BES: Composite body arrives

Composite Body Arrives In Nascar Grand National Division, Busch East Series; Dion Ciccarelli To Debut New Technology In Series Opener At Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Sat., June 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 24, 2006) -- The custom-fabricated,...

Composite Body Arrives In Nascar Grand National Division, Busch East Series; Dion Ciccarelli To Debut New Technology In Series Opener At Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Sat., June 10

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 24, 2006) -- The custom-fabricated, sheet metal race car body may not ready to join the rotary-dial phone or the 45 rpm record as a symbol of yesterday's technology, but there is something new on the horizon for the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series. It's called a composite body, and it will make its debut in the 2006 season opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway on Saturday, June 10.

Molded as a single piece and designed for lower initial cost and maintenance than the identical-appearing steel body to which it becomes an alternative, composite bodies have been delivered to several teams preparing for the 2006 Busch East Series season as well as its NASCAR Grand National Division counterpart, the AutoZone West Series. One team committed to the new skin for Greenville-Pickens is the #84 Jamerson Racing team and driver Dion Ciccarelli.

Ciccarelli, a resident of Severn Md., has limited experience in both the NASCAR Busch Series and the former Busch North Series, whose identity changes to the Busch East Series in 2006. As part of a new team without an inventory of cars and parts built up over the years, Ciccarelli's interest in the new concept was logical. "We're committed to the series. We realized last year we needed the right equipment," he said, adding "We decided to order a new car and we figured if we're going to build a new car, why not build the car of the future now?"

The nature of NASCAR race car bodies has changed slowly but steadily over the decades. Once, a late model race car started as a stock model off the dealer's showroom floor, giving the sport its identity. By the 1970's, car builders ordered factory body panels and hung them on a racing chassis. Today, a body for a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup or Busch Series car starts as a stack of steel sheets which are hand-crafted to meet the template shape of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo or Ford Fusion or Dodge Charger while achieving maximum aerodynamic efficiency..

Construction and repair of the traditional sheet metal bodies are labor-intensive, and some teams maintain different bodies for superspeedways and short tracks. One intention of the composite body is to get back to basics with a single, standard shape. "The only difference in the cars is the way you cut the side windows and the way you cut the grill," Ciccarelli explained.

While the new car is still in the building stage, Ciccarelli is already learning about the composite body's characteristics. "It's surprisingly light, considering how thick it is (compared to steel)," he said. "It's been really neat for us doing the prep work. So far it's been pretty durable. You can lean on it. With our steel-bodied cars you can't lean on a fender without wrinkling it." He noted that durability and the potential for making repairs in the team shop are especially important to his team located far away from both the major body fabricators in the industry hub of Charlotte, N.C. and the shops in New England who handled body repairs for the former Busch North Series competitors.

Dion Ciccarelli and Jamerson Racing aren't adopting the composite body just to be pioneers; they're making the move to help the bottom line of a small team setting out on a big challenge. But if the composite body becomes as widely adopted as many expect, they may find themselves looking like the first kid on the block with a cell phone in the 1990's or an IPod earlier this decade.

-nascar

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