Ask The Insiders Wednesday #29

Jun 23rd, 2009 by T.C.

As the summer continues to roll along, we have reached the 29th edition of Ask The Insiders Wednesday.  These posts continue to gain in popularity every week, and I’ve been told by many of you that ATIW is what you look forward to the most.  That’s great to hear, and if you keep sending in the questions, we will keep trying to answer them!  If you don’t know what this post is, until further notice, we will be answering any and all reader questions every Wednesday, right here.  So if you’ve got one, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send one to us.  On to the questions…

1. From Scott from Canada:

On June 17th’s version of Ask the Insiders TC said that “there are no computer systems in today’s Cup, Nationwide, or Truck Series vehicles.”  Well just how the heck do the TV stations get access to throttle/brake/RPM and speed data?  Speed I could see coming from a GPS unit and the scoring/timing points but it wouldn’t be accurate to the foot as it appears to be.  So?  And do the teams have direct access to this information or do they get it from TV or NASCAR?  And (#2) if they get the RPM data is it part of the fuel mileage calculations that causes them fits at various tracks.  Sorry for the length but thanks for the answers!

I feel like I’ve been called out here.  First, cars don’t have onboard computers, but some will have an onboard telemetry box and GPS unit that transmits back to the TV trucks.  Information provided from these devices is what is used to create the telemetry you see on TV.  A company called SportVision provides the equipment.  But teams are not allowed access to this information, so as far as they are concerned, there are no onboard systems.  Fuel mileage calculations are based on weather conditions and previous data gathered (engine performance, driver habits, etc.). – T.C.

2. From mangopants:

I’m new to the sport and have a very elementary question – is it “Pit Road” or “Pit Row”?   I’ve seen it written both ways, and just can’t distinguish when the announcers say it.

The two are really interchangeable.  In NASCAR, you will hear it more often referred to as pit road.  By the way, welcome to the sport and thanks for stopping by TNI!  – T.C.

3. From Measure:

How are the drivers reacting to Carlos Pardo’s death?  Is there a serious investigation being done by NASCAR to make sure changes can be made to prevent that kind of crash in the future?

Honestly I haven’t heard a lot about it. I think everyone was pretty shocked by the accident, especially because this is a guy that a lot of people in the garage had interacted with. That being said it is not exactly the response if it were closer to home. Also remember this series is more comparable to a late model series than to the Sprint Cup Series and as such the safety equipment is much less advanced. While I’m sure there will be an investigation I don’t know if there will be any major changes as a result of this. – Journo

4. From August:

Sometimes, after practice or “happy hour,” you’ll hear a crew chief or driver state that they have a really aggressive setup in the car.  What exactly does this mean? Are they setting up the car to the point where their options are limited on changing the handling of the car once the race begins? By the way, you guys have become a must-hit on the internet everyday since I stumbled upon this site a few months ago. Keep it up.

I would take that to mean they have the car set up to run as fast as possible, most likely over the short run.  For example, qualifying setups are normally aggressive, i.e., nose taped up, tires pumped up, etc.  The car will run fast over a very short run, but in race conditions would then fall off very quickly.  Also, aggressive setups are usually uncomfortable for drivers.  They will be fast, but they will require the driver to really hang it out. – T.C.

5. From Joel:

Why is pit road closed at times – especially right after a yellow flag?  PS: Love you guys – keep up the great work!

Don’t quote me on this, but I believe pit road is closed right at the point of caution so no driver can gain an advantage by being able to duck down early and get their pit stop done before the other teams have a shot.  If a car could pit before everyone else, they would then be out front when the remainder of the field pitted.  Also, if a wreck or caution happens near the entrance, they will close pit road to allow the safety workers to do their job. – T.C.

