Martinsville Setup

Welcome to the NASCAR version of a cage fight. 40 cars locked in a half mile. Most of us would call this gridlock, rush hour, or road rage in the making. The drivers call it a race.

Austin has taken on the paper clip 8 different times between truck series and Cup series. Trucks he averaged an 11th place finish and Cup is an average 22nd place finish. When you put all that together, he holds an average of 17th place.

This year Austin maintains a finish 8 spots above his normal average in the Cup series. 17 – 8 gives us a promising 9th place finish. A top 10 anywhere is a noteworthy accomplishment, here… It could be considered amazing.

The dismal finish at Auto Club left media talking, I want to tell you, “Do not buy what they are selling.” They have been trying for weeks to publicize a “division” or “rift” between Slugger & Austin. Austin has time and again said it doesn’t exist and so has Slugger. Why the outburst? Things are gonna happen in battle and things will be said in battle. That’s how it is!

The media is trying to develop a story to talk about on Sunday, they don’t need to! The action on track is more amazing than they give it credit for. Ignore the talking heads, forget what they say. I do not transcribe these heated moments because they are more or less private matters. Imagine every time you got in a fight with your significant other, the media jumping in and making it public for all to see. The world would think you’re ready for divorce, even though it was a quick spat that didn’t even require apology from either party.

That is what the media is selling you. Don’t buy it. On the radio these guys joke and laugh. They encourage each other, yes they even have some little fights. The promising thing is after the race. If you look at the tweets after Fontana, Austin was in a good mood and even asked Whitney if she could bake him chocolate chip cookies… cause he likes to eat.

If Austin was truly mad about the race, I doubt an hour later he would be tweeting that. He had every right to be pissed, a jammed gun sucks. Slugger shut him down, told him that it was part of racing and out of their control. It is obvious he accepted that and moved on, that’s all you can do!

Austin has a great team around him, he has a great crew chief and nobody puts more pressure on him than he does. He demands excellence of himself and therefore demands it of his whole team. They are running good, they will win… SOON!

Just don’t buy what the media sells. This is a good team. This is a happy team. It will be a winning team. Enjoy the race, I’ll see you from the box.

Punishments fitting the infraction

Today NASCAR dropped its penalties on Danica & Kyle. While other are upset we have to remember what they are trying to do and what was done to cause this. It’s a matter of intent on both sides.

Danica received a $20,000 fine and 4 race probation from NASCAR for approaching the race surface after a collision with Kasey Kahne left her vehicle incapacitated.  The rule book section  outlines that is a no-go. This was developed after the Stewart/Ward incident at Canandaigua which left Ward dead and Stewart a shell of the racer that he was. The penalty levied against Patrick is in line with past first time offenses. This rule is for her safety, just as the roll cage and seat belts are for her safety.

Next, Kyle Busch was fined $10,000 and given 4 race probation for missing his media availability. Some have incorrectly stated it was for his in-car comments. It was not, we will get there shortly. Kyle missed his media availability after the Xfinity race because he was busy being “too passionate” to talk to media. I consider this inexcusable. Why inexcusable? Drivers, owners, promoters, sponsors, and NASCAR executives have hidden behind Cup drivers in Xfinity being a good thing, that they are selling the series.

If Kyle is truly helping to sell the Xfinity series, he needs to make it to the media center. That is part of his job. In my opinion, every Cup driver that races in the Xfinity series should have to report to the media center, that’s what they are there for according to everyone. If you can’t stomach a loss and going to the media center, you don’t need to be “selling the series.”

A fine of $10,000 means nothing to Kyle, NASCAR’s intent is future compliance, not to hit him so hard he wants nothing to do with the racing. However, I think there is an easier way to send a message without fining a driver. I would make the Cup series team they drive for forfeit their pit selection the following week and hold the driver in their pit stall for 5 minutes, the minimum length of time they would be needed in the media center. If you want future compliance, you make them answer to their car owners and sponsors that way.

If an upset driver goes to the media center and doesn’t want to say anything, that’s fine, they can make themselves look bad. Eventually sponsors and owners will tire of their attitude as will the fans. You can only be so unapproachable before nobody wants to deal with you. That’s the choice they have to make.

