Tyler Audie rolled down pit road 45 laps into the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway, out of gas and in some trouble. It’s never good when the pit crew has to push the car three pit boxes down the track before it starts driving under its own power again.
The Kyle Beattie Racing team felt like they had a perfect strategy: planning to pit when all the other teams went in. But coming through turn three, Audie ran out of gas. Little did he know, the day’s problems were just beginning.
“When you run out of gas like that, it takes a while for the gas to run from the tank back to the carburetor,” Audie said. “We were cranking the ignition trying to get the fuel pump to start pumping gas to the engine so we could get it fired. No electrical problem there. That problem started after we got off pit road.”
The car is set up with a redundant fuel pump system. When it ran out of fuel, the backup system kicked in. Unfortunately, for Audie, the first pump never shut off. With both pumps drawing power, the engine blew a fuse.
“After we came in and made that pit stop, I was really feeling like the fuse was the issue,” Audie said. “We fixed it and then as soon as we got to turn one it shut off again.”
After going three laps down trying to fix the problem and only having 27 laps to go, Audie’s spotter Chris Osborne and his crew chief decided to make the call to pull out of the race.
“It took them a half a lap to figure out what the issue was,” Osborne said. “Your hands are really tied. You can only do what you can do and at that point in time those guys are working as hard as they can to diagnose the problem and get it fixed.”
Audie wasn’t the only driver to have issues. Multiple cars ran out of gas or were caught up in one of the two major wrecks in the final laps that he missed.
The team planned to sit back and wait to make their move. Anticipating pile ups and issues in the back half of the race, Audie wanted to simply drive a clean race without damaging the car. If he had been able to avoid the late race mess, he would have had a good shot at taking the win.
“We felt like we had a good solid racecar to race our way into the top five and have a good day at the end,” Osborne said. “But a lot of times in the speedway racing, you’re just at the mercy of the guys around you and that was kind of the situation when we came to pit.”
Audie ran as high as ninth place throughout the race before the engine troubles sidelined him. After the car died the second time, he pulled off the track and headed to the garage.
Audie’s father, Jim, was visibly frustrated after the race. He acknowledged that his son had driven very well but blamed the issues on Ilmor Engineering, who makes all of the engines for the ARCA Racing Series.
“The problem I have is that Ilmor Engineering knew this problem existed last year.” Jim said. “But Ilmor failed to share that with any of the other teams. The simple fact of the matter is you know you have a defective product. In anything other than racing, if you present a defective product, you get sued. In racing, that’s considered part of racing because of the extreme challenges of running at those speeds for that length of time.”
Jim also thought part of the reason the team miscalculated how much fuel they had was Ilmor’s fault. Six cars ran out of fuel – all on the 43rd lap. Meanwhile, Ilmor had claimed that their engines could do 52 laps on a single tank of fuel at Talladega.
Pulling out was the best decision, financially, that the team could make. While they still have to figure out what caused the issues and fix it, they avoided the massive pileups that led to three cars being towed away from the garage after the race.
“As early as it was in the game, unfortunately, it was just a little past halfway when we had our issues and there’s no sense in going,” Osborne said. “If you look out here now, it’s a scrapyard out here and that’s what ends up happening at the end of the majority of these speedway races.
Despite the end result, Osborne thought Audie handled the race very well.
“Being patient is a big thing,” Osborne said. “He covered all those bases today and did a really good job. I wish we could’ve been there at the end to race them.