NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tech Talk

Tech Talk: Comparing Loop Data To Analyze The Gen-6

_Author's Note: An unexpected scheduling conflict caused our crew chief to be unavailable this week, so we're going to take a look at the loop data statistics from last year's Phoenix race vs. this year's to see what the performance of the Gen-6 vs. COT looks like from a purely data-driven perspective._ NASCAR compiles a mountain of statistics each week that allow digit heads across the land, and in the garage area, to make unbiased comparisons on many different levels. Since Sunday's race was the first unrestricted event for the latest version of the Cup Series car, it just might be interesting to see what the numbers reveal. The first numbers we'll look at are quality passes. A quality pass is one that occurs on a car running in the top 15 under green flag conditions. In last year's race, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth but had the most quality passes during the race with 63. Interestingly, in 2013, Brad Keselowski finished fourth and also had the most quality passes; however, the defending champion only notched 35 of them. In looking at the quality passes, the top 11 passers in 2012's Spring Phoenix race made more than the top passer in 2013. That's sign that to pass someone, last Sunday it was far more difficult than during the race a year before. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15503.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"102\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Much has been said of the Gen-6 cars leading into the 2013 season, but are they really that much better than the COT was?</p></div> Next up is the speed in traffic stat. It gives you the average speed of the driver when he has another car within one car length of them during green flag laps. This year's top runner at Phoenix was Matt Kenseth with a speed of 129.807 mph. Last year's best in traffic was Jimmie Johnson who clocked 130.260 mph. When it was all said and done, the speed of the top runners was nearly identical from one year to the next. Third up is the statistic that backs up the argument that you always hear from the people who attend the race in person. They always maintain that there is so much more action back in the pack than what you see on TV. Green flag passes will most definitely let you know which race had the most excitement from front to back of the pack. In 2012, Jimmie Johnson once again led the category with no less than 90 passes during green flag competition. That was nearly 50% more than this year's king of the overtake, AJ Allmendinger, who put the move on 61 cars throughout the length of the race. The top 12 drivers in the 2012 green flag pass statistics made more green flag passes than the top passer in 2013. Laps led is another category that indicates the competitive nature of a race. More drivers leading laps means more drivers were at the front. Certainly some laps led occur when drivers stay out during cautions, but in the long run, more drivers leading laps indicates more competitive races. 2013 saw nine drivers lead laps, with five of them leading double digit laps and Carl Edwards leading the most at 122 circuits. In comparison, 2012 saw 15 drivers lead the field across the line, but only five of them led double digit laps. The mandate that came down from above as the manufacturers and NASCAR's R&D center started working on the latest edition of the Cup series car was to have more side-by-side racing and more passes for the lead. While there is a long way to go and many things to be learned about this new car, for now it is looking like the older car was a bit more competitive. However, the older car had been around for six years, and there had been a lot of tricks and techniques learned to make it better. For now, the jury is still out on the new car. But, looking at the numbers that were accumulated last Sunday, the older car was faster, had more passing and more leaders. We'll see what it looks like when the series rolls back into Phoenix in November. *Connect with Mike!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/mneffshorttrack\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Mike Neff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

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Tech Talk: Alan Gustafson Takes The New Car, And Jeff Gordon Back To The Desert

_Phoenix International Raceway has been a challenging place for Jeff Gordon during his 20-year career. It was where he was able to break through and end a winless drought nearly two years in the making, back in 2011 and where he scored win No. 76, tying Dale Earnhardt in career victories in 2007. Now, the track will pose a different type of challenge for Gordon and others, hosting the first race for the new Generation-6 Cup car with an unrestricted engine. The series heads to the desert Southwest with so many unanswered questions surrounding how the new chassis will handle on those types of speedways. Frontstretch got a few minutes with Alan Gustafson, Gordon's crew chief to talk about the challenges faced by teams heading into the race, along with a quick look back at Daytona._

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Tech Talk: Slugger Labbe Breaks Down Prepping For The Daytona 500

_The Daytona 500 will start off the NASCAR points race season this Sunday, and the cars from the Richard Childress Racing stable are heading into the event feeling rather confident after one of their own, Kevin Harvick, scored the first win of the season in the Sprint Unlimited. Sitting on the pit box for Paul Menard this Sunday will be Slugger Labbe. The veteran crew chief from Saco, Maine has been in Daytona’s Victory Lane before as a crew chief with Michael Waltrip; now, he's looking to repeat the feat and bring his driver a maiden plate race triumph. Tuesday morning, he gave Frontstretch his views on how things have unfolded so far in Speedweeks, along with a little insight into the Battle at the Beach._

