GM Racing comments on Indianapolis Brickyard tests

GM Engineers support Chevrolet and Pontiac teams at Indy tests. INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 17, 2002) -- Chevrolet and Pontiac Winston Cup teams testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the past two weeks (July 9-10 and July 15-16) were ...

GM Engineers support Chevrolet and Pontiac teams at Indy tests.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 17, 2002) -- Chevrolet and Pontiac Winston Cup teams testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the past two weeks (July 9-10 and July 15-16) were assisted by a number of GM Racing engineers. But that's nothing new. NASCAR teams have been relying on General Motors technology since Oldsmobile won the most races in NASCAR's first season of stock-car competition, 1949.

Since then, GM engineers have been testing, tweaking and expanding the limits of automotive technology, and sharing this data with the teams. This combination of advanced automotive technology along with some of the best teams and drivers in the history of racing has resulted in GM products winning more Winston Cup races than any other auto company. Led by Chevrolet's 502 victories and Pontiac's 151, GM cars have won a total of 834 Winston Cup races since 1949, with the nearest competitor more than a hundred wins behind.

Following is a description of the roles the GM Racing engineers have played at these Indy tests, and quotes from each of the engineers.


"We were here with a varied group of engineers from our department -- aero, chassis, engine and safety. And we provided technical support to different teams. In particular, there were some of our teams that asked for assistance in some specific areas that they would like to improve. We have been setting up meetings trying to make sure that everything goes well, talking to the NASCAR people, talking to the teams, verifying that everything is OK. And we've had meetings with the teams talking about next year. This is a great venue to have those kinds of conversations that are too difficult to have during the race weekend. It's more relaxed here, and it's easier not only to deal with the teams but with the sanctioning body also."


"I was here working primarily with the Pontiac teams, just generally seeing what was going on, to see if we can help the teams along. There were four cars here this week, one last week. The No. 10 (Jerry Nadeau's Pontiac) was so happy on Tuesday they went home early. They worked Monday on their race setup all day long, and they simply taped it off and they were the quick car that day, so they quit while they were ahead. They got the other car running quite well Tuesday morning, so they're fine."

HOW DO YOU CONTRIBUTE? "However I can when they ask me. I learned a long time ago you don't go to them and say, have you tried this. Because they'll say yeah, we tried it, and it doesn't work. I let them work through it and then when they need something we've got the resources here to help them."

ARE YOU WORKING WITH THE JOE GIBBS TEAM TESTING BOTH THE PONTIAC AND THE CHEVROLET? "Well, they made their announcement that they were switching to Chevrolet in 2003; now I only have to spend half my time with them."

ARE YOU WORKING CLOSELY WITH THE OTHER GM ENGINEERS HERE? "Yes. I usually do a lot of the wind tunnel testing for the Pontiacs, as I'm an engineer too. Also I'll work on specific projects that the teams may want. We generally have the team tell us what they would like us to help them with. And we draw from the expertise of the different engineers who are here, whatever their field is."


"I help GM teams with whatever they ask for. Like taking a look at the cars they're bringing here and making sure that they look like they're appropriate for the track and advising them if we see concerns."

IN WHAT AREAS? "Specifically, aerodynamics. If I see a team that's got a car that looks like a speedway car and we're at a downforce track I'll let them know. I'll talk with the teams, see what problems they're having, see if there are any aerodynamic solutions to the problems they're having."

CAN YOU MAKE FIXES AT THE TRACK?  "We can usually fix them here to some
extent.  We don't necessarily recommend the wind tunnel; it's a little
late for that.  We try and help them with what they're doing here."

ON GM'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TEAMS: "Our help is often like leading a horse to water. We bring it as a service to them, we make ourselves available, and if they want to drink, cool, and if they don't, well, that's the way it goes. We help those that want help."

THE NO. 4 (MIKE SKINNER'S KODAK FILMS MONTE CARLO) ASKED FOR HELP: "And they got it, too. Dwight (Woodbridge, aero engineer) was working with them long and hard. Dwight wasn't here this week because he's in the wind tunnel with them. We translate it that way when we can and going to the wind tunnel was planned ahead of time. That didn't come as a result of their test here."

DO TEAM ENGINEERS WORK WITH YOU? "To a large extent. Some of the teams are doing things which they feel are proprietary; they don't care for us to know what they're doing, so we don't work too much with them. With other teams it's a little more of a sharing relationship. It varies."


"There are multiple reasons for being here. One of my key roles here last week was to work with a team that would be in the wind tunnel this week. You go through a development program here on those cars to improve them, and then you mirror some of that in the wind tunnel and then carry that development program on farther so that when you come back for the race you've developed an even better car. Then the team will continue on the development that they've started here with the cars. You bring back the best package you possibly can. So, you quantify the correlation between what happens on the race track and what the wind tunnel says happens and how the downforce and the balance change based on the things that you try from this particular test. Then you modify the test plan to bring back a better car to the race. But I was here also to help all of the GM cars aerodynamically develop themselves so that they are more efficient cars, better cars, to kind of look and see what everybody else is doing and what the state of the competition is. We'll transfer that information back to our teams because they're too focused on what specifically they're doing and we kind of get a bigger picture of everything that is going on here."

WHICH TEAM ARE YOU WORKING WITH? "We're working with the Kodak team. We're trying to help them elevate themselves. They've been a pretty good team in the past and we're helping to get them up to speed a little bit. And they've shown definite signs of improvement over the last few races. You want to continue that trend with them. They asked for help so we're providing that for them. We certainly help all of the teams that are here doing development work, like DEI and Hendrick and RCR."

KEVIN GOLSCH, AERODYNAMICS ENGINEER, GM RACING (working with Dwight Woodbridge and Terry Laise):

"The teams may have specific questions; what may affect what. And so we'll work with them to try to explain (that) if you do this it's going to affect that. If the car's pushing you can affect it this way. Don't do that ^Ìcause that's going to make it looser."

