TIMES TWO: NASCAR, PETTY ENTERPRISES TEST CAR OF TOMORROW PROTOTYPES Daytona International Speedway session features drafting, spoiler and wing research DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 19, 2006) -- The NASCAR Car of Tomorrow had company Thursday at...
TIMES TWO: NASCAR, PETTY ENTERPRISES TEST CAR OF TOMORROW PROTOTYPES
Daytona International Speedway session features drafting, spoiler and wing research
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 19, 2006) -- The NASCAR Car of Tomorrow had company Thursday at Daytona International Speedway as NASCAR Research and Development officials put their prototype through its paces for a second consecutive week.
This time, Petty Enterprises' Kyle Petty (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge) joined NASCAR Director of Cost Research Brett Bodine on the track, guiding his gray prototype alongside the black, white and yellow NASCAR prototype.
Thursday's test followed the second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series session of NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona, the annual preseason tests at Daytona, and Petty's fresh experiences in his current car lent valuable perspective to the Car of Tomorrow test.
"It's different the way it sucks up in the draft," Petty said. "It's different the way it feels around other cars. The nuance of the car is just a lot different."
Last week, Bodine and the NASCAR Research and Development team led by NASCAR Vice President of Research and Development Gary Nelson conducted the first Car of Tomorrow test at Daytona, spending time on solo runs, and gathering baseline information for the second test.
"We're just here to do multi-car runs, try to evaluate its effect on the second car," Bodine said. "All the aero configurations that we worked on last week, we're letting Kyle do all the analysis. He was just here (Wednesday) with his current car, so he's got a good feel for the differences between the two."
Both Daytona tests were open to any teams that wished to test their prototypes. Bodine said the fact that only Petty Enterprises brought its prototype wasn't a hindrance to either test's success. Petty is one of several drivers who tested his team's prototype last October at Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"We can learn a good bit with two cars," said Bodine, a former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor. "Kyle's been working with us since the beginning with this project. He's been to Atlanta and Talladega, and now here at Daytona with us. We've had a really good working relationship, and just the fact that there's only two cars, we can still learn a good bit about them. We already have."
In the final stages of a five-year project, the Car of Tomorrow represents NASCAR's next major step in safety and performance innovations, and cost reduction. The redesigned chassis is boxier, with an open front bumper that catches air and creates drag -- one of numerous features aimed at minimizing aerodynamic dependence.
Current tests are targeting on-track handling and balance, testing the effects of both a redesigned spoiler, and a wing similar to what is employed in the sports car series. Both are bolt-on pieces that could help teams tune cars more efficiently at more tracks, thus reducing fleet costs.
Many Thursday morning runs saw Petty following Bodine in a drafting mode, with the NASCAR prototype utilizing the spoiler, then the wing for comparison. During the afternoon, Bodine planned to follow Petty in the draft, with the wing and spoiler bolted on the Petty Enterprises prototype, to gather data and observations on the trailing car.
"We're trying the wing, we're trying the spoilers," Petty said. "You're trying a lot of different stuff and I think you're still in that stage of development. I think that's a big thing. I think everybody jumps to conclusions -- 'oh my god, the Car of Tomorrow, it's going to change racing, it's going to do this.' How do you know until you come up with the end product? And we don't have the end product. I think every time you take it to a race track, you get closer and closer."
Although the current focus is on balance and handling, Petty said the Car of Tomorrow's original premise remains paramount in the safety innovations built into the prototype. Among them: A roll cage that's two inches taller and four inches wider, a driver's seat that now sits four inches closer to the center of the car, and additional reinforcement on all sides.
"The original design, development and the implementation of the car is all about safety," Petty said. "It's all about crush zones in the back, crush zones in the side, crush zones in the front. It's all about moving the driver three or four inches toward the center of the car. It's about changing the transmission so the transmission's not in the driver's right side if the drive shaft comes out of there and something happens to the flywheel.
"There's a lot of safety innovation that goes into the car. So it's not necessarily about changing the shape or the size or what the car looks like. It's more about making a safer car."
Petty said he considers the Car of Tomorrow a significant safety evolution just like roof flaps, tire inner liners and SAFER barriers. He, too, looks forward to future tests with more teams' prototypes.
"NASCAR's working on it and they've got some teams working on it," Petty said. "It's a change, but the time schedule for safety is never too aggressive and I think that's the way you have to look at it."