NASCAR: Will Gas Shortages Have Devastating Impact on This Year’s Races?

by Matthew Wilson

Could NASCAR soon be hitting empty? A recent gas shortage may have long-reaching effects and could potentially affect the sport.

NASCAR has plenty of races left on its schedule for the season. The next races in the Xfinity and Cup series will be on May 15 and 16th at the Dover International Speedway in Delaware. It remains to be seen whether a gas shortage could affect those races or future events.

Currently, a pipeline shutdown has caused gas shortages across the Southeast and East Coast. On May 7, hackers hit Colonial Pipeline with a ransomware attack. This effectively caused a digital freeze on the pipeline. Hackers encrypted the pipeline’s data and networks. They demanded a large sum to unfreeze the data.

The Colonial Pipeline is an important infrastructure in the gas and oil industry on the East Coast. It runs almost 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey. The pipeline is responsible for carrying more than 100 million gallons of fuel a day. Currently, states are already feeling the effects on a local level. According to New York Post, an estimated 7.6 percent of gas stations in Virginia are without gas. Likewise, North Carolina has declared a state of emergency. Colonial transports around 45% of all fuel for the East Coast.

How Will NASCAR Be Affected?

So the big question is how will NASCAR be affected by the gas shortage? In 2015, the Daytona 500 used an estimated 5,375 gallons during the race. That’s a lot of fuel for an event when some everyday drivers are trying to find even a gallon of gas right now.

Since 2004, NASCAR has officially partnered with Sunoco for all its gas needs. The sport uses a special Sunoco Green E15 in all of its vehicles. That fuel is a 98 octane, unleaded fuel blend. It was specifically engineered for high-performance engines and race cars.

It is unknown if the pipeline shutdown will affect the production of this special fuel. But some Sunoco gas stations have reportedly run out of fuel or are experiencing increased demand. This isn’t the first time a fuel shortage could affect NASCAR.

Back in the 1970s, a national fuel shortage almost shut down the sport. The government mandated NASCAR’s cancellation. But organizers and teams pushed back and finally reached a compromise, agreeing to reduce fuel consumption by 30 percent. During that season, races were shortened by 10 percent and teams had fewer practice days as well.

Finally, the fuel shortage ended and NASCAR returned to normal. But the sport did make new regulations to engine size as a result. Reportedly, Colonial Pipeline is working to get back up and running. They estimate production might resume by the end of this week. So it remains to be seen if NASCAR will have to do anything as drastic in the near future.