Tech Talk · Mike Neff · Monday October 1, 2012
NASCAR is going to Talladega to run the fourth and final restrictor plate race of the season this weekend. Richard Childress Racing has long been a force on restrictor plate tracks and while their success at Daytona hasn’t been as strong, they have won three of the last five races held in the Cup series at Talladega. With Kevin Harvick the only driver from the RCR stables in the Chase, Gil Martin is tasked with leading the flagship of the organization toward the promised land. He spent some time with Frontstretch before the trip to Northern Alabama this weekend to touch on the things that make for a successful race at the 2.66 mile track between Atlanta and Birmingham.
Martin speaks about paint vs. clear coat, aero importance with holes in the front of the car, the importance of handling at Talladega and window changes between qualifying and racing. The attention to detail in plate racing cannot be over emphasized and the success that RCR has had over the years speaks to just how detailed their teams are.
Mike Neff: We’re headed to Talladega where it is all about getting the air over the cars as efficiently as possible. In the past the teams put decals on the cars for sponsor logos, numbers and stripes. Then I believe it was the Hendrick teams started painting everything on the cars to reduce the amount of edges on the car to disturb the air flow. Do you decal your cars or paint them? Do you worry about the edges of the decals disturbing the air flow?
Gil Martin: No, we used to, but it is more of a fluff and buff thing now. They look a lot better when you clear coat over the decals. We’ve pretty much learned that when you get into a pack and start beating and banging on each other it really doesn’t matter.
Mike Neff: After Matt Kenseth almost won the Spring race with a fender that looked like a scoop on the right front, is the whole aero thing a little overrated? Obviously you can’t go out with a fender that is grabbing the air and run out front all day but is it possible that aero is receiving too much attention?
Gil Martin: Well it isn’t overrated but, mostly everyone is looking at what the car will do when it is by itself and in qualifying. The way the cars are now you’re trying to do things to enhance air flow so that air gets to the radiator to keep it cool. There is a ton of emphasis placed on that but, as far as being able to trim a car out like you could five or seven years ago at Daytona, there are a lot of little things you can do but nothing like it used to be.
Mike Neff: This is our fourth race with the EFI system. Have you learned much about the system and achieving some throttle response in the car, more for letting off than when you’re getting on it, when you’re in the packs?
Gil Martin: The guys are getting better with that every week and they’re going to continue to learn on that. You’ve got 50+ years of racing with carburetors, so the EFI thing is going to be an ongoing process. It is going to be something they’re going to learn something new about every single weekend. We’re no different. Our company is doing the same thing as everyone else in the garage. It is all about getting the fuel flow, the timing and every bit of it down pat. At Talladega it pretty much is what is is. The shorter tracks everyone still has a lot of work to do there.
Mike Neff: The track is starting to age a little bit. They repaved it a couple of years ago. We’re starting to get a little bit of wear on the surface. Are we to a point yet where handling matters at all at Talladega or is it going to be another two or three years before that comes into play?
Gil Martin: It is going to be a while. Talladega’s corners are so sweeping and it is not like Daytona where you’ve got sand on it and the big change from day race to night race and all of the things that happen at Daytona. It is going to be a little while before you get to that point at Talladega. We always race a much harder tire at Talladega because handling is not an issue. It is not to say it won’t be.
According to what the 2013 car does, what kind of rule package they put on them and what kind of spoiler they put on them. It could come into play a little bit. That has yet to be seen and will be determined by the rules.
Mike Neff: The FR9 engines have had a bit of an advantage when it comes to cooling on the plate tracks. Is there anything, within the current rule package, that you can do to promote cooling without totally killing the aerodynamics on your car?
Gil Martin: Everything is very small. It is all about water capacity and trying to keep the water in the engine. Whatever PRV NASCAR allows us to run you want to try to not pop that off prematurely so that you don’t lose a lot of volume in the system. The radiators that we’re currently running has everyone trying different duct works because NASCAR continues to change the opening in the front of the car. That is one of the things we work on the most is to try and optimize whatever air we are getting to the radiator without losing any of it.
Mike Neff:Will NASCAR let you add openings to the front of the car? If you chose to make an opening above the bumper, is that within the rules or are you not allowed to do that?
Gil Martin: No, you’re not allowed to do that. They have a maximum opening that you can have and they designate where you can put it. You can make it smaller if you want to, but you won’t want to do that. The maximum is the maximum and everyone will run them at that.
Mike Neff: Is there a maximum capacity for the amount of water you can have in your cooling system?
Gil Martin: Yes there is. There’s a maximum and they’re looking to next year to have a radiator size limit. That will be determined as the year goes on toward the end of the season, so that everyone can be prepared for January and the beginning of the next season but that really hasn’t been nailed down yet either.
Mike Neff: At Daytona there were a couple of guys that got busted, Stewart was one and I don’t remember who the other one was, for a hose that comes from under the car into the cockpit. Apparently it is supposed to be blocked off during qualifying, but it is not during the race. What does that duct do, it sounds like it is on every car, and it was just their plugs had fallen out?
Gil Martin: All it is, NASCAR requires you to change your windows out before qualifying to ones that do not have NACA duct holes in them. You have plugs or caps that go over the hoses and in the hurry to get ready for qualifying you sometimes don’t get them secured well enough. It isn’t that much of an advantage or disadvantage if you don’t have them on there. They’re trying to get you to not leak air from inside to outside of the car through the window. So they make you change the window for qualifying and after that you change them back and stick the hoses back on the windows to take the air in from the outside. It is just something that happened on a couple of the cars and it will happen again.
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