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Tech Talk: Tony Gibson Dishes on Preparing for Gen-6 at Daytona

_Tony Gibson has been around the sport of stock car racing for a long time. He's seen three or four generations of the race cars in the Cup Series and now, he prepares to climb aboard the pit box for one of the most well-known female drivers in the history of the sport, Danica Patrick. As he takes on that new role, he also has to take on the task of learning how the latest iteration of the Cup car will react to the subtle nuances that crew chiefs throw at it in an attempt to make it faster. Gibson took a break from all that complexity, plus preparing his team to head to Daytona to speak with Mike Neff about the challenges that teams are facing as they head to the World Center of Speed in this season's first installment of Tech Talk._ Mike Neff: *You went down to Daytona last month for the big test with the new car. How much did you learn and when you unloaded down there, were you in a 500 setup or were you testing specific things with the car?* Tony Gibson: We were pretty much in race mode. I know it sounds strange to say single-car runs, but we weren't in any kind of qualifying mode.

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Tech Talk: Making a Car Stick in the Florida Sun with Bob Osborne

_Bob Osborne was Carl Edwards crew chief for most of the first seven years of his career, with the exception of a brief stint with Jamie McMurray. He ran the No. 99 for the first 19 races this season before stepping aside due to health concerns. He is still part of the management of Roush Fenway racing and has his finger on the pulse of all of the teams under the Roush banner._ _Osborne shared his opinions on setting up for a variable banking track, an oval without a bend in the front straight, the character of Homestead after baking in the Florida sun for a few years and the strategy every team uses when they come to the race track on a race weekend. He also tells FS what he'd like to see out of the tires that are brought to the track every weekend._

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Tech Talk: Darian Grubb and Putting the Power Down at Phoenix

_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._

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Tech Talk: Saving Gas While Going Fast in the Lone Star State

_Jason Ratcliff has been turning wrenches for Joey Logano all season. He led Logano to his second career Cup victory along with a fourth-place finish at Daytona in July. Ratcliff has a Nationwide championship under his belt, with Kyle Busch in 2009 and 2012 marks his first full-time season as a Cup crew chief. In our latest Tech Talk, he shared with Frontstretch the advantages of having the driver run Nationwide and Cup, how EFI can and cannot help with fuel saving, the effect of sideskirt adjustments and how racy the track is at Texas._

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Tech Talk: NASCAR Eyes In The Sky Equals A Full-Time Job

_This week for Tech Talk, we thought we'd take a detour from life under the hood to give you a taste of what life is like up on the roof. Mike Herman, Jr. has been spotting for several years for drivers at local tracks all of the way up to the Sprint Cup Series. Before that, he was a driver and mechanic, winning multiple track championships at Concord Speedway and competing in the Hooters Pro Cup Series back when it was one of the strongest short track divisions in the country. So as NASCAR heads to Martinsville, Virginia this weekend with its Chase for the Championship Frontstretch sat down with Herman to talk a little about the tools of his trade. Find out more insight about the responsibilities of a spotter, what the toughest pit road in the sport is and how much the best spotters in the business spend on their equipment as Herman, Jr. sits down for an extended conversation with our own Mike Neff. Oh, and we talk a little Martinsville inside info, too..._

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Goodyear Engineer Justin Vanthozen On Picking the Right Tire for Kansas

_Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has been making racing tires for as long as there has been racing. In 1914 every competitor in the Indianapolis 500 raced on Goodyear tires. Over the company's long history they have continually advanced tire technology to new heights that some would argue might be too advanced for what their product is supposed to do. Whatever your opinion, the fact of the matter is that Goodyear is the top manufacturer of tires in the United States and they have developed racing tires that are the most durable that we’ve ever seen in our sport._ _Goodyear Engineer Justin Vanthozen sat down with Frontstretch to discuss tires; how they are constructed, the most important characteristics in race tires, the construction compounds (without divulging industry secrets of course) and more. As the series heads into Kansas with their newly repaved surface, tires will most certainly be at the forefront of the conversation, and Vanthozen helped to clarify that picture._

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Tech Talk: Night Racing in Charlotte with Tony Gibson and the No. 39

_The Cup series heads to Charlotte for the final night race of the season. Teams will be dealing with a more stable racing surface since the entire race will be run after the sun is below the horizon. The teams will also be sleeping in their own beds and racing in front of friends and family that don’t normally get to see them compete live. As the Chase reaches its halfway point, Tony Gibson shares his views on preparing for 500 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway._ _Gibson touches base on how smart the EFI system is, squashing tires to calculate spring rates and how much better racing would be if the tires wore out more. Check out his opinions in this week’s edition of Tech Talk._

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