Heat Races a Burning Issue in Summer Months Tropicana Twister 300 Advance - Chicagoland Speedway CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 10, 2002) - Grilling a hamburger: 350 degrees. Boiling a pot of water: 212 degrees. Frying an egg: 150 degrees. Strapping...
Heat Races a Burning Issue in Summer Months
Tropicana Twister 300 Advance - Chicagoland Speedway
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 10, 2002) - Grilling a hamburger: 350 degrees. Boiling a pot of water: 212 degrees. Frying an egg: 150 degrees. Strapping into a race car on a scorcher of an afternoon: 110 degrees. A quick swig of water while in the race car: PRICELESS.
To best illustrate the warmth inside a race car, NASCAR drivers offer this analogy: You, wearing a long-sleeved sweater, blue jeans and a helmet, in a car that has been parked all day in the hot sun with the windows rolled up - and the heater turned on!
Why to drivers subject themselves to such extreme measures? For the NASCAR community, the common thinking is you can either be comfortable or be fast, but not both. With the obvious choice the latter, it's no secret that an air vent and a water bottle are as precious to a driver as the gas pedal and steering wheel. But even air vents and water bottles haven't been the answer the past few weeks. As the temperatures have risen, more drivers have been rushed to care centers because of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Saturday's Tropicana Twister 300 Presented by Sam's Club NASCAR Busch Series race at Chicagoland Speedway (NBC, 2 p.m. CST) could include much of the same, as the weekend forecast calls for temperatures reaching 90 degrees. With a 220-degree engine running merely feet away from the driver, who happens to be wearing a heavy fire suit and sitting on top of an exhaust system, anything to stay cool is simply necessary. And with the recent heat-related tragedies in pro and college football, the steaming temperature inside a race car is a danger nobody talks much about.
As he prepares to crank the #1 Yellow Chevrolet for this Saturday's race, Team Yellow driver Jimmy Spencer discusses the heat inside the race car, and how he combats it.
Driver Jimmy Spencer's thoughts
As we approach the middle of the summer, how do you prepare for the heat as a driver?
"Drink a lot of fluids. That's the main thing right there. I try to drink a gallon of water on Friday, and then I keep drinking water on Saturday, too. We've seen some heat-related incidents in football over the past year or so that have people realizing how hot the body can get. Drinking fluids is the best way to cool the body down."
As a veteran driver, is heat ever an issue when you're in the car?
"I'm just used to it. When you've been driving as long as I have, the heat just becomes part of it. But that doesn't mean it's a non-issue. I just try to keep focused on what I've got to do on the race track. When you're a driver, you have a job to do. I don't think either (crew chief) Marc Reno or (car chief) Johnny Allen want to hear me gripe about how hot I am. They've been working on the car all weekend in 90 or 100 degree weather, so they don't need me to forecast it."
Have you ever been so hot that you were forced out of the car?
"I've never gotten out of a car because of heat. That's something I can honestly say, and I would venture to say most drivers are the same way. But I've seen a lot of them need help getting out of the car. Sometimes you can't even get out of the car you're so hot."
But isn't it true you are one of the few drivers who doesn't use a cooling system in your helmet?
"That's true, I don't. Most guys have cool boxes and stuff like that. I don't use that stuff. I guess it's hardheaded in a way, and maybe I should start using them. I tried it last year and didn't like it. It's probably smarter to use it though."
It's supposed to reach 90 degrees again this weekend. Not your typical Chicago weather, is it?
"No, but it's summer time. Whether it's warm or cold or hot, I think we're going to have a good chance to win. We're knocking on the door; we have been all season. And Chicago is just a great race track. Last year we had good cars in both the Busch and the Winston Cup races, and this year I expect the same. With the track being so new last year, there was really only one racing groove. But there is definitely two grooves now, so it should be easier to pass. We qualified on the outside pole there last year, and we led some laps. I want to do better this time."