Fort Worth: Team Monte Carlo preview

Team Monte Carlo is ready for success with rule modifications and fast Texas track. DETROIT, Mich., April 3, 2002 - Although Chevrolet has logged more race victories (381) in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series than any other manufacturer in the...

Team Monte Carlo is ready for success with rule modifications and fast Texas track.

DETROIT, Mich., April 3, 2002 - Although Chevrolet has logged more race victories (381) in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series than any other manufacturer in the Modern Era (1972 - present), Team Monte Carlo is still seeking its first win of the 2002 season. The Chevy teams are now more optimistic that they are not operating under such an extreme aero disadvantage and can put an end to their winless streak at Round #7 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7.

The winless start is certainly uncharacteristic for Chevrolet, the most successful nameplate in NASCAR. So rare in fact, that the last time Chevrolet had not won a race by the 7th round of the series dates back to 1971. Until now - throughout the Modern Era - the highest number of races to pass before collecting a win was five. Only twice, in 1972 and 1992, did Chevrolet go without a win until the sixth race of the series.

Team Monte Carlo hopes the 7th race is the charm.

Based on recent aerodynamic wind tunnel test data, and early on-track performances in 2002, Chevy teams have been asking NASCAR to level the playing field for all four manufacturers. On March 21, 2002, NASCAR officials responded with modifications to its inspection and measuring process beginning with this weekend's Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Specifically, the inspection-room floor reference line that determines the overall length of the front of the Monte Carlo has been moved to the same point as the Ford Taurus and Dodge Intrepid. Formerly measured at 99 inches, it will now be measured at 100 1/4 inches. The Pontiac Grand Prix is measured at 100 1/2 inches.

While both GM Racing and the Chevrolet teams are eager to see the results of this new rules adjustment, additional challenges are posed by the newly repaved 1.5-mile track. According to the teams that tested at Texas Motor Speedway last month, it's said to be a faster and smoother one-groove track - probably the fastest on the circuit this year.

Because the drivers will be running at high speeds with continually high rpm's, Sunday's 500-mile event could be the most demanding race on the tour given NASCAR's "one-engine" rule, which requires the teams to practice, qualify, and race with the same engine.

Jim Covey, GM Racing's Engine Development Manager, and Chad Knaus, crew chief of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, anticipate an exciting weekend ahead. A Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate, Johnson is currently fourth in the drivers' standings and is the top-ranking Chevy driver.

Comments from Jim Covey, GM Racing's Engine Development Manager:

Could Texas Motor Speedway pose the toughest challenge for the one-engine rule? "After the test session at Texas, I was told that minimum rpm in the corner - in race trim and after about 20 laps - was still 7800 rpm. So they're going to be running an rpm range of 7800 to 9000. Even at tracks like Atlanta, they're off the gas a lot more and they might get down closer to 7200 rpm. So this race will be a lot of wide-open throttle and very high rpm all day long. The longer you can stay off the throttle, you can kind of let things cool down and you just don't build the cylinder temperature. I think everybody is a little bit nervous, and everybody is very conscious of the demands. So yes, this race could be the biggest challenge of the year for the engines."

How tough is it for a motor to last 500 miles? "Before this new rule, the teams had a pretty good idea of what would last 500 miles. They knew where they could push the envelope a little. But now, my guess is that they'll be fairly conservative. They've got to practice, qualify, and race with the same motor, which could add up to 700 miles. Actually, my guess is that we won't see the teams practice as much as they usually do. They'll want to conserve as much as they can for the race because the guys will be on the throttle so much.

"It all boils down to reliability. That's the number one concern. It'll be the same for all the manufacturers. It is a new challenge to everybody. This will be a big test for the one-engine rule."

On the new rules change for Chevrolet "In talking to our teams, when we ask them what they need, they keep telling us downforce, downforce, downforce. It's getting to the point where getting through the corners is very critical. At a flatter track, like California, aerodynamic downforce is more critical. At a track like Texas, because of the higher bank angle in the turns, centrifugal force loads the chassis more and therefore aerodynamic downforce is not as big of a factor. Even so, it would be beneficial to get the car loaded up even more in the corners. At Atlanta, the Chevrolets ran fairly decent. But in traffic, they lost some of the front downforce and they were having trouble. It's a fast track, but it looks like Texas will be even faster."

Comments from Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo:

With the new rules modification for Chevrolet, is help really on the way? "We'll just have to wait and see. It's going to take a little time to get a feel for it and I think we'll probably get a better idea of how much it will help us on a flatter track like California. We hope to see some change at Texas, but it's hard to say how much. No question, we need some help. We'll take whatever we can get."

How will the high rpm's affect your game plan for the weekend? "I can tell you right now that we're not going to practice as much as we'd like to. That's probably going to hurt us in the long run with Jimmie never being there in a Winston Cup car. We also have a new tire from Goodyear. They've changed the compound and they've changed the structure and I don't know that much about the tire. So there are a few challenges on tap for us this weekend, but we'll just go out there and do the best we can."

-tmc-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports