NASCAR Media Conference
January 18, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition for NASCAR, and Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby. Robin, if you could just give your perspective, I know we were rained out yesterday, but how is everything looking so far?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: You know, you walk around and you talk to the teams, and really they're busy and they're working. So you know, you get a thumbs up, and that's about the‑‑ from me, that's been about the length of the conversations from most of them. They'll continue to work on it, and I think, like in any test, teams will leave out of here, and some will be happy and some will be in the middle of the road and then you'll have a couple of sad ones as they go back and go to work on their equipment again.
So far it's been uneventful, knock on wood, and it looks like there are some teams out there maybe working on some durability and some things. I know the 11 car is well over 200 laps in so far today, and there's some other ones that are approaching 100 laps, so it looks to be going pretty good so far.
THE MODERATOR: And John, from your perspective, how are things looking for you?
JOHN DARBY: It's definitely just another step in the launch of the Generation 6 car. But there's probably more cars here today that I'll term as real race cars with full manufacturer's steel bodies and the correct components, deck lids, hoods, and everything else that goes with it. For a lot of the teams, the test is probably more real, real‑life than what some of our previous tests here have been. Other than that, not a lot has changed.
I think from the rules package‑wise and specification for the cars, all of that is pretty much settled down. We had most of that dialed in from our previous test here in December, so everybody has taken those specifications and going forward with them and just trying to do the best they can now as we get ready to start into the real season.
Q. Robin, you mentioned a lot of teams are working on durability, or at least some are. Does it feel good to see that these cars are holding up? I imagine you figured they would, but does it give you any peace of mind to see that they're doing that well?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, and John could probably add to this, but the durability part is because of the rear‑axle camber that we've given the teams, the latitude to work in, which helps the car grip. With that being said new and those numbers new to the garage area, those parameters, you know, those guys are making sure that that part of it‑‑ it can go 600 miles or more. It's nice to see that they put that effort into that with one whole race team and do that and probably others are working on other things.
Q. For either one of you, both of you talked about what the teams are telling you and what you're seeing from the teams out there as far as whether they're happy or sad or whatever. What do you guys see? Do you get the impression that this car is going to be better, that it's going to be racier, that teams are going to be able to work more with it and do more things with it, or will you not know that until we actually get on the track and get 43 of them out there racing?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, we know where the car was last year, where last year's car was, and some of the things, the input that we've gotten about aerodynamics and how cars are around each other, we set out to make a car better than that, and we have given more under the underbody to work with, more area, we've extended the splitters a little bit, so they should react a little bit better in the draft. And if you've noticed, the body is a little bit different shape, so it should react a little bit different in the air.
Our goal was to start better than we left the last car, and we do have better numbers on the car, and I think the drivers' confidence that they can hustle the car a little bit more will be there with this car once they get their setups fine‑tuned. John can add to that, I think.
JOHN DARBY: Yeah, for me, I've got to tell you, I'm like every other race fan in the world, I've been jacked up about this new car since we started putting it on paper and watching it develop has been even more fun. But part of that was I had my list, also, of everything that I didn't really like about the Gen‑5 car and things that I wished we could change, and some of those changes, they're just not practical to do in the middle of a run of a style of car because it just creates too much chaos.
So when we started putting all the parts and pieces together for the Gen‑6 car, it was time to look at introducing a lot of those things, and with the help of our engineers at the tech center and a lot of just bull sessions and talks and comparing notes and everything, there's so many things that have changed. Now, obviously the appearance of the Generation‑6 car is one of the best we've ever had, and that's probably the most visible change. But when I look at the list of things that changed in addition to that, Robin spoke to rear‑axle camber and increasing that, we weren't using but half of the rear tires on the other car, the fact that the weight of the cars has been reduced by 150 pounds, some of the new spindle designs that have been introduced by the teams, there's just a whole list of things, and all of those were in an effort to close up the competition a little. I don't know if we necessarily need to do too much of that, but at least in doing that we approached it from a different direction.
We put more toolbox drawers full of tools back in the crew chiefs' hands. There's more things for them to work with, to adjust with, to move around, to try and experiment with. So when you come to a test like this one or the one in December, both of them, and you see somebody doing a durability run, that's because of a lot of the other changes that probably kind of fell by the wayside or haven't been talked about a lot. But there's a whole list of goodies now that everybody is playing with and experimenting with, changing the mousetrap just a little bit.
But from leaving last year's car and working on this new one, there's enough that's different and changes, and a lot of them have all been pointed to making life easier and more adjustable for the guys in the garage as well as enhancing the actual performance of the car on the racetrack.
