Toni Montgomery · Thursday February 16, 2006
Last year at Daytona, Rick Crawford and Chad Chaffin took wild rides during the Craftsman Truck Series race. Both drivers went flying through the air and although both came out of it uninjured, it caught NASCAR’s attention. In response, this year the trucks will have a few more safety features. They will have a little bit of speed shaved off by a carburetor spacer and they will now have passenger side windows for the first time. I applaud NASCAR for taking action but I’m also a little puzzled. Why didn’t the trucks have a passenger side window before?
Cup and Busch cars have had the window for years. NASCAR figured out a long time ago that the air can come in the side and pick up the car if it should happen to get turned into the oncoming air at the speeds the cars run at places like Daytona. Granted cars can still get airborne as Scott Wimmer, Scott Riggs, or Elliott Sadler will agree, but it’s one more area that NASCAR can do something about in an attempt to keep it from happening as much as possible. If it made any difference to the aerodynamic performance of the cars, then competitors would just have to adapt to it in the name of safety.
Now I have to admit that I am verbally inclined and so I worked very carefully to avoid classes like physics throughout my high school and college careers. I confess a certain amount of ignorance to how exactly airflow works. What I am good at is logic and the idea that trucks did not have a passenger side window at Daytona seems illogical to me. Here’s my thinking. NASCAR figured out that things like roof flaps and side windows can help to keep a car on the ground so they mandated them. It seems likely that it caused some sort of aerodynamic change to the way the car would run, but teams would just need to adapt to it in other areas if necessary because it was a safety measure for both drivers and fans to keep the cars on the ground as much as possible.
Now I would guess that because trucks are slower and haven’t really done much flying in the past, passenger side windows were not mandated because no one saw a need for them. To be honest, the only incident I can recall at Daytona of any serious consequence was Geoffrey Bodine’s horrific wreck in the inaugural event. Bodine did get into the catch fence but he was squeezed into the wall and pushed up there. It had nothing do with air coming into his truck. I concede that he likely would have had that accident with our without a side window.
But here’s the thing. Last year’s pole speed for the Daytona Busch race was 182.452 mph while the truck pole was set with a speed of 182.478 mph. So the trucks are going just as fast as the Busch cars which already had the window. Add to that the fact that NASCAR has made an effort to be more conscious and proactive in the field of safety over the last five years and the fact that the windows are just being added for this season doesn’t make much sense.
Obviously the aerodynamic effects of the window on the truck must be something teams can work around because they are in the trucks now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy they are there and I’m glad that NASCAR is making an effort to keep our truckers safe, I’m just disappointed that something that seems so obvious took this long to implement. That’s the way things were done in the past and not in this new era of proactive safety measures. I’m disappointed two drivers had to make the point the hard way before NASCAR got it. If the windows were in the trucks last year, maybe those two drivers would have stayed on the ground.
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