NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona
January 13, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We mentioned earlier today that we would probably bring Mike, Robin and John back in after the afternoon drafting session as well as giving them time after the test today to gather some additional information and decide then if there were going to be any changes made for tomorrow's test. So at this time I'd like to turn it over to John and Robin to talk a little bit about their thought process after today's practice and going into tomorrow's final day of practice here at Preseason Thunder.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: To bring everybody up to speed, I think we've had another good day of testing here. I think as the teams have worked on it, even though we gave them some more plate back, but it shows that the cars can actually handle that type of speed. We feel like that the things that we're learning here are things that we'll be able to apply towards our baseline when we come back for Speed Weeks. We're not done yet. We're going to continue to work on aero packages and plate sizes and all types of things from now until the day we sign back in here at Daytona. So John is going to bring you up to speed on our changes for tomorrow as we continue with our test. John?
JOHN DARBY: Yeah, for tomorrow we've just kind of followed suit and the same path that we've been working on all weekend, and it's some‑‑ it's actually looking at some different configurations of radiator grille openings. Tomorrow they'll close up a portion of the bottom of the grille opening. We worked on the sides a little bit today. There was some value there, but it seems like there may be even be some more value on the bottom side of the grille.
We're, again, going to reduce radiator pressure another step, if you will, which is about four pounds. We wanted ‑‑ some of these things that we learned in today's draft at 1:00 have helped point us in that type of a direction, understanding what water temperatures run and radiator pressures and cooling system pressures do in an old school or a conventional style of draft and trying to install those parameters into the race cars so that it becomes maybe a preferred way of getting around the racetrack.
And just to keep a lot of the engine builders a little calmer, we'll probably pull‑‑ we are going to pull the plate back to where we started yesterday with it, not so much in regards to the speeds. I think the one thing that was shown today is the cars, the aero package that we have on them, as well as the drivers, the speeds are not as big of an issue as what the engine RPM is. We can fix that very effectively and very quickly just by going back to yesterday's plate. So we'll be at a 29/32 plate again tomorrow.
Q. John actually just kind of answered my question, which was about the speeds. Gordon was in here and he thought he was comfortable 20 miles an hour faster qualifying and even more so‑‑ not 20 miles an hour in the pack. The three who have been through here at over 200 miles per hour, that's traditionally been a taboo number. Where do you think you'll end up?
JOHN DARBY: We'll still end up over 200 miles an hour. We'd like to stay as close to that mark as we can. Probably the last four or five plate races we've been in a range of 200 to 203 miles an hour, maybe not a consistent, every lap speed, but we've seen those speeds, followed by‑‑ we've done a lot of wind tunnel work over the winter and have effectively brought the liftoff speed of the cars up, which is good. It keeps them‑‑ helps keep them down.
If we were to put a target mark, it would probably be right at 200 for our race speed, which the drivers like. Obviously the excitement level of 200 miles an hour is always present for the fans, but a lot of the work we've done is to try to close the delta between a conventional draft and a two‑car push. And what's become very apparent very quickly is that as we get into a little bit of the higher speeds of racing, that helps us greatly. Last year it was a seven‑mile‑an‑hour difference, we've more than knocked that in half just in a couple of days quickly. That's what we'd like to continue to work on.
Q. I asked Jeff Gordon about just taking the restrictor plates off for qualifying, just letting them run, just for the show of it. Any thought about that?
JOHN DARBY: Well, what I can tell you is when we were here for a day in November, we experimented with some larger plates, not removing them, but just some larger plates. At an inch and a quarter plate, which we tried in November, it instantly put the engine so far over its RPM limits, even at what we would normally see at an open track, that it would put the teams in a situation where they would have to build specialized engines and everything for qualifying again, and obviously we don't want to do that.
But we were able to generate some qualifying laps, over 200 miles an hour, but it's not as easy as it sounds. It's not just replacing a restrictor plate to put up a big speed. The faster the cars go, the chassis has to change with it. So it's a tremendous amount of work. What we feel good about, and it's attributed most to the new spoiler that's on the car here, the small spoiler, where we've affected the speeds of the car the most is in the single‑car laps. So we didn't like pole speeds at 180 at tracks like Daytona and Talladega, and you won't see those. I think a fair prediction for the pole is going to be somewhere around 194, 195 miles an hour, which is back in the respectable rage. So we can do all that, and we've accomplished that with the smaller spoiler, but still, not having to go into the toolbox of upsetting the team so much that there's a complete overhaul from qualifying to race.
Q. Are you guys going to make any sort of request that they try to draft in a pack again tomorrow?
JOHN DARBY: We might. I think when we get in there in the morning we'll see what's left in the garages for inventory of teams. A lot of schedules are starting to come into play. We'll see who's left.