Yeah, you ask what we think of a test, I'm not a big testing fan, there's a lot of tests that are like watching paint dry, right, but all of the tests for this car have just been fun and exciting to go to because of all of those things. Working with the teams and hearing what they're doing with them and the progress they're making.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Not all tests have been fun. We've had a few bad ones along the way, too.
Q. A couple of questions: First, since a lot of teams had time to go through the new laser tech, are most of the cars fairly legal as far as that kind of tech template is concerned?
JOHN DARBY: Yeah. I'll refrain from calling it a template because it's not, and it gets people confused that it relates to the bodies of the car, which it does not. But the laser platform through its development has been something to obviously upgrade the level of inspection technology in the garage, but more importantly I think than upgrading it, it's to help showcase some of the technology that's out there and that's used every day by the teams and NASCAR both.
There's a lot of times we're criticized for being a little bit prehistoric or doing the dinosaur walk too long on some things, and the sad part of all of that is there's probably more technology being used in NASCAR racing than in most forms, if not all forms, of motorsports. It's just not flaunted at the racetrack during the race.
When you look at what it takes to build a car and design one, test it and put it on the racetrack from either side, from the race teams or NASCAR's, when you're talking about wind tunnels and computer simulation programs and seven‑post shaker rigs and shock dynos and engine dynos and AVL dynos and all that stuff that goes into play to bring a car from the steel rack to the racetrack, it's incredible.
So we introduced a lot of that into our inspection process, but again, it was back at home. It was where nobody could see it. We've been ROMER arming cars at the R & D Center since the inception of the Generation‑5 car. The laser platform is a way to try to grab a big piece of a lot of that technology and make it mobile, because most of the technologies that we use, one of the drawbacks is it's really, really hard to mobilize them. It's hard to find that technology that you can practically put in place, hauling it up‑and‑down the road 40 weeks a year on the back of a tractor trailer, unload it, and have any kind of consistent type of result.
Through the effort of a lot of our officials and some help from our engineers and IT people, we've finally reached that point, and the laser platform is something that we feel really good ‑‑ we're excited about that, as well as a lot of the teams have adapted to it, as well. It's going to be very accurate, it's going to be very consistent. It doesn't change the technical inspection procedure much. It's just it re‑‑ one unit is replacing probably 15 or 20 mechanical hand‑held gauges that we used to use in the past.
We had it here just for the use of the teams. To your point, there was many cars that came across it, and it's like anything else; if we're off now, it's a few thousandths here or a few thousandths there. It's numbers that for all practical purposes aren't even worth arguing about. That made everybody feel good, as well as our guys who have been working so hard on putting that piece together.
Q. Was there any consideration of extending the test to Saturday or of coming back at another time?
JOHN DARBY: Do you want to be here tomorrow? Okay, that's an easy question to answer.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN DARBY: No, a lot of it is just in respect to the teams. There's some teams that would test every day that they can. But this is a NASCAR organized test, so there's a lot of things that go into that. It's knowing that the teams are trying to catch up building cars and that their shop time is very valuable to them. It's knowing that everybody goes back into the field for real in 40 days or whatever it is. So that doesn't leave a lot of time left.
You know, there's a thousand guys out there working right now that got families that need a couple of weekends at home, and if they can get another few hours into the shop instead of being somewhere at a racetrack, it's not the worst thing in the world.
When this test was scheduled, we talked to a lot of the teams and promised them or at least told them we would do what we could do to keep it away from the fact to help preserve that for them, and that's what we're doing.
Q. Biffle said when the sun goes down he's expecting 27‑second laps. Are the speeds where you want them to be? Are you comfortable with what the speeds are? And do you anticipate that this will help with side‑by‑side racing?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The sun going down? No, I mean, the speeds are what they are. We're still not quite where we were the last test, and I think that's based on the fact that the cars are more than likely closer to what really‑‑ they'll really race. So speeds are good, and I think John‑‑ has John explained, the things that we've given back to the teams to work on are all an effort for the teams to have more tools to compete better. Some of the things that we've worked on, where we get our downforce, how we evacuate air from up under the car if a team chooses to do so with different ductwork and cooling hoses and so forth, that's all in an effort to make the cars run a little bit better in groups or in packs.
We put our best foot forward, and the goal was to be better than we were a year ago, and I think we've achieved that. But you can't‑‑ we're not going to lead with our chin here, but we know that we've worked hard, we know that we've made gains, we know the car is better than the last car. There's more drivers out there that like this car better than the last car, and when you put all of those things together, it should equate out to be better racing.