6. From Jon:

I hate to ask about auto racing other than NASCAR… but I know you guys are fans of racing in general.  I am an avid reader and have asked you guys a few questions, to which I was very thankful for your replies!  I hope you answer this but if not I understand… have you heard of the radical news about the FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) pulling out of F1 for 2010?  This is essentially every major F1 brand (Ferrari, Brawn, McLaren, Red Bull, etc) pulling out.  It would be like Roush, Hendrick, Gibbs and RCR pulling out of NASCAR!  It unfortunately also resembles the CART/IRL split that ruined American open wheel racing (AOWR) more or less.  Do you guys really think that Max Mosley isn’t going to give in?  It seems like if he doesn’t, he’ll basically lose the crown jewel of racing abroad.  I realize NASCAR probably gets more TV viewers, but I think F1’s impact on the world of auto racing is even more far reaching than NASCAR.  I love the technology and the skill it requires to run F1 and I hate the thought of it being compromised like the CART split compromised AOWR.

I actually think this split is a lot more comparable to the USAC-CART split in the late-70s. That being said my first instinct is that the teams are posturing to get their way. I know the heads of these organizations are pretty angry with the leadership of F1 and they are very serious about starting a breakaway series, but I truly believe they both know for better or worse they need each other. It sounds like Max Mosley is attempting to re-engage the teams, but what ultimately happens is hard to say. Should this split ultimately occur, I think it will be incredibly ugly. In the end, it would be a shame to have this globally loved series destroyed by bickering and infighting. – Journo

7. From Brian:

I saw this picture from the Nationwide race at Milwaukee: How much PSI do teams typically start on their tires and how much PSI do the tires gain over a typical green-flag run?

Unfortunately I can’t really give you a hard and fast answer on this one.  Initial pressures and what the tires build over a run is really going to depend on the track, the series, and the conditions.  Usually at short tracks teams will start pressures (especially fronts) very low because the tires will build a lot more due to the added heat from brake use.  I’ve seen tires with PSIs in the single digits before.  And rights will be different front lefts, as will fronts vs. rears.  Rights will usually build more because of the forces on them, and front vs. rear depends on the car’s setup. – T.C.

8. From Ric:

Do you guys practice and/or plan what you will do in situations of a damaged car coming in? Who grabs what, where to cut or not to cut, what has to be done in what order, etc. When working on a damaged car does the same group go over a wall to fix it, or would say the gas man stay back so an ignition specialist can check something out? Can different people go over the wall as long as the number stays at / below 7?

Yes, most teams will at least have a basic plan of who will do what when there is damage to be fixed over the wall.  And yes, different guys can go over the wall as long as the number doesn’t exceed seven.  Especially in the case of engines, you want your engine tuner over the wall in one of those situations because he is going to be able to best diagnose a problem. – T.C.

9. From Savannah:

Okay guys, since we are now about 10 races away from the Chase, it is time to ask your opinion on who will make the chase this year.  So, who will be the lucky 12 drivers?  Who do you think will be the surprise chase contender this year?  Do you think that Dale Jr will be in the Chase?  And if you’re feeling like taking a chance and looking into the crystal ball, who do you think will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion for 2009!  Remember,  this is just an opportunity for you to express your predictions.  Now, my crystal ball is still slightly cloudy- hopefully, y’all will have better luck with yours!  Thanks for answering all of the questions.

Actually if I had to pick a top-12 I really like the current standings. Obviously there is still a lot of room for movement, but given what we have seen this season, these are, in my opinion, the strongest 12. I don’t think Jr. will make the Chase this season. He has a lot of points to make up and unless he has a huge turn around quick, I don’t think this year is his. As far as who the Champion will be, I’m not ready to say quite yet, but I think Tony Stewart looks like a new man and those three Hendrick cars are very strong. Unfortunately my crystal ball is still very cloudy too. – Journo

10. From Steven:

How come some teams like Jay Robinson’s #49 and Dwayne Gaulding’ #21 start and park even though they have sponsorship? Are these teams offering companies (GetMoreVacations, Stock Car Steel, & Anderson’s Maple Syrup) space on the car for dirt cheap, or do they just give them a free ride?

