Tech Talk · Mike Neff · Monday July 16, 2012
Jimmy Elledge has some 20 years of experience in racing and has been on the top of a pit box for quite a few of them. He is now on top of the box for Justin Allgaier and Turner Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. With the Cup series taking the week off before their grueling run to the end of the season, Tech Talk hit up Elledge for his opinions on heading back to the scene of his last NASCAR win with Allgaier in 2011.
Mike Neff: You’re getting ready to head back to Chicago, the scene of Justin’s only win so far for Turner Motorsports. How much has the car changed in the year since you won the last time you were there?
Jimmy Elledge: It has changed a lot. Rule wise it probably isn’t a whole lot different but advances in technology, just the progression of the car just being in our second year with the COT for the Nationwide Series, it has changed quite a bit. Hoping it won’t be much different, as far as result, but I’m sure the car is definitely different.
Mike Neff:Do you know if they’re doing the same tire compound that they ran at Chicago last year?
Jimmy Elledge: I do not think so. I don’t know what it is because, quite honestly I don’t really pay attention to what we ran before. I look at the data for what it is at that point in time but I’m pretty sure it is not.
Mike Neff: You’re running on a Sunday vs. a normal Saturday that you usually run. Does that make your race week preparation any different running Sunday instead of Saturday?
Jimmy Elledge: Not really, for me it pretty much reminds me of the 20 some years I was Cup racing. Just get up on Sunday and go race instead of Saturday. It isn’t really any different in preparation. The biggest difference is going to be racing in the daytime, where we ran on Saturday night last year in that race. That’s the biggest difference which poses quite a bit of a challenge in setup from night to day.
Mike Neff: Chicago has 18 degree banking in the corners. It isn’t the most and it isn’t the least that you have on Intermediates that you go to. How much effect does the banking in the corners have on the loads that you see on the cars when you’re running?
Jimmy Elledge: I don’t know. The banking doesn’t really pose any different challenges than anywhere else. I wouldn’t say that it is extreme like what Dover is. It is kind of unique in its own way, somewhat like Charlotte when it was older and more abrasive and the corner radii are closer to Charlotte but has a surface of the current Atlanta. It has some bumps in it which creates a lot of character. The cars slide around a lot which I think is great for racing and poses a lot of challenges for us to make the cars handle which I quite enjoy. You aren’t just straight forward locked down on the bottom. There are multiple grooves and you can move around and find speed and you have to make your car work for a long run.
Mike Neff: You mentioned that it has some bumps and character. Does the amount of travel you have with it being a bumpier surface change the way you have to set up your travels and your bump stops?
Jimmy Elledge: We don’t run bump stops, we coil bind. We don’t have that moving target of a bump stop and the load change for the corners. We’re pretty much set for max travel. Really the only difference we deal with is the tire squish with the extra vertical or the lack of vertical load. It does change it a little bit but it is not quite as complicated as the Cup cars with the bump stops where you’re fine tuning that thing to match the bank angles and the least amount of spring rate you have to have and the most bump stop you can stand to keep it off of the splitter. It is difficult yes, but it is difficult in a different way because a bump stop is a little bit easier to tune. You just add packer shims to it or just change the amount of bump stops you have. With a spring you have to physically change the spring to change the travel because you really only have a quarter inch window to work in as far as the spring goes. If you go more than half a round or three quarters of a round you typically have to change that spring out rather than shim a bump stop a little differently.
Mike Neff: You mentioned the track has some age to it. As a result the asphalt has aged and some of the grip has gone away. How much do you have to take that lack of grip into account and do you have to strive for more aero or mechanical grip when a track is aged like that?
Jimmy Elledge: You need both but you’re leaning on it 50-50 rather than on a track that has less character as I like to call it, the aero becomes way dominant but handling is somewhat important. When you get a track like this the mechanical aspect is equally important to the aero. You have to have good aero but you have to have good mechanical balance as well to maintain the drop off as minimally as you can.
Mike Neff: The back stretch at Chicago is called a straight but it isn’t really straight, it is kind of arched. Does the fact that there is a curve to the back stretch have any effect on the setup for the car?
Jimmy Elledge: Not really, quite honestly it is a unique race track but what is weird, if you were in the middle of Kansas or the middle of Chicago you really wouldn’t know the difference because the shape and the infields are identical to each other. The curvature of the back straightaway never seems to be any issue at all.
Mike Neff: You’re up there in the Midwest and Chicago and Indy are relatively close together. Are you able to use the same car or do you have to come all of the way back and pick up a new car to go back to Indy?
Jimmy Elledge: No, it is the same type of car but no we aren’t able to use the same car. We’re actually sending our Indianapolis car up on Monday and we’re not coming all of the way home, we’re just switching out the cars in Indy on Monday. Saves the hauler a trip from coming all of the way home to turn around an go right back up there. It is the same type of car which is a high downforce, Intermediate car. We’re coming home but the cars are going to be swapped out in Indy.
The weather in Chicago is supposed to be less than sweltering this weekend so the cars might have a little bit more grip than they would if it were unbearably hot during the day on Sunday. Allgaier is currently fifth in points and 73 points out of the lead in the Nationwide series, but a win on Sunday could jump start a run back toward the point in the second half of the season. It could also build momentum for the team heading into Indianapolis where Elledge is one of the few crew chiefs in the series with race experience.
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