Tag Archives: NASCAR

Shifting Gears: Rule change going into Pocono Raceway

11 Jun

At the halfway point of the Sprint Cup Series regular season, NASCAR teams competing at Pocono Raceway – known as the “Tricky Triangle” – will test the impact of new freedom they’ve been given when it comes to transmission gear ratios. In the realm of gear ratios, whether you want one that is higher (1.1:1 as opposed to 1.5:1) or lower (1.7:1 as opposed to 1.4:1) depends on what kind of track you’re running.

A lower gear ratio allows for more acceleration. This is what comes in handy when you want to put the pedal to the metal as the stoplight turns green. Or, if you drive a race car for a living, more acceleration is what you want during a restart. It’s also helpful when you’re on short tracks, when you’re constantly slowing down to turn and then speeding back up on the straightaways. The drawback to the increase in torque that comes with a lower gear ratio, however, is worse fuel economy and a lower top-end speed. The latter isn’t as much of an issue on a short track, but fuel economy is always an issue, and it certainly has been prominent in the sport lately.

A higher gear ratio, on the other hand, gives you a higher top speed and better fuel economy. You want this kind of setup on superspeedways like Daytona, where you’ve got extensive straightaways and time to get all the way up to your max speed.

Keeping those things in mind, here’s the official rule change from NASCAR, and further down is the Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby on how this relates specifically to Pocono.

More Shifting Now Available At Pocono: Gear Ratio Changes
For practice, qualifying and the race, all competitors must compete with transmission gear ratios as follows: 1st gear optional; 2nd gear 1.70:1 or greater (1.699 or less will not be permitted); 3rd gear 1.14:1 or greater (1.139 or less will not be permitted); 4th gear must remain 1.00:1. Overdrive ratios will not be permitted.
This is an addendum to the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book which states: Transmission gear ratios between 1.00:1 and 1.28:1 will not be permitted for the remaining forward transmission gears except road course Events. Overdrive gears will not be permitted.
“There has been some confusion that shifting was not allowed at Pocono, and that isn’t true. The real reason shifting stopped at Pocono was because gear ratios weren’t compatible for shifting. Over the last few years, teams have done it with limited success but not on a consistent basis.
So, what we did was change transmission gear ratios to make it easier on engines and give teams a better opportunity to use third gear and shift. Primarily it’s in an effort to allow the drivers to maximize the RPM on each of the three straightaways.
When you look at the race track, you instantly see the issue that they’re faced with. The frontstretch is more than 3,700 feet [3,740], the backstretch or the Long Pond Straight is 3,000 [3,055] feet and the short straightaway between the Tunnel Turn and Turn 3 is only 1,780 feet. So consequently [there will be] a straightaway that you don’t get anywhere near your maximum potential RPM. This is all done in an effort to try to even those three straightaways out in the RPM that the engine will attain.”

Understatement of the Century

8 Jun

Here it is: “NASCAR teams come well-prepared.”

This past weekend at Kansas Speedway, I took a tour of Jeff Burton’s No. 31 team hauler. I had never been in one of these monstrous vehicles before, so suffice it to say I was impressed. The gentleman who showed me around opened cabinet after cabinet of car parts and pieces, all labeled and organized. Stunned, I commented jokingly, “So basically you’ve got spare parts to build a whole other car here.”

Sliding back a portion of the ceiling, he responded, “Well, there’s actually that too.” Above our heads was a whole car, the backup that the team brings along to each track in case something goes awry with the main one prior to the pre-race inspection.

One of the more interesting pieces I learned of was the shock dyno. The team could build and test out the suspension components right there in the trailer, on a fairly small, innocuous-looking piece of machinery. I was told they had a spare engine tucked away somewhere too, and up around the corner was a lounge equipped with TVs and computers so the crew chief and engineers could strategize together.

The team’s public relations lady – who was a little busy since the news was just breaking about team owner Richard Childress punching driver Kyle Busch – summed nicely the whole setup.

“It’s basically like the office on wheels,” she said. “Anything the guys need to fix the car, replace parts on the car, there’s everything on here.”


On Track: Pit road

5 Jun

Everyone looked a little toasty Saturday morning, as the sun beat down to the tune of 95-plus degrees at Kansas Speedway. Today, for the Sprint Cup Series race, figures to be just as steamy. Taking the brunt of the heat (outside of the fans, of course) are the members of pit crews. I’ve got to hand it to them for their efforts.

Yesterday I stood behind the pit stalls, about 10 feet removed from the guys preparing tires, testing impact wrenches, readying 11.5 gallon, 91-pound gas cans, and surveying other equipment, including several computers that were set up on top of the massive “toolbox” – understatement of the year – that each team worked out of. The soundtrack to this was “Ain’t Goin’ Down Til the Sun Comes Up.”

Before yesterday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250, it felt relaxed on pit road. I couldn’t wait to see the crews in action once the race started, and they did not disappoint. It was cool to be able to tell when a certain car was about to pit, because the team would suddenly begin moving about, all the members moving around at the same time, but somehow not in the way of each other.

When a team’s car got ready to come into the pits, crew members clad in firesuits, gloves, kneepads and helmets stood on the wall and got in a ready stance – almost like a defender on a basketball court, except these guys held massive tires, equally large gas tanks, jacks or impact wrenches.

As the team’s car decelerated impossibly quickly to 45 miles per hour, the driver’s crew members leaped over the wall, and the truck squealed to a stop. Every time, it looked like it would run right over the guys waiting to fill it with gas or change its tires.