas

Memorial Day weekend is also “Race Weekend.” On Sunday, May 25, the IRL IndyCar Series runs the 92nd Indianapolis 500, and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 will be run in Concord, North Carolina.

With the price of gas topping four bucks a gallon in parts of the country, it’s worth noting a few cost tidbits for the big races.

On May 7, the Canadian Press reported:

• Although the gas is free - part of Sunoco's agreement as NASCAR's official fuel supplier - it doesn't mean car owners and drivers aren't feeling the pain at the pump. "It affects all of us, anybody that's in business," said car owner Richard Childress. "Getting our cars to the racetracks costs a ton in gas money for the haulers. Bringing our people to the tracks, the rising costs of jet fuel. It's very, very expensive to do what we're doing."

• Of course, it's all budgeted for long before the season even starts. And teams aren't affected by the oft-changing fluctuations in fuel costs under the Sunoco deal. Even so, there are critics who complain that NASCAR races are dipping into the national supply. But NASCAR officials claim the amount of fuel being used - less than 175,000 gallons (662,000 litres) per year on the Sprint Cup Series - doesn't come close to the 366 million gallons (1,385 million litres) that Americans average in daily usage.

• "We're really noticing it in credit card costs," said Jay Frye, general manager of Red Bull Racing. "We're getting bills back for thousands and thousands of dollars in diesel fuel that's needed to get the haulers to the track each week. So every time gas prices go up, it affects our monthly budget because we're paying a bigger gas bill than we did last month." With diesel fuel now over $4.00 a gallon ($1.05 per litre), and each hauler holding roughly 300 gallons (1,135 litres), fill-ups now cost more than $1,200.

On April 24, USA Today noted:

• Virginia Commonwealth professor Michael Pitts, who teaches a Business of NASCAR class, estimates traveling round-trip from team hub Charlotte to all 36 races would rack up more than 55,000 miles annually. Toss in another few thousand miles for testing sessions, and it's likely teams will spend several thousand more to fuel diesel-powered 18-wheelers. "Higher fuel prices are affecting NASCAR and our teams like everybody else in America," spokesman Ramsey Poston says. "We move many people and equipment across the country each week."

A May 21 piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted:

• As the fans and tracks are hit by rising costs, so are the teams.

The average cost of diesel fuel nationwide has increased to almost $4.50 per gallon, up $1.70 from a year ago, according to U.S. Energy Department statistics.

Imagine a NASCAR team's transporter rolling down the road to 38 races annually, including three in California, a 1,000-gallon trek. Then throw in the open tests around the country and private testing at places not on the Cup schedule.

So, most everyone is feeling the energy cost squeeze.

By the way, if anyone cares, I’m rooting for Jeff Gordon to win the Coca-Cola 600 and Danica Patrick to take the Indianapolis 500.

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