Q. After the Chrysler auto group when Dodge pulled out, is there any interest from foreign manufacturers to join the NASCAR business in Sprint Cup, and after one year with the fuel injection, is the injection up changed or is there any update from the technical supplier or manufacturer?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Occasionally we'll get a cold call from another manufacturer, and we'll sit down and talk to them. You know, you'll get them every now and then and talk and explain how things work and what our garage area is and how it exists and what we expect out of manufacturers that come in.
But it remains to be seen if‑‑ I'm sure there's some that are taking a serious look moving forward, but there shouldn't be anything new for the next foreseeable future, say next year or two.
And full injection, no changes, right?
JOHN DARBY: The basic system and hard parts pretty much remain the same. There's been some refinements in a few areas, basically to help resolve a couple of the small, small issues we had early on last year with power‑control relays and things of those natures. The teams have learned a lot about the value of good housekeeping with wiring harnesses and things.
But as far as any rule revisions or NASCAR changes to the system, no.
Through the development of the system, I don't know what the exact number is, but we're probably on our 11th or 12th software revision, some that were requested by NASCAR just to either close up windows or to add additional components that we requested, and a lot of them, like any software program that's new, you find a bug every now and then that McLaren has gone in and cleaned up and revised the software, whether to make it more user friendly or more bulletproof.
The basic system and the conversion of that whole process that we went through last year was about as seamless of a transition as I think anybody could ever have hoped for, which is okay.
Q. Can you talk about what you'll do with the information you get from today before we see you at Daytona, obviously?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Really I think it's more on the feedback that we get from our teams. We have a call with them every week, you know, and it's been‑‑ the questions have been on the decline. But after a test like this, I'm sure there will be some discussions moving forward.
But we're just waiting for those guys to build more cars and to work on their stuff, and they'll give us some feedback on what they felt that they‑‑ that the car did‑‑ what it did for them today. We'll wait and see.
Q. John, you kind of alluded to it, but that cambered rear end and the advantages that provided, I've heard some teams and crew chiefs talk about how that's going to change the game. Can you put that in layman's terms, explain what's different about it, what it is and how it's different from the previous iteration of the car?
JOHN DARBY: Camber is a horizontal tilt of a wheel assembly, okay. If you look at Daytona, for example, and just remember what you've seen, the front wheels look like they're pretty much straight up‑and‑down, right, versus going to Martinsville, and you go, oh, my God, what happened to the cars. The wheel looks like it's going to fall off. That's camber when you move in and out. It's a very adjustable component on the front of all the cars and has been for years. When the radial tire was introduced, the value of camber on the rear axle also started becoming an experimentation, to understand it.
Back in the '90s, right, as the teams learned that, they showed up at Martinsville with a whole bunch of rear camber, and half a dozen cars dropped out of the race with broken axles‑‑
ROBIN PEMBERTON: A dozen and a half.
JOHN DARBY: A dozen and a half because the technology of doing all that probably wasn't researched and refined as well as it should. So NASCAR put a rule in that said you could only have 1.8 degrees of camber, which is a measurement for how much that wheel is tilted in.
Today the materials are better, the engineering is better, the ability to make all of that happen without breaking parts is extremely better. So realizing how much of the unused tire or how much of the tire that we weren't maximizing or optimizing, part of one of the rule changes for the new car is that they're allowed three‑and‑a‑half degrees of rear camber now, so the right rear specifically you'll see leaned in more at the top, okay.
That puts a lot of stress and strain still on that axle shaft, so one of the‑‑ Robin mentioned the 11 car running a durability test, so they've got some components that they feel pretty good about, and the final proof is to see how many miles it'll go without having trouble and wearing out, and that's obviously what they're doing today.
And teams do that in a lot of different ways. They can simulate that type of loading and rigs on a machine right at their shop. A lot of teams like to just simply put the miles on the car to get a really good picture of all of that.
But that's it in a nutshell.
I don't know if you had the opportunity to look at any of the footage from Daytona testing, but I know our 78 team gave some pretty cool footage to television to air, and if you watch the tire, especially when it went in the corner, it's incredible how much those tires move when they're under load in a corner. Adding camber or tilting the wheel in more on the racetrack to kind of match the banking of the turns helps stabilize that load and stabilize that tire so the footprint stays flatter on the racetrack.
Q. Just a follow‑up to that question, what was the maximum camber allowance last year?
JOHN DARBY: 1.8 degrees?
Q. So it's gone up 1.2 degrees?
JOHN DARBY: 1.7 by my math, but‑‑
Q. Okay, whatever. Thank you.
JOHN DARBY: Almost double. Can we say that?
Q. Now that you've had kind of a week to evaluate last weekend, are you considering any rule changes for the speedway package?
JOHN DARBY: Hell no, I wouldn't change nothing. I just can't wait to get back there.
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