Tuesday, September 27, 2011 09:00
Jimmy Johnson recently said a perfect qualifying lap requires a driver to “commit to the level of grip you hope there is.” In qualifying for the August 2011 Pocono race, teammate Jeff Gordon committed to more grip than was available in Turn Two, slapped the wall and ruined a potential pole-winning run. I raced in only one NASCAR race, the ’93 Southwest Tour race at Sears Point, but I tested numerous NASCAR vehicles, was also a test driver for a tire company, raced for 16 years, so I fully understand what Johnson said. Allow me to try to explain:
The First Lap is the Fastest Lap
For almost all race tires, their first lap is the fastest they will produce. Their second-fastest lap will be the second lap. And so on. Most stabilize around 10 laps, though some will continue a steady decline. There are many reasons for this. One is that tire pressure hits its sweet spot as the tire builds temperature. Increased tire temperature raises air pressure inside the tire. In racing, too much pressure is just as bad as too little pressure. Also, as the rubber compound heats (to use a term favored by tire engineers), it loses its goodness: Too much heat is as bad as too little heat. Even for road-going tires, the best they’ll ever be is when they’re brand new: It’s all downhill from there.
Making the Commitment
Qualifying for my NASCAR race would be the first time I’d experienced brand-new tires on this type of racecar. (On a shoestring budget, I practiced on used tires.) There were almost 20 more cars entered than there were starting spots, so I knew I had to put down a good lap the first time around. I raised my commitment to what I thought was a stupidly high level. I braked far later than I ever had, got off the brakes far sooner, and gassed it far sooner and far harder. The car just drove around the corner. More...
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 08:00
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 08:00
Racing fans, read these last names and tell me their first names:
It you said Bill, Larry, Randy, Junior, Dave and Billy you’d be VERY close but very wrong.
The correct first names for that list are Chase, Brandon, Corey, Robert, Ryan and Chad. They are the sons of Bill Elliott, Larry McReynolds, Randy LaJoie, Junior Johnson, Dave Blaney and Indy 500 pole winner Billy Boat. (If you don’t know their fathers, go to golf.com—you’re on the wrong page.)
These young men—boys, actually, because most are under 21 and some are only 15—are all running the 2011 NASCAR K&N East Series. Expect a few of them, along with some possibly better K&N East drivers, such as Darrell Wallace, Jr., Sergio Perez and Brett Moffit, to show up in the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series over the next three or four years. More...
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 08:00
Air Brazil. Tony Kanaan launched his car over fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves’ Penske Truck Leasing entry in the morning warm up before the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. Kanaan’s KV Racing Dallara suddenly lost its brakes and would have hit the tire barrier at a potentially fatal speed were it not for contact with Castroneves. Castroneves used his Dancing with the Stars footwork in a sprint to see how his childhood chum fared after the crash. Thankfully neither driver was injured. Both teams “pounded leather” to get the backup cars ready. Both were relegated to the tail end of the grid at the start. Amazingly, Kanaan steadily clawed through the field to a podium finish. Castroneves finished a disappointing 17th.
Baltimore Grand Prix: An American Monaco? The reports are universally positive, very positive. Veteran Indy reporter Robin Miller even likes the place. There are bars and restaurants everywhere around the track. Sounds a lot like Monaco, doesn’t it? Miller says, “There are a lot of new fans, happy fans…and drunk fans.” Spectator turnout was very impressive, even for the support races. The drivers say the track is very challenging, but a bit too bumpy in a couple places. Even a Penske truck driver liked just about everything…except the logistics. Getting in and out of the race complex was “a nightmare.” When it’s all said and done, most everyone says this event is a keeper.
What’s wrong with this picture? If the Kanaan/Castroneves incident wasn’t enough to give you a chill, check out the lead photo above. What was race control thinking? Sending a support vehicle with race traffic flow is always dangerous…but against the flow? That’s downright stupid. There’s a toll free number they could have called: 1-800-BADMOVE More...
Thursday, September 1, 2011 08:00
The Worst Kept Secret in Racing Danica will race a “tin top” full time in 2012. She will race a full Nationwide schedule with JR Motorports and a 10-12 race set with Stewart Haas. No question, she has done a brilliant job building her brand. Many insiders say she is one of the highest paid female athletes in the world…presumably behind tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Robin Miller is sad to see her leave IndyCar but predicts she will do well in NASCAR. He quickly points out that although Danica came up through the open wheel ranks in Formula Ford, Atlantics and IndyCar, her best results have come on ovals. And the “good old boys” will be in for a surprise if they start pushing “the little lady” around. She has shown she is not afraid of pushing back behind the wheel or in the pits.
Defining the meaning of the word “reckless” Kyle Busch appeared in court last Tuesday for his Lexus LFA test run. The whole affair reminds me of Bill Clinton’s argument on the meaning of “is.” In this case, Busch’s attorney argued that the Shrub was not reckless. At 128, Busch, a trained racecar driver, was in complete control of the car…hardly reckless your honor. Busch was fined a grand, put on probation for a year and is a hitchhiker for the next 45 days on North Carolina highways. However, the busted Busch will keep racing because NASCAR does not require a valid driver’s license to race.
Carpentier’s crew chief fined? C’mon NASCAR Jerry Baxter, Patrick Carpentier’s crew chief, was fined five grand and put on probation for pulling Steven Wallace’s hair after the Montreal Nationwide race. Baxter’s harmless act of disdain for Wallace’s cockiness was a fitting and long overdue admonishment according to many in the garage area. Remember your third grade teacher grabbing misbehaving kids by the ear right out of their desks? Same deal here. Wallace got off easy as I am sure more than a few Canadian fans would have loved to take Wallace out behind the shed for a taste of some Canuk Whoop Ass.
The price of birds Penske’s IndyCar driver Will Power was fined 30 large for the “double birds” he flipped Brian Barnhart and company for the schmozzle of a restart that ultimately ended the Loudon race. The Aussie ended up fifth and closed the gap to Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti.
The Captain’s Romp Roger Penske’s drivers put a whuppin’ on everybody over the weekend. Brad Keselowski put his third “W” up at Bristol, nearly guaranteeing a spot in the Sprint Cup chase. Penske was positively ebullient at Sonoma where his lads finished in the same order they started: 1-2-3. The stat man had to go back to 2000 for a double NASCAR/IndyCar weekend (Mayfield/Castroneves) and even further back to 1994 for a 1-2-3 IndyCar finish (Paul Tracy/Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi at Nazareth)). Power now trails Franchitti by 27 markers.