Tech Talk · Mike Neff · Tuesday July 31, 2012
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced on the freshly paved surface of Pocono Raceway on June 10th. This weekend, just eight weeks later, the Cup cars will be back on the triangular-shaped track in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The teams have updated their notebooks after logging a full race on the fresh pavement and now are ready to head back with new ideas on how to go fast. But how do you make adjustments in so short a period of time? Jamie McMurray’s crew chief, Kevin “Bono” Manion tells Frontstretch what is on his mind heading back to Pocono for the second race on the upgraded surface.
Mike Neff: Did you learn anything about the new pavement and are you coming back with a totally new setup, or some stuff that is good and some that is bad?
Kevin Manion: Well, hopefully all good stuff. We did learn a lot at Pocono with a couple days of testing prior to the first event. We learned that the new pavement made it extremely smooth. Still has a few bumps in it but way, way nicer than it was before.
Pocono gets some tough winters and the track always had a water problem. With water comes frost in the winter and with frost comes frost heaves and bumps and that is what results in bumps on the track. I know they put in like 10 miles of drains in there under the track to try and get rid of some of the water trying to prevent the winter from being so harsh on the track. Hopefully that’ll work, although we’ve had a pretty hot summer. That’s what we’ve learned about the track, and it has a lot of grip. Bumps don’t make grip, smooth track and new pavement makes grip. A lot of grip. We qualified decent there and finished in the top 10 there as well so looking forward to going back and improving on that. It would be nice to run top 5 and sneak out a win here or there, we could really use that. We’ll see what happens at Indy. You can take a little bit out of Indy to Pocono but not a whole heck of a lot.
Mike Neff: With the track being so smooth, can you be more aggressive with your shocks and bump stops to force the car down to the track?
Kevin Manion: Absolutely… as aggressive you can be. Way more aggressive than you could be in the past. A lot of the cars look down in the track and look sealed off. Heck, you know more than me, you can be aggressive with your shocks and bump stop package.
Mike Neff: The mandatory weekly EFI question. Heading back to the track, did you learn anything about your mapping and did you make many changes to the maps from the first trip?
Kevin Manion: The engine shop is really the right guys to ask for that question. The little bit we get to know about the system, they definitely improve the map. Everyone is learning on this, not just ECR. Every team, every day is learning about making their map better. More efficient, better fuel mileage, so on and so forth. We talked about mapping the morning of the Brickyard. It is something that is an ongoing process, even thinking back to the carburetor, not that we didn’t have it figured out but, there were so many parts involved with the carburetor that you were always learning about it. With EFI, there is so much involved with each cylinder.
It’ll be years before we make a major change and then there will be a rule change that will come out and take us down a different avenue and learn more about it. They’re doing a great job on the mapping and even myself learning every day about the system.
Mike Neff: Early on, teams were being very open about sharing information on the system. Has that scaled back or are the teams still openly sharing information?
Kevin Manion: I think, between the engine companies you should say, I think they’re still being pretty honest and open. The window is so large that we’re trying to narrow down, even though NASCAR does have you choked down on a lot that you can do with it, it is still something that helps everyone. The engine companies want you to win as much as anybody. Sharing the information helps everybody and the longevity of the engine so whatever they learn, they pass on.
Mike Neff: You mentioned it has been hot up in Pocono. Does that affect the setup on the car very much? I’m sure you’re not going to lose a lot of grip with it still being fresh asphalt but having heat in the track will that make it slicker?
Kevin Manion: Generally any time you get a lot of sun on a black track there is a lot of heat. The weather is the weather. It has been hot everywhere we’ve been this year. We’ll see what next week brings, as far as the weather. Pocono usually is able to find some clouds and throw in a chance of rain and in the end, it is a pretty nice day up there.
Mike Neff: They’ve raised the sideskirts up on you I believe an inch and a half now. Is it to a point where you cannot get the sideskirt all of the way to the ground thanks to the physics of the car?
Kevin Manion: Pretty much. You can get them close but it is a lot like old school racing. You’d get things lower and you’d hit the steering box so you’d raise the steering. You’d hit the cross member so you’d raise the cross member. Then you had to raise the engine. It used to be you’d hit things and keep raising them up but with the new frame height rule and the side skirt rules, it really is what hits next and the limit is pretty much reached. Here at Indy, Pocono and Michigan are places that we do travel a lot so it is almost a nice rule on the sheer amount of money we’re going to save by not replacing sideskirts every week. It just kind of takes it out of the equation. You definitely lose downforce with it but it is one less thing that teams, engineers and crew chiefs don’t have to worry about. It isn’t good or bad, it is just a change NASCAR made and we learn to live with it.
Heading back to Pocono is going to give teams a chance to find out if their ideas about how to make EFI interact with the new surface at the two and a half mile track will work out. The learning process continues for the teams and the engine companies and the coming weekend will be one of the first chances to see what they learned on a race track that is not subject to restrictor plates. We’ll all know when the checkered flag flies who has figured it out and who hasn’t.
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