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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Tires, Track Surfaces & Water Bottles Causing Cautions

If you didn’t catch any of the action on Sunday from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the racing was really heating up. Both in the temperature, some of the hottest racing temperatures we’ve seen all season thus far, and in battles for the lead with Kyle Busch continuing his surge to propel the No. 18 Toyota into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Busch, who even after winning his third race in the last four races this weekend in Loudon, still only sits 33rd in the points standings, three positions out of the 30th-place cut-off he’ll need to secure to be entered into the Sprint Cup’s postseason run.

This mission that Busch, first-year crew chief Adam Stevens and the No. 18 team are on is simply amazing. It’s a sports story that undoubtedly should be receiving more mainstream media attention, but isn’t.

If a popular quarterback in the NFL broke his leg and his foot, missed his team’s first seven games, then came back to help his team to shutout three out of four teams they played, that man would be on the cover of newspapers, on national talk shows and showed on ESPN constantly in the days and weeks to follow. NASCAR, however, for one reason or another, has in some aspects fallen into the category of a niche sport, thought to be followed mostly by those in the southeastern U.S., and with less mass appeal or storylines to follow week in and week out. That assumption by many stick-and-ball sports fans and the mainstream media is horribly false and needs to continually to be addressed in the months and years to come by NASCAR– both by its fans and the media covering the sport.

NASCAR continues to thrill and amaze new fans that attend their first race, or sit down with friends to watch the stars and cars of the Sprint Cup Series take the green flag. The introduction of the sport to new fans and the younger generation needs to continue to happen, so that stories like this one of Busch, his miraculous return and his victories can be seen, heard and appreciated, just as stories like this one are in the mainstream sports world.

Now with that, let’s jump into this week’s mailbox questions from you our readers…

Q: Now that NASCAR is considering different aero packages for different tracks, is there any reason Goodyear can’t make a hard tire? – Sal B.

A: Sal, NASCAR is not considering running multiple packages during the season for each track we visit. That is a rumor but is just that. Nothing more. Simply imagine for a minute the extreme financial investment these teams would have to make to fabricate and install different aero packages for all of the different tracks the series visits. It would be a killer for some of these smaller teams.

As for Goodyear, they’ve been working on a harder tire compound for some of these tracks for awhile. I think it’s safe to say however, that by and large many of the drivers have had fewer issues with the tires Goodyear has brought to the tracks each week, and more with the rules packages in place by NASCAR. This latest aero tweak by NASCAR at Kentucky was a good change in the direction to improve competition, and I think we’ll see Goodyear bring a tire that will complement that reduction in downforce sooner rather than later.

Q: The Air Titan track dryers are cool, efficient rigs to dry a racetrack. My question is, do you think the extremely high air pressure (that is also heated) are damaging the racetracks, especially the older ones like Kentucky? – Tom R., Beacon, N.Y.

A: Tom thanks for the question this week. I agree with you, the Air Titan 2.0 is probably one of the best innovations technology-wise that NASCAR has worked on in recent memory. It did the job of quickly helping to dry the track when some drops fell this weekend up in New Hampshire too, and without Air Titan at Kentucky, we might not have seen racing until Monday.

According to NASCAR, the high pressure air that is heated to the current air temp, plus 70 degrees, is blasted downward at the racing surface at 568 mph. Now, not to get too scientific here, but think of it this way. Your average at-home use power washer that you might clean your deck, siding or driveway with omits high pressure water at around 1,800 to 2,000 psi. That’s really, really fast when you equate that psi to mph.

Something that is going 100 mph in speed only equals 0.17 psi, meaning the air coming out of Air Titan actually really isn’t so high pressure that it could potentially damage the surface. Now, it’s hard to compare heated, pressurized air to pressurized water coming out of a single source at a single area on a surface (like in the pressure washer example), but you get the picture.

NASCAR has done so much testing of what Air Titan can do, and how far they could take the technology, pushing it to its limits to speed up track drying time. With the advancements of Air Titan 2.0 alone, they’ve sped up drying time by nearly 50%.

In the end, I guess we won’t really know the impact Air Titan’s regular use will have until further down the road. But considering the wear and punishment the tires of racecars (and trucks) put down on these tracks year after year, the work that Air Titan is doing is minimal in its overall impact.

Q: Greg, the water bottle situation this weekend at New Hampshire was in my opinion kind of a waste of a caution. I know NASCAR has already made a statement about it, but what are they going to do to stop drivers from tossing debris like these water bottles out the windows of their car during races? The cautions were unnecessary, and very well could have helped Kyle Busch win the race. Your thoughts? – Jerry K., Gorham, N.H.

A: Hey Jerry, it is funny how plastic water bottles have dominated the headlines following this race, almost more than a driver who missed the first seven races of the season winning at the last three out of four tracks… right?

