Endurance is key as Pontiac looks for second straight win. DETROIT, Mich., May 22, 2002 - Compared to this point last season, the Pontiac Racing stable has tripled its win output in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, claiming the top spot three...
Endurance is key as Pontiac looks for second straight win.
DETROIT, Mich., May 22, 2002 - Compared to this point last season, the Pontiac Racing stable has tripled its win output in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, claiming the top spot three times in 11 outings. Sunday in Concord, N.C., the Grand Prix drivers will look to notch their fourth win of the year, but to do it, they'll have to endure the biggest durability challenge of the season in what stands as the longest race of the year.
This weekend's schedule, which includes the standard qualifying session on Thursday and a pair of 'Happy Hour' practices on Saturday, concludes with a 600-mile test of man and machine. The 400-lap affair, contested for the first time under the series' new one-engine rule, is certain to put Winston Cup engine builders to the test.
Thoughts From Jim Covey, Engine Development Manager, GM Racing:
HOW BIG IS THE CHALLENGE THIS WEEKEND FOR ENGINE BUILDERS?
"This will be the most severe test for it yet this year. The issue you've got is that guys have found a pretty good limit for the 500-mile mark, but now they're going to have to go that extra 100 miles. At the beginning of the year, guys were used to running 500 miles, starting with a fresh engine. Then, with the one-engine rule, they had to adjust to running practice and qualifying with one engine, and then race with that same engine for 500 miles. Now, we're going to go 100 miles beyond all that, and Charlotte is a pretty tough track. They run high RPM for sustained periods of time, with quite a bit of wide open-throttle. It's always been difficult on engines and now you're throwing in that additional 100 miles."
TEAMS MAY FACE A 15- TO 20-DEGREE TEMPERATURE CHANGE DURING THE COURSE OF SUNDAY'S RACE...DOES THAT CAUSE EVEN MORE HEADACHES FOR THE ENGINE DEPARTMENT?
"Yeah, it does. If you want to jet the car so you have the correct air-fuel ratio at 70 degrees, once it reaches 60-degrees you're going to need more fuel because the air is denser at the lower temperature. You're getting more air, so now you need more fuel to compensate for that. What can possibly happen is that if you don't plan for that the engine will run lean and you'll have problems with burning pistons and things like that. From that standpoint, it can be really treacherous.
"The other issue is the amount of tape that guys will put on the car. Knowing that it's going to get cooler later in the race, they might be willing to start with a little more tape than they'd normally be comfortable with and just take a risk or take a chance on getting through the first couple hours until the temperature drops.
"It's becoming a huge challenge in the sense that crew chiefs know there is so much advantage, as far as drag and downforce, by running more tape, so they want to run as much as they can. That's just difficult on the engines. They'll want to run the engines as hot as they possibly can to run as much tape as they can. But, with the temperature changing throughout the night, they might start on the more aggressive side at the beginning of the day when it's warmer and hope that they get through that. Typically, you'll start with a lot of tape and then you'll take that tape off if the car is running too hot. During a normal race the air temperature will stay more consistent or it might even get hotter. Here we're going to exact opposite."
IF YOU WERE AN ENGINE BUILDER, HOW WELL WOULD YOU SLEEP SATURDAY NIGHT BEFORE THIS RACE?
"I don't know how those guys sleep at all no matter what the race is because it is so competitive now. But, this is something that is a really big challenge to them. You just can't afford to leave anything lying on the table. You've got to go for it at all times. But, not having any previous races this year to base 600 miles of racing, plus qualifying and practice, you've got to be somewhat conservative. You've just got to hope that you're conservative enough to finish, but not too conservative that you'll get lapped."