Tech Talk · Mike Neff · Tuesday November 6, 2012
The 2012 Chase has taken a turn for the worse for Denny Hamlin. After a mechanical issue cost him a quality finish at Martinsville, the hopes of the No. 11 team for a title this year went out the window. Can they recover for a season sweep in the desert before the 2012 season dries up? With two races to go on the schedule, it has come down to win or nothing for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. Darian Grubb took some time at Martinsville to talk with Frontstretch about the upcoming race at Phoenix, the 2013 car that they tested at the track before Martinsville, the cars they’re putting into the fleet for next season and the changes that the track at Phoenix has presented to the teams.
Mike Neff: Getting ready to head to Phoenix and take on the reconfigured track again. With the change to the dogleg on the backstretch, did it change the way you have to set up the car?
Darian Grubb: It definitely changed everything a little bit for everyone in the garage. Now the dogleg has some actual banking to it and when you drive through there, you have the most travel on the track. You kind of had to reinvent the wheel a little bit to figure out what you were doing but it is still the same track. Now that the sun has beaten on it for a little bit, it has given up some grip so it is going to be a really racy track.
Mike Neff: Phoenix is a little bit similar to Pocono too in that you have to compromise a little in order to make your car work because you can’t make it perfect at both ends.
Darian Grubb: Yeah, it is a little bit of that. There’s a little bit of banking that you have in one and two that you don’t have in three and four. Three and four are more like a Loudon flat track. The car rolls over on you there and the radius is drastically different where you’re trying to get up onto the front straight. That blue wall comes up on you really fast there. It is definitely a different animal and it is fun to have some differences to play with.
Mike Neff: You mentioned the amount of travel you face in the dogleg. From the shock/bump stop perspective of things, does that require you to utilize a stiffer combination than you did before the reconfigure?
Darian Grubb: It did a little bit but now that NASCAR has cut the side skirts up a little bit, it isn’t as big of a deal as it was back in the spring. We’re kind of curious to see how some of that adapts when we go back to the race track. We just did the tire test for Goodyear for the 2013 car and it seemed to be pretty similar so we’re looking forward to going back there.
Mike Neff: That was going to be my next question. You did the test for Goodyear of the 2013 car. How much different was the car for next year than the car you currently have?
Darian Grubb: It really wasn’t that much different. They’re still sorting out some of the aerodynamic package rules and things like that. The chassis overall, they’ve removed some weight and added some mechanical grip to it. I think you’re going to see some pretty racy contests there. We’re still in the development stages of everything but it seems pretty good and it is pretty comparable to the current car, so I think we’ll be able to make it better by the time we go racing.
Mike Neff: Was the car you tested out there all sheet metal or composite? At one point it was all fiberglass, was that what you were using?
Darian Grubb: The car we had there was about half and half. We’ve got all of our components now so the bodies we’re hanging in the shop are all steel. We’re getting there and making good progress on all of our development.
Mike Neff: So you’re already building 2013 cars in the shop?
Darian Grubb: Yes we are. We’ve got some wind tunnel mules and some of the test cars. We’ve got several tests coming up, like the one at Charlotte, so we’re testing pretty much non-stop so we need to keep up to try and get ahead of the game.
Mike Neff: You said they changed the chassis a little bit. NASCAR has to certify the chassis. When are they starting that process and when do you have to have the Daytona 500 car through there?
Darian Grubb: It actually started about a month ago. We ran our Daytona 500 chassis through back then. There are some small, minor changes. You have to add some bars to the current cars and then you can go have them re-certified and be good to go. We’re building a new fleet of cars as well as rebuilding quite a few of our current cars so we have a bunch of cars going through there already.
Mike Neff: One last thing, you’re heading into Phoenix behind in the points. From a strategy standpoint, is it all about going for the win?
Darian Grubb: That is all we do every week, regardless of when it is. You know that if you get a win with max points, it is impossible for anyone to beat you no matter where you start out in points.
Mike Neff: When Denny gets a chance to run in another series on a race weekend, does it trickle down to the Cup team? Not necessarily the car, but just the time he has in the seat?
Darian Grubb: It does sometimes. A lot of it is just a different feel because the Nationwide and Truck rides are different from the Cup car. For him to get a feel for the track and how the rubber is laying down on the surface and the track conditions, that seems to be a good thing for him to have that feel coming into the Cup race.
With almost no shot at the 2012 title on the horizon for Grubb and Hamlin, the duo is setting themselves up for success in 2013 and another run at a championship. Grubb has proven that he has what it takes to get a car in contention for a title and now they just have to work out the final kinks to get over the top.
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