As for Kyle’s radio comments, while I loathe him saying the sport is “fixed” I don’t care, let him express himself. Just remember Kyle, lots of people think NASCAR fixed last season for you and the Xfinity races. That’s the fun of the sport, everyone expects themselves or their driver to win every week, if they don’t… Must be rigged. Kyle is just a passionate fan, a fan of himself, but a fan. I have no issue with that.

Finally, Cole Pearn, the crew chief for Martin Truex Jr was looked at for making the remark, “douchy squinty eyes” in regards to Joey Logano. NASCAR should never have wasted a second on this. It was said on Twitter and Pearn even tagged Logano (who he sees every week) in the tweet. That takes more balls that most fans have when talking smack on Twitter. It was said on Twitter, not on the track, not on NASCAR sanctioned frequencies. Sorry, freedom of speech applies. With freedom of speech you get some not so savory comments, but I am good with that too. That is part of life and freedom.

Always remember, the goal behind penalties should be future compliance, not bankrupting the offender or chasing them away. As long as NASCAR keeps that in mind, it’s movin in the right direction.

Thats it for now. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you from the box.

When NASCAR took flight

I want to start off by explaining that I am not an engineer, everything I know I learned from observation of the world around me, reading as much as I could without numbing my brain, watching bit pieces, and by being an adult child and playing. Some of what I write will require you to be a kid and play a little bit if you require demonstration. Finally, if you know more and see something that needs to be corrected or you have an alternate theory, feel free to talk to me. The more we all talk, the more we learn, the more excited we are about the subject.

Many of us remember a few years back when NASCAR came out with the “wing” which quickly failed and lead back to the spoiler. When the wing was on the car, we had cars getting airborne and they never told us why. To the best of my knowledge, nobody in the sport has explained the folly of the wing and the science behind it. This is going to get a little technical but I’ll try to keep it fun and interesting.

One of the first things we have to understand about the mysterious flying cars is aerodynamics. We have downforce that we hear about so much; we have lift that nobody wants to hear; we have drag that is the resistance behind the car; then this mysterious thing called side force which quite literally keeps the car going straight. All of these forces play a roll in flight and racing.

Sideforce and drag are fairly easy to explain. Side force is the amount of air pressure pushing on the side of a vehicle. If you have too much side force on one side of the car it wants to spin. In NASCAR on an oval you want a lot of side force on the right side of your vehicle. The reason for this is that as you turn left, the rear of the car wants to turn right. By applying air pressure to the right side it keeps the car in-line. This air is the difference between spinning in the corner and easily turning through it. The right rear has supports behind the sheet metal to transfer this force to the chassis of the car. Drag is best explained as air weight trapped behind the car. This air has mass and density. It creates a dead zone behind the rear bumper and the car tows this along.

Downforce is the pressure of the air pushing down on the car. As you are going down the road (in the passenger seat) roll down your window, put your hand out in the air flat with the tips of your fingers forward and your wrist as straight back as possible. Now lift your hand from behind the mirror… You will feel air on the top and bottom of your hand. Now, tip your fingers down slightly, you can feel the air on the top of your hand pushing down and your hand wants to plane down. This, is downforce. We like downforce, downforce adds weight to the car and make the tires contact the racing surface better. More pressure, more grip.

Now I want you to lift your fingertips up. Notice how you feel air pressure on the palm of your hand. This, is lift. The air is quite literally lifting your hand. Also, you’ll feel a light pulling sensation on the back of your hand, this is low pressure. When you have low pressure on top and high pressure (lift) on bottom, you achieve flight. The air will actually lift objects this way. That low pressure you feel is essentially drag. It’s turbulent air with a reduced mass/weight.

Put your hand back straight, angle your fingertips in towards the car. You again will feel air along the top and bottom of your hand, but also the outer edge. This is your side force. On the other side of your hand, by the thumb you will feel that low pressure and drag again.

Theres your quick lesson on aerodynamics that we will need for this all to make sense, everybody tracking? Good.

The “wing” which is essentially an elevated, bi-level spoiler was developed for 2 reasons. Number one, NASCAR wanted to appeal to a younger audience, an audience who customize their vehicles with big wings, an audience that is into car performance. Reason 2, it made great downforce for these new, taller, wider, brick shaped vehicles. As I said, we like downforce, it makes cars handle better, it helps put the horsepower to the ground, it helps the front tires steer.

Where did it go wrong? Like in our downforce experiment the leading edge, front, was angled down. It creates great downforce, science says this car should weigh a lot more at 200 mph than standing still.