You’re absolutely correct. They pay a few thousand dollars to have their names on the car for a few laps. The money isn’t enough to make it worthwhile for them to run the whole race. It’s just one more way for these start and park team owners to make money. – Journo

11. From Amy:

I was at the track in Sonoma and my two questions stem from my experience there:  1. We had prerace cold pit access and while walking up and down the pit boxes taking pictures I noticed of all things in the arsenal of stuff packed into one of the pitboxes a can of cooking spray (PAM to be exact).  WHY?  2. I took time sitting in both the grandstands on Friday and turn 7 on Sunday and noticed that with the elevation changes and turns- it must be a challenge to be a spotter at a track like that. Where were the spotters located? And do teams ever use more than one spotter at a road course?

First, teams will sometimes use cooking spray (such as PAM) on the wheels to avoid brake dust.  PAM can hold up to the heat, yet it won’t allow so much dust to collect on the wheels.  Second, spotting road courses is definitely a challenge.  At Sonoma, the spotters are located up towards turn two at the top of the hill.  They can see the majority of the track from there.  And teams will normally use more then one spotter at a track like this (especially Watkins Glen) because you don’t want to put your driver in a bad position because one guy can’t see the whole track. – T.C.

12. From Mike:

I have been given tickets to the Daytona 500 Club for 4th.  Can you see the race from here?  It looks nice online but do we sit at bar the whole race?  They’ll have to roll me out.

You know I’m not overly familiar with the Daytona 500 Club, but after looking around it looks like you can see the front stretch, but not the rest of the track. I’m sure there are TVs in the building though. With an open bar though, can you really go wrong? – Journo

13. From Kim:

Hi guys!  1.  Has any team in NASCAR switched manufacturers mid-season?  2. I was watching the set up in the cold pit at Sonoma (Bud team, of course!) and wondered what each of the four monitors on the pit box showed during the race, and also the two flat screens behind the box.  Thanks.

Me and Journo were discussing this one, and in the modern era, I don’t remember a team switching midseason.  I’m sure its happened in the past, but no specific situation stands out.  Maybe a reader knows?  For your second question, the monitors up top are used to display the race broadcast, the feed from timing and scoring, any engineering data for the crew chief and engineer to use in strategy, and whatever other miscellaneous computer programs teams use (like instant messengers).  The flat screens down low are also used to show the race broadcast, timing and scoring, and the playback from the pit stop camera(s). – T.C.

14. From Ric:

I have noticed that after the Catch Can Man waves his arms that the tank is full, they keep putting fuel in the car, until it?s down on all four tires, sometimes actually moving forward. I would think with the left side of the car up in the air more fuel would be in the tank, hoses, etc then when on all four tires. I do not believe the idling engine is burning that much fuel, so what is the story?

Normally what you are seeing is the catch can and fuel man trying to “pack” the car.  They are trying to make sure the fuel cell and the fill and overflow tubes have every drop of fuel in them possible.  The catch can man will wave when fuel comes out the overflow, then he and the gas man can work a carefully choreographed dance between the gas can and catch can and burp the system, filling it to the gills. – T.C.

15. From Dianne:

How long do we have to tolerate ESPN/TNT coverage?  I am already sick of having to try and find races on TV. Fox was Fox and ABC was ABC! Now I gotta hunt to watch a race let alone listen to those know-nothing broadcasters. Bring me D.W. and Larry Mac!!! at least they KNOW racing…

Well you’ll have to deal with it at least until the end of the season. Beyond that I believe TV contracts are up in 2014. To be frank what we have now is much better then the TV situation 10+ years ago. Prior to now each track operator held their own TV contracts. And at that point in time you had more than just two major track operators. Literally you had a race on a different channel every week. As far as your comment on Larry McReynolds goes, he’s on TNT too. – Journo

And that brings yet another “Ask The Insiders Wednesday” to a close.  Thanks to everyone who sent in questions.  And remember, if you’d like to be a part of next week, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send your question in!