I know after we did today's drafting session, there was still a lot of excitement, amongst a lot of the other drivers to where they actually did try to formulate their own draft session later on in the afternoon. But yeah, if it seems attractive, we'll certainly entertain putting that together.
Q. Jeff Gordon was saying that when the initial drafting pack at 1:00 p.m., it was a little wilder than he thought. As you guys thought, was it a good simulation of race conditions where they got after it and were aggressive and were you pleased with how they handled the speeds and the conditions?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, I think we were pleased with that. It's like anything, I think when you get to these first drafting sessions of now at least we get the test, but Speed Weeks and others, it always took a while for the drivers to get more comfortable and get down in the cars, and with the big aero changes that we've made, the cars are going to move around a lot, a lot more than they have in the past.
But I think that things settle down pretty good, and I know that‑‑ I'll let John add to it, but we were pretty pleased with what we saw during that one session.
JOHN DARBY: Knowing it's a test and there wasn't any points or money up on the board, it just looked like 24 guys having a hell of a lot of fun out there, and that's kind of what they reflected to us when they got back in the garage.
Q. Is there any information that you gleaned from the EFI, like data, that helps you make those decisions and/or like after the Daytona 500 will you have a set of information, more information after that, that can relate to these decisions?
JOHN DARBY: Absolutely, and I think we've already put the new resource into play for us. Obviously ECU has the capabilities of recording live data, and we can sample that at any speed selection we want. We can sample it at the beginning of a lap, the middle or the end or the whole lap. So the EFI system allows us a lot of flexibility, and especially in a lot of areas that we never had before, and I lot of that is data collection.
Like we spoke of earlier today, the teams and NASCAR both have a value in the same data in a lot of these situations. We have tapped that. We've downloaded a lot of ECUs and looked at a lot of information. When we come back to race, there will even be some extra channels added out of the things we can watch to help for future decisions.
Obviously it's our responsibility to manage all of this, to make sure that the Daytona 500 is one of the best ones ever. But in doing that, as a regulatory body, we've got to make sure that the same 43 cars that start the race finish the race is all. We're not here to put the teams in a bad way or to cause them mechanical problems. All of that data helps us make those decisions correctly so that that doesn't happen.
Q. Can you review the fin changes? Have there been any fin changes since we came here? Just review that, please.
JOHN DARBY: If you're talking about the rear window fins, I'm assuming? Yes, up until Speed Weeks, that fin was just three inches tall from where it started at the back of the roof down the back window and then a consistent three inches along the deck lid. It's hard to describe the fin today in size because it's not a consistent height all the way across it. It has a dedicated contour shape.
But to try to give you an idea to make it simple, it's approximately three and a half inches tall where it starts at the roof and three and a half inches tall back at where it ends at the spoiler. But if you look closely at the area where the bottom of the rear window meets of the front of the deck lid, that's been filled in in more of a contoured shape. It's about‑‑ yeah, it's almost five inches tall right in that V. So there's some pretty good square area that's been added to it. That rear window fin is one of the components on the car that greatly affects liftoff speeds as the car starts to rotate. So there's a lot of value there to us.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN DARBY: Well, a lot of our information‑‑ we had our information that we got late and brought some template shapes for the teams to fabricate once they got here because of the time we were done with the project everybody was pretty much loaded up and headed this way.
Q. John, you mentioned the fact that you downloaded some information from the ECUs. How is that accomplished? This is kind of educating Godwin as we go along here heading into Speed Weeks.
JOHN DARBY: There's an actual NASCAR data port on the side of the ECU that our inspectors simply walk up and plug into just like the teams would walk up and plug into their data port and download a file, much like you would off of a memory stick or off the internet or anything else.
Q. John, in your discussion earlier about the taking a look at using the larger plate during the previous test, could NASCAR decide to do‑‑ is it possible we could see a larger plate used strictly for qualifying only this season?
JOHN DARBY: Well, that's where I was headed the question before. If it was simple as just changing a plate, yes, that would be probable. But as cars go faster, they travel more, they get closer to the racetrack. So it's not just a matter of changing a plate. The teams would have to go back and look at different springs, different shocks, how the steering geometry changes as it settles closer to the racetrack, and all of the preventative things that they do to keep the race car from bottoming out on the racetrack.
That's what gets complicated about it, you know. Had the small spoiler not been as beneficial as it has been to the single‑car laps, we probably would have investigated some of that stuff to get back into the 190s for qualifying speeds, but the aero reduction of drag, right, with the small spoiler and everything has accomplished that for us, so we're feeling pretty good about that.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
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