The problem, as we know, came when these cars turned around. This now turned it into a tiny airplane wing. The leading edge was now higher than the trailing edge, this gave the car lift. Seeing that the car was decelerating, slowing down, this shouldn’t have been enough to lift the car up, surely the car was heavy enough to stay on the ground.

Well, you had multiple things that lead to this. You had a small wing creating lift but you also had a car angled on the banking of the track so the rear of the car was higher than the front. Since the splitter was dragging on the pavement and the rear of the car  was well above the pavement, you now had 160-180 mph wind being channeled under the car. The more the rear end came around, the more it lifted the rear, the more lift was developed. The entire car become a giant wing!

Why didn’t side force keep the car in-line. As the rear end came around, surely there was enough air pressure on this big flat sides to push it back straight. The problem is that while the lower half of the car is straight the upper half taper toward the center of the car. That taper reduced the resistance at the top of the car, thus causing the bottom of the car to lift as there was more pressure at the bottom than at the top.

All this lift just multiplies, the car pivots on the splitter which was the final section of car touching the ground and these cars took off. The roof flaps were rendered totally useless. They work based solely upon air pressure, when there is reduced air pressure above them, they lift up because the air pressure in the cabin of the car is greater than on top of the flap. On the old car, the moment the car got sideways they would deploy, air would track over the decklid (trunk) then hit the flap which stood straight up. This applied downforce right in front of the flap and pushed the car back down.

Sadly, the wing, when turned around created a giant low pressure system behind it. All this drag would disturb the air, but wouldn’t allow sufficient flow to the roof flap to apply downforce. It was just a big mass of turbulent air that pushed the moving air away from the car. It’s biggest downfall was the fact that the “wing” made a perfect wing when spun around backwards. A Boeing 747 weighs 800,000 pounds and takes off at 180 mph. A stock car weighs 3,300 pounds. It doesn’t take much to get it airborne, especially when it’s only defense against that is rendered useless.

Many fans will note, this wasn’t the first wing in NASCAR. So why didn’t that wing on the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona or the 1970 Plymouth Superbird and Charger Daytona meet the same fate? What was the difference? Those cars were said to be impossible to spin.

That wing had its pillars, the pedestals, to the outside of the car. These were tall and wide and generated a ton of side force. Also, as the rear of those cars turned the air channeled over the decklid which was wider and longer and had a concave shape. The decklid acted as a very small spoiler and allowed the dead air, the drag, the low pressure to pass through the giant window wing. The car was also far enough off the track to allow air to pass underneath without generating lift, the side skirts of the current cars made this impossible.

The giant window was achieved by making the top of that spoiler just a little higher than the roof of the car. You had downforce on top of the wing and on top of the decklid. The tiny wing of recent years, the spoiler was actually in the low pressure area behind the roof of the car. It was so close to the decklid that the low pressure couldn’t escape between the decklid and spoiler. The current decklid is also convex, so it creates a low pressure area on the trailing side of it.

All of these things lead to those stock cars taking flight. While in the past the wings seemed ridiculous, the manufacturers had found the sweet spot for their aerodynamic package. NASCAR, in its quest for a new audience and more fans and more money, rushed a flawed design through. The drivers that drove the old wing cars had vehicles that refused to spin out, the drivers that drove the new wing cars, had vehicles who wanted to break the surly bonds of Earth’s gravity. Those guys, the new guys, are some tough S.O.B.’s for controlling these bricks.

I doubt we will see another wing in NASCAR. Neither wing stayed for any extended period of time and the last time was a complete disaster that ended in fans being injured and cars flying when they should have been vacuum sealed to the track.

I hope this was informative, though out of date and a little late, I think we have to look to our past and understand it so that we can learn from it, become better by it, and ultimately develop enough to not make the same mistake again.

Thank you for reading, I welcome any and all reaction to this piece, I’ll see you from the box.

Fontana tear down

The sun comes up on Auto Club Speedway. The truck thunders down some distant highway, carrying the American Ethanol Chevrolets back east. Crewmen and drivers wake up late to the smell of coffee and chocolate chip cookies.

A few short days ago the number 3 skipped along the backstretch, arcing through the turns to take the Pole for the 400 miler. Austin achieved a bar he has not seen in over 2 years of Sprint Cup competition.

