Wednesday, November 23, 2011 09:23
And This Is What I Get? Darien Grubb, Tony Stewart’s crew chief, made an extremely gutsy call keeping his driver on the track as long as possible to make the last stop of the race with 55 laps to go. A professional colleague calls it: “Do something that will get you fired.” That didn’t matter to Grubb, he was already fired as Smoke’s crew chief in 2012. The decision was made after the Charlotte race in October, in the middle of a season of lackluster performance for the No. 14. Then came the Chase, five wins and a championship. Perhaps Stewart might want to reconsider. All Grubb would say after the big win was: “My job tonight is to get Tony good and drunk. Then we’ll talk.”
Tires from Tony The beleaguered Morgan Shepard got a boost from Tony Stewart at Homestead Miami. Smoke picked up the tire bill for Shepard, who doesn’t race on a shoestring, it’s more like a very fine thread. That kicks a hole in Stewart’s bad boy persona.
From Benchwarmer to Champion When the 2011 season started, nobody would have given Ricky Stenhouse a snowball’s chance in hell to come from the bench in 2010 to the Nationwide championship at Homestead Miami Speedway. The crash prone driver destroyed so much of Jack Roush’s equipment that the “Cat in the hat” parked his young driver for four races last season. Suitably humbled, Stenhouse mended his wrecking ways to consistent finishes and two wins, including the highlight reel finish at the Iowa Speedway where his engine blew coming to the checkers and getting rammed across the finish line to the win by team mate Carl Edwards. If you missed it, here it is: More...
Monday, November 21, 2011 06:00
The last 37 laps of the Sprint Cup finale were epic displays of driving skill and tenacity. While Tony Stewart won the race and the championship (by virtue of the most wins this season), it’s too bad that both Tony and Carl Edwards couldn’t share the Sprint Cup trophy. Maybe they should saw it in half. Even spectators like me were yelling at the tube. I didn’t even care if my new puppy missed a trip outside a potty break.
In a post race interview, Stewart was informed this is the first major win for A.J. Foyt's iconic number 14 in years. Smoke was sure he would talk to his mentor sometime tonight. “He’ll probably tell me how many times I screwed up,” the nearly breathless Stewart said.
The much-touted shootout began inauspiciously for the eventual victor. Stewart started the race in 15th, while Edwards started from the pole. Kurt Busch’s transmission blew its guts early and a part punched a hole in Stewart’s grill. “It’s a miracle that it didn’t punch a hole in the radiator,” Stewart said. The repairs sent the contender to the rear of the field. That’s when the amazing display of tenacity began. Stewart muscled his way to the front not once, but several times. It was obvious he would not be denied. Reports vary, but Larry McReynolds said Stewart passed 116 cars during the 400-mile race.
Stewart’s crew chief, Darien Grubb, made a gutsy call by keeping Stewart on the track until there were 55 laps to go. This was the number Grubb knew would take the No. 14 to the finish without another pit stop. Once again Stewart showed his amazing skill to maintain pace on Sunoco vapor. The pit stop included four tires, which may have given Stewart the edge at the finish. More...
Monday, August 22, 2011 08:00
Why are rank amateurs expected to race in the rain, but when more than a few drops fall at a road-race course, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers head for their multi-million-dollar motorhomes? My seventh race was run on a very damp track: I had only slick tires and my car didn’t have a roof or windshield, yet I raced when the green-flag fell.
NASCAR drivers possess the two key skills needed for racing in the rain: They regularly move off the geometrically ideal line to find the most grip, and they know to slow down when traction goes away. It will be like old home week for those who started racing on dirt.
Since that first damp race, I raced a bunch of times in the rain. Sometimes at night in the rain. (And I ran a NASCAR Southwest Tour race in the dry.) I was pretty good at it: Driving a four-cylinder Ford Ranger pickup, I passed a Camaro after a half-hour long battle. (NASCAR drivers listen up. Here’s the key to racing in the rain. Stay off the dry line. “The Line” has been polished smooth by years of sliding race tires and filled with all sorts of petroleum products. Other hints: Make sure you have a good defroster and, as the track dries out, don’t try to pass where it’s still damp. I discovered that doesn’t work so well.)
There is no physical reason why NASCAR Cup cars can’t race at the Watkins Glen or Infineon road courses in the rain. I’ve raced at Watkins Glen AND Sears Point, aka Infineon, in the rain. (Few argue that oval races be conducted in the rain.) More...
Friday, July 15, 2011 08:00
As a former racecar driver, I think the weirdest rule in NASCAR is the one that allows “coil-bound suspension.”
NASCAR allows race teams to install soft front suspension springs. These are just stiff enough to allow the car to pass the minimum height test when the car is sitting still. As soon as the car gets up to speed on the track, its aerodynamic shape forces the front end down to the point that the front “splitter” is rubbing against the pavement. This creates a huge amount of aerodynamic downforce: Imagine the Hand of God pressing down on the roof.
This force completely (or near-completely) compresses the springs. They appear as a solid cylinder. Racers call this “coil-bind.” On superspeedways, Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series vehicles do not have conventional suspension. The only springs are the carefully tuned composite bumpstops, the tire sidewalls and the bending of the metal suspension components. Similar to IndyCars, the best teams put some old-fashioned mechanical grip in their cars. This likely means their springs are probably not completely compressed.
(Bumpstops were originally intended to prevent the suspension from traveling too far and damaging components when the wheel hit an obstacle. Your car has them.)
Prior to coil-bound suspension, Cup cars would run front springs in the range of 750 to 1250 pounds per inch, depending on the track. (To move one inch required a force of 750 to 1250 pounds.) In back, the springs would be somewhere around 300 to 400 pounds per inch. Now, it's reversed. (NASCAR has a minimum spring rate, but as with many NASCAR rules it changes frequently.) More...
Thursday, July 7, 2011 08:00
2008 Grand Am GT championship team owner Leighton Reese is famous for “Leightonisms.” Recently he described slippery track conditions like this: “It’s like drinking a 12-pack and standing on a creeper.” I am sure somebody somewhere has a file of Reese’s seminal comments. On the heat inside a race car he says: It’s like riding around in a pizza oven.”
Reese is in a pinch as a result of a spectacular crash at Road America on June 25 involving Gunter Schaldbach. A brake failure going into Turn 1 sent the orange No. 7 Camaro GT-R straight off the turn, through the sand trap and into the tire barrier on the outside of the turn. The car didn’t stop there and launched over the catch fence. “The car is wrecked bad,” he said. “The front wheels came off like peeling the wings off a fly.” It goes without saying the crash cost his small team dearly.
But here’s something you need to know about Reese. Even though he said: “I’m hating racing right now,’ the word “quit” is simply not in his vocabulary. Seven guys worked 14-hour days rebuilding the car in just five days. “We have a cart loaded up with all the suspension pieces to fix the car. It’s worth about a hundred thousand dollars. It’s empty now,” Reese said. The repaired car was loaded on the hauler before the sun went down on July 1. It’s now in California for the next race at Mazda Raceway/Laguna Seca. More...