So on Monday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell came on the show with Pete Pistone and Jeff Gluck and already offered up that NASCAR will address this issue with the drivers. I’m sure that in the drivers’ meeting at Indy this weekend, one of the items that will be discussed by NASCAR will be how the drivers are throwing these empty water bottles out of the window, and how the officials don’t want to have to throw a caution due to one ending up on the racing surface. The thought here is the drivers can’t have an empty bottle rolling around on the floorboards of his or her car, potentially getting lodged under the gas, clutch or brake pedals for example, and if a driver has to throw a bottle out the window net, they need to end up on the apron away from traffic.

We saw a couple of times where the bottles fell directly into oncoming traffic this past weekend and the caution flag flew. One reason is because New Hampshire is a flat track and doesn’t self-clean like we might see at a higher banked track like Bristol or Dover.

Is tossing a water bottle, or anything for that matter, out of your window and onto the track to potentially draw a caution to help advance your position or to cause a restart wrong? Absolutely it is! It’s not part of the sport, and should be considered as cheating, just like putting an unapproved part on your car to improve performance. It’s wrong.

Now, I don’t think the incidents this weekend were intentionally done in any attempt to improve position or draw a caution. For example, your suggestion of Busch tossing out a bottle to run cautions laps on four fresh tires after just having pitted. I think it was a water bottle bouncing down a mostly flat racetrack. Period.

NASCAR doesn’t want to make this a huge issue that needs to have penalties associated with it, or as some in the media like Jeff Burton on NBC’s broadcast on Sunday have suggested, putting a driver’s number on every water bottle during the race. It’s a little too extreme of a measure for NASCAR to police for me, when we have much bigger fish to fry in terms of officiating races.

I think this is a flash in the pan issue that will be addressed by Mike Helton during the pre-race meeting on Sunday at the Brickyard, and will work itself out.

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13 thoughts on “NASCAR Mailbox: Tires, Track Surfaces & Water Bottles Causing Cautions”

  1. I don’t think a water bottle being tossed and the offender punished is extreme at all. Plain and simple the potential for race manipulation is huge. And who is to say a well timed “toss” doesn’t help a team/hurt a team. Does manipulation have to be of the hated scenario in Richmond where that one team got “caught” and had to be made an example of (where that had been going for YEARS!). Manipulation is manipulate..Remember BZF gave a zero tolerance statement on that whole subject.

    I don’t know why it is so hard to manage the water bottle issue. Too much at stake these days to compromise. I am sure someone smart could figure this issue out.

    Any Kyle Busch benefitted greatly because of some very interesting oddities that almost never happen, ever..and the slowing up of certain drivers was interesting as well, all to help the NASCAR’s “feel good” story along.

  2. “NASCAR continues to thrill and amaze new fans that attend their first race, or sit down with friends to watch the stars and cars of the Sprint Cup Series take the green flag”

    What numbers or stats are you looking at to reach that conclusion Greg?

    I find it hard to believe that teams can’t easily figure out a way to keep water bottles from being an issue in the car. Regardless, nothing should ever be thrown out the window once a team leaves pit road. Good point about it being a bigger issue at Loudon due to the flatness of the track.

    • I thought the same thing. This column isn’t even opinion it is either shameless PR spin or pure fantasy. FYI Greg, the mainstream media is not jock slobbering Kyle Busch because not very many of their readers have even the slightest interest. NASCAR with it’s free fall attendance and infomercial TV ratings on third tier channels is barely even a niche sport anymore.

      • Glad to know I wasn’t alone in thinking “what the heck” for the “continues to thrill and amaze new fans” statement.

        PR silliness at its finest.

        I think that teams should be punished – pass thru penalty, lose a lap, whatever for throwing anything out of the car or any other reason for deliberately causing a caution. Of course policing it is another thing — I’m sure teams would be quite happy to write another team’s number on things that could be tossed onto the track.

        After all, manipulating the races thru yellow flags should be solely NASCAR’s prerogative. (ha)

        • Yeah, I gagged on that statement too..”Nascar continues to thrill and amaze new fans”. What sport is he talking about? If old, semi old time fans, the drivers and owners aren’t thrilled and amazed….oh..I can’t even finish with that logic. Can we cut the bull out. please? Is this piece a sample that is going to be submitted for a Nascar.com job consideration?

  3. This issue of water bottles, and folks reaction, including mine is almost funny. If I remember correctly, Dale Sr., and others as well, was known to throw roll bar padding out. Then it was viewed as being clever or overlooked because it was Sr.
    Today while I look at it as drivers and teams manipulating the event, which is totally wrong, whats the difference with Nascar throwing cautions for dubious reasons?
    This “sport” (which is really a business for a whole lot of people) has so many issues right now its hard to understand how they will turn it around.

    • absolutely no difference in it, russ. NASCAR and some of its paid media mouthpieces persist in saying that NASCAR doesn’t manipulate the races when it chooses to but most of the drivers certainly think they do and more than a few fans feel the same way.

      I guess it’s like most things, NASCAR wants to act as if it is policing the sport to keep a fair playing field so long as they control what they consider to be fair.

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