Saturday saw a race dominated by the Gibbs Toyotas. In the closing laps as everyone was saving fuel, trouble struck the leaders. The number 2 Rheem Chevy seemingly renewed with vigor coursed into turn 3, easing up the track and scuffing the wall Austin set his sights on the finish line. The numer 18 NOS Toyota made contact with the left rear quarter, straightening the car Austin took the checkered flag and his first victory of the season.

All was set for an amazing Sunday. The cars came to life and the crew sounded happy and excited, hopeful for the day. Through the first 200 miles the American Ethanol car ran in the top 10, holding some of the best lap times of the race. After minute adjustments the car only seemed tight through the center and loose off.

That’s when the wheels seemingly came off the 3 train. After a pit stop Austin was called in, the crew could not get an accurate reading if the gun had properly torqued out a tire. Slugger called Austin down and explained that the chance wasn’t worth it. While in the pits the crew made a small change to bump stops to help the tight entry. Restarting at the tail Austin fought through traffic until the next caution. A quick stop helped them move forward to 12th.

With 2 laps left the caution came out, Austin requested 4 new tires. During the stop, the rear gun failed on the left side. As the 3 car roared into motion, Austin was halted by the radio. Slugger told him to back up. These are the breaks in the season, sometimes you have to pay the piper. Restarting 24th, Austin would pilot the green car to 24th.

Now, I will be the first to say that bad things happen. In the race world there are thousands of components that can fail at any moment, this was just our race. You can yell and scream but parts fail. Nobody wanted a 24th place finish when the day started, but 24th is better than 40th.

The 3 team worked hard all weekend, they ran well every lap. Even stuck in 24th the car had some of the best lap times on track. The first issue with a possible untorqued tire was likely the fault of the air gun failing. It wasn’t caught because it appeared to do its job other than a few lug nuts which could have been human error.

The team can walk away from the weekend thinking about the bad finish or they can look at it like I do, they ran good and were well on their way to the next top 10. Running good and having a bad result is better than running bad and getting a good result. They were able to show speed all weekend. What more could you ask for after a bad luck finish?

Besides, in the end… The hero always gets the girl.

NASCAR: The Fan & Sponsor relationship.

In recent years we have seen a decline in sponsorship in NASCAR. This has led to smaller fields, less drivers, and more Cup drivers stinking up Xfinity events. Big sponsors want big names, because big names sell. Owners want big sponsors because racing costs big time money. So what has changed with sponsorship since the 1960’s? Why is it that a sport who once had the most loyal fans now struggles to find sponsors?

Back in the day a local McDonald’s would sponsor a driver, like Richard Childress. They might throw him some money but would likely throw them food for the weekend. If he ran good and the McDonald’s saw a spike in their business from the weekend, they might sponsor him the next time he was at that track.

Then came corporate sponsorship. Corporations would sponsor a driver for the year. They would track sales week to week depending upon which track they were at and look for sales spikes in those regions. It was the old adage of, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” While we hear this with car manufacturers, it was true for all sponsors.

This period lasted for a few decades. Then came the Internet. Instead of going to establishments we started ordering online. Retailers and sponsors no longer saw more faces coming in their door. Sales spikes are no longer regional. Some of this was fended off by sales of branded NASCAR merchandise. But it only takes so long before companies are no longer seeing returns. It’s not that returns aren’t there, it’s that they aren’t seen.

If you shop at Jimmy Johns because Kevin Harvick has their logo on his car, they don’t know. Maybe they saw an initial spike with their first year of sponsorship. Maybe they find it good association, but what happens if another sport comes along and wants to give them a cheaper alternative?  There’s a chance they will leave, because it’s cheaper. I’m not saying this is going to happen, it’s a hypothetical. However, it can happen.

What separates NASCAR fans from other sports fans? We are loyal to our sponsors. It’s why I still buy Tide. It’s why I will shop at Bass Pro if they get anywhere near me. It’s why I look for Dow products. We all do this.

But do companies know this? Serious question. The last time you bought a NASCAR associated product how did they know? What makes you different from the guy on the other side of the country that just picked that up off the shelf? How do companies know they should sponsor and keep sponsoring drivers in NASCAR?

The answer my friends, we have to do some work. Yes, as fans of this sport WE have to do some work. It’s time that we use technology to our benefit, it’s time we use it to communicate. Yes, we have to tell the companies outright, “Hey I buy because of…” I know, I know. Companies should be able to figure this out for themselves but in this globally connected world with all the data, it’s hard to see.

