Daytona 500: Dodge teams on two-car draft

Explanation How The Two-Car Tandem Works At Restrictor-Plate Tracks

HOWARD COMSTOCK (Dodge Motorsports Engineering - NASCAR)

WHY HAS THE TWO-CAR DRAFT BEEN SO DOMINANT DURING SPEEDWEEKS AT DAYTONA THIS YEAR? "The two-car draft has been possible because A) the track has a lot of grip; B) the track is really smooth in the corners. When the track was bumpy in the corners (before the repave), there was no way the cars could maintain contact through the corners because of the undulations (waves and bumps) in the track. Now that the track is smooth with a lot of grip, the cars can go wide open through the corners. Remember, everyone said that you could go wide open at Talladega, but you can't go wide open at Daytona because of the lack of grip and bumpy corners. Previously, if two cars stayed together in the corner, you'd run the risk of crashing. There wasn't enough grip. One of the cars would slip. It was too bumpy and when the bumpers wouldn't align, the cars would make contact. Now the track is smooth and has a lot of grip, especially last night - 50 degrees and no wind. You couldn't get any more perfect conditions for a race. (Two-car drafting) was magnified in the race because there was good grip in the track, no bumps, cool temperatures, no wind; the cars were going to go fast."

WHEN DID TEAMS NOTICE THIS TWO-CAR TANDEM OPPORTUNITY? "It was pretty obvious (during the Daytona test) that the two-car draft was going to work."

WHY DIDN'T A THREE-CAR DRAFT WORK LAST NIGHT? "It's really hard for three cars to stay in line and go through the corners and not lose contact. There's so much orchestration there that it's all but impossible. The second car that is doing the pushing (in a three-car draft) doesn't get the air taken off his spoiler so he's got enough air on his spoiler that he can maintain grip in the corner and continue to push. You couldn't go as fast as we go now because you couldn't maintain the speed in the corners. You would have to get off the other car. Now you don't have to get off the car in front of you. You just push it all the way around. If you push all the way around, that momentum is going to build and now you're racing really fast."

DO YOU ANTICIPATE SEEING 20, TWO-CAR PACKS DURING THE DAYTONA 500? "If you noticed last night, there were two or three two-car breakaways and the rest of the pack was having trouble getting organized into two-car teams. If you're not organized, you're so much slower and end up falling back with a bunch of cars in a huge pack. When that happens, it looks like guys get frantic and that's when the big wreck happens."

DODGE INTRODUCED A BRAND NEW FRONT-NOSE FOR 2011. WHAT ARE THE EARLY RETURNS ON ITS PERFORMANCE? "There's enough grip. Downforce and drag doesn't seem to be a problem. We led better than we pushed and that's a function of a lot of things, but when you can lead better than you push, it tells me that our Dodges have the right aero."

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TRAVIS GEISLER (Director of Competition - Penske Racing)

HOW DID PENSKE RACING PREPARE ITS CARS FOR THE TWO-CAR DRAFT? "There's been a ton of work that's gone into the two-car draft. I think that you saw it starting at Talladega last year for us with the 77 (Sam Hornish Jr.). We went from the back to the front a couple of times by hooking up with somebody and we could drive away. That got everybody working on it and NASCAR made a small rule tweak with the way the engine oil cooler was going to be located in the car and how it was going to be plumed. That got everybody stirred up with new possibilities. The rule change (NASCAR allowed teams to have two three-inch hoses running to an auxiliary oil cooler behind the radiator) this winter made it much more interesting. The reason never wanting to run it before was the location. It had to be up in the upper-right corner, outside the frame rails. So it was really fragile to bump drafting or any kind of contact. So teams never ran it. So NASCAR moved it to the frame rails, basically between the radiator and the engine, where there is a nice little cocoon that it would be protected. That decision got everybody working on that part of the car. That motivated different areas of our shop focusing on, 'How does that affect my area'. Then everybody puts their head together to see how this can work? The shock guys get involved. The seven post guys start to work on it. We came down for the test last month and the entire three-day test teams did two-car runs. There were no big pack runs. The message was clear to the teams that a two-car pack was what everybody was planning. That test was really valuable for our Dodges because we were able to take the information that we got from that test running two-car drafts with Brad (Keselowski) and Kurt (Busch) and look at attitudes on the seven-post, wind tunnel, etc. Everything that we could do to refine the cars to make them better came into play. The two-car tandem is going to be here all SpeedWeeks. I don't care if they (NASCAR) change the restrictor-plate. I don't care if they (NASCAR) changes oil cooler rules. I think the biggest thing that may change two-car tandems will be ambient temperature. We just need to adjust for the warmer temps."

ANY EARLY INDICATIONS ON HOW WARMER WEATHER WILL AFFECT TWO-CAR TANDEMS? "The biggest issue will be how long guys can stay tucked up and push. If NASCAR is concerned about anything, it's that two guys can hook up and run away from the pack. If it gets too warm and we can't keep the engine cool enough, they're going to have to swap positions to avoid overheating. As soon as you do that, the pack reels you in because you slow down so much. If it gets warm enough that you can't go an extended period of time tucked in nose-to-tail, the whole two-pack deal may fizzle a little."

DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT YOU HAVE TO BE BOTH A GOOD "PUSHER" AND "PUSHEE" FOR THE 500 NEXT SUNDAY? "I think the key will be to make friends all day and figure out how to have someone on your bumper at the end. I think that if you're a good pusher you'll probably be someone's best friend lat in the race, but getting pushed is where you want to be. You're going to have to make friends. Maybe it's running with a lot less radiator grille tape for the first part of the race so that you can be a pusher all day and build your credit up with some people. Maybe you put a bunch of tape on the grille at the end of the race. It's just going to be a gambling act at the end."

YOUR AERODYNAMIC PACKAGE (FRONT NOSE) CHANGED THIS YEAR. WHAT ARE THE EARLY RETURNS ON ITS PERFORMACE? "We worked really close with Dodge and NASCAR to design a front end that met NASCAR's criteria and looked like a Dodge Charger. It's been great here at Daytona so far. There have been no negatives with it so far. I think the appearance, if nothing else, is far and away better. Once we get to Las Vegas and those kinds of track, we'll really start to see how it performs. Here we need it to be slick and smooth and it's been fantastic."

-source: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , CIP