If we want to see our sport continue, if we want to see it grow again, if we want to stop its decline, we have to take the initiative. Write an email, write a letter, call if you want but start telling companies you support them because they support the sport you love. It pays off in so many ways!

Quick example. At my home track, Road America, the cheese company Sargento sponsors a bridge. The first year NASCAR was there they also sponsored a driver, Tim George Jr who drove the number 21 car for Richard Childress Racing. After that race I emailed Sargento and thanked them for sponsoring the car and the bridge. I told them it was important to me that they supported a sport I love. I received a beautiful letter back from the head of marketing at Sargento thinking me for the feedback and how grateful they were to know that I wrote. Along with that letter, I received 2 coupons, as soon as they were used I got 2 more and after those were used I got 2 more. They were able to tell that their marketing worked. With the coupons they were able to tell that I was true to my word and was picking Sargento cheese over any others.

One more example, a few weeks ago I Tweeted E-Hydrate and thanked them for sponsoring Derrike Cope Racing. Shortly thereafter I logged onto their website and ordered a sample pack of their product. I made sure to let them know that I purchased this, let them know that their marketing worked. They are still sponsoring Derrike even after missing 2 races this year. Other sponsors may have pulled out, E-Hydrate has stayed on. I can only guess this is because they realize without the NASCAR fans their small company wouldn’t be able to get its name out on such a large scale.

All that said, I have a challenge for each and every person who reads this… Do work. Tweet a sponsor. Email a sponsor. Write q sponsor. Let your sponsors know that you choose them because they choose you. If we don’t start now, it’s only a matter of time before NASCAR becomes F1 stock cars, 22 cars, 11 teams, untouchable and unapproachable drivers.

We already have drivers who have become so arrogant that they cannot be bothered with fans. We know who they are. We bitch about them when we stand around at the track. Tell their sponsors that, “Your driver was an ass to me, sponsor someone who is good with fans and I will buy your product.” As fans we have a voice, as consumers we have a very powerful voice. When we use them together, we can change the whole direction of the sport.

Thank you for reading, I’ll see you from the box.

Auto Club set up

Welcome to Fontana, California and the literal home of the “Old West.” With the oldest surface on the NASCAR schedule the drivers will have two handfuls with the new low downforce package in full affect.

Austin Dillon comes into the race with an average 13.5 place finish… 14th to make this all easy for us. He also enters this race averaging 14 positions better than his averages!

In 2014 Austin finished 11th, 2015 he finished 16th. To account for his current trend/momentum we subtract 14 (this year’s average above his career average) from last year’s finish, we get 2nd.

WARNING: more math ahead.

We add 2 + 11 = 13/2 = 6.5 or 7. Add 7 to his Xfinity average of 16, 16 + 7 = 23/2 = 11.5 or 12th position.

So, my projection for this week is 12th position. Every race my projection has been 4 positions off so anywhere between 8th and  16th would be his projected range. This is statistically one of Austin’s best tracks in Cup series.

I think we can all see why he is good here, lack of grip equals an ill handling car. Ill handling cars and tracks lend themselves to better drivers and drivers who are experienced on dirt. Austin seems to have everything going in his favor this week. The track, the car, the team, the trend.

After last week’s projection, engine tuner and all around great guy on the team, Frank Mathalia, challenged me that they go to win and wouldn’t consider a 13th place finish anything more than a loss. I told him any week they outrun my projection I would donate $1 to Pitstops For Hope, a wonderful charity started by RCR crewman Ray Wright. This charity helps fight childhood hunger. Frank Mathalia basically told me to get serious and challenged me to up it to $5/week. I have accepted and at the end of the year if my projection proves better than their finish each week, Frank will match it. You can watch the score tracker on my Twitter in the bio section. This conversation was all had on Twitter. So, it’s somewhere in the Library of Congress now.

Finally I ask that everyone please check out Pitstops For Hope. I do this only to raise awareness for the charity and the childhood hunger they fight. RCR crew members  and several others work with Ray and this amazing charity to help. They have some calendars for the ladies and for guys, we have some amazing raced used stuff. Please feel free to ask myself or Ray any questions or check out their Twitter @pitstopsforhope for information on how to help.

Thank you for reading! I’ll see you from the box.