DID YOU HELP ANY TEAMS AT THESE TESTS? "We have been working with Morgan-McClure. They've been struggling all year long, so we've been trying to help them out and give them some advice and look over their car; try to support them. Some of the teams don't have a lot of engineers working for them so they need our help more than others. Other ones use us for support functions, when we go testing with them. We'll use the resources that GM has to help support them. Every team is a little bit different with what they need from us."


"A lot of what I do is follow up on things that we worked on with specific teams. Sometimes we'll do projects with specific teams and we follow up to see how they play out at the race track. A lot of things that we try at non-NASCAR tracks, like Kentucky, we'll bring here. Based on what we learned at Kentucky we found pretty good correlation between Kentucky and Indy, so what we learned there generally applied to this place too."

SUCH AS? "Chassis setup, trying to get the chassis to work with the aero properties, to get the attitude of the car right. We do a lot of work to try to optimize suspension geometry to take advantage of the tires in terms of camber and slip angles, try and get the most grip that you can get out of a tire. A lot of that's changed with the setups getting real soft. We're getting a lot more suspension travel and so a lot of the mindset in terms of what the suspension alignments need to be has changed as a result. We spend a lot of time doing simulation to understand that. And we work with the teams to try to implement that in the race setups here."

WHAT ARE THE SIMULATIONS? "It's computer simulation. Most of it is done before you come to the track. We're not to the point where we're really doing it real time, so you look at things at the shop. Sometimes I'll work with them at their shops for a couple of days, trying different things. Ideally what we would do is some simulation work, hone in on some things. We'd go to Kentucky, kind of prove them out there, and if they work there, then we bring them here."

TALK ABOUT THE KENTUCKY TESTS: "The Kentucky tests are private tests that are usually not a group test like this is, where you've got all the teams. They're private tests where the team rents the track and you go with that team to work on things. There may be other cars there, but generally you are just working with a specific team."

HOW ELSE DO YOU CONTRIBUTE? "One of the other things I did one afternoon last week is go down into turn 1 and take segment times from the entry of turn 1 as far as I could see into the short chute. No formal plan, I just wanted to look at the car attitudes as they were entering the corner. I took some segment times and I saw some cars were faster than others in the same configuration. I was looking mostly at those who were in race configuration. I fed that kind of information back to the teams, because they don't necessarily get segment information until the end of the day. They did have one instance last week where I fed that information to the team and it was very consistent with what they were seeing from an overall lap time. We're also working with some things to try to improve in that particular part of the track. It kind of confirms some things that they already thought, therefore it was good information for them."

NOT JUST CHEVY TEAMS? "You do basically whatever car goes by. Based on my experience here, getting through the corner is everything. The straightaways will take care of themselves. So you look for correlation between attitude of the car and those segment times, or driver line and those segment times, or where a guy gets off the throttle and on the throttle and segment times, just to see if you can pick up differences that correlate with those times that you can then feed back to your teams. Because this track is 2.5 miles and has real long straightaways a lot of the teams feel that you have to work on drag and try and get down the straightaway fast. What we've seen since I've been coming here for the last three years is you don't worry about drag down the straightaway if it means you're going to give up downforce for the corner. You just focus on trying to get everything you can in the corner; get good exit speed, and basically carry that down the straightaways. Working with the data that you do collect kind of demonstrates that by pointing out cars that have overall quick lap times also have very quick corner times, even though they might be giving up a little bit down the straightaway. It's just another set of eyes and ears to watch things and feed information back to the teams."


"At a test like this I work with the GM teams, both Chevy and Pontiac, on suspension setups and probably more specifically on shock settings and valving. I talk to the crew chiefs, talk to the engineers, see what they're using for suspension setups. If I have any recommendations or ideas on things they might try that maybe they haven't looked at or maybe they haven't thought of, I give them those suggestions. I talk with the engineers or the shock specialists on what they're running for shocks, what my ideas might be, what kind of things they might try that are different from what they have on the car. I try to talk to the teams on what specifically is working for them and is not working for them; what specific issues they have on chassis setup and try to give them some ideas and direction on other things to try."

ON THESE TESTS: "These tests, for all the teams, are held only at Daytona and Indianapolis. At Daytona there isn't as much chassis work to be done because of the regulations as far as spec springs and spec rear shocks are concerned. I don't typically go to both Daytona tests, but I'm always at both Indianapolis tests and then, if there are any other manufacturer tests, for whatever reason, then I'll also go to those."

DO THE TEAMS LEARN ANYTHING HERE FOR ANOTHER TRACK? "Some of the things that they'll learn here are applicable to some of the other flat tracks -- Pocono, Chicago, Kansas City, particularly Homestead. So they will not only be testing stuff specifically for Indianapolis, they will be testing things on the chassis side and aero side for other flat tracks that they're going to run later this year."


"My role is mostly to communicate with the teams and NASCAR about current issues. One of the issues that have come up recently is engine placement. How are they going to measure engine placement? They have a rule in place right now, but it's kind of an antiquated rule, that goes off the spark plug relative to one of the suspension points. It's a point that when the guys adjust the suspension they change the angle of the front kingpin and also the spark plug comes out of the engine at an angle. So it's difficult for NASCAR to measure accurately. So NASCAR is proposing some different ways of doing it, trying to make sure that we come up with an equitable solution for all manufacturers, something that teams can live with, something that's easy for NASCAR to inspect. We're talking to them about that. There's really not a lot of engine testing that goes on here, but each of the teams has an engine builder here, an engine tuner. Many of the engine builders do not go to the races. So, if there is some information on stuff we're doing, I get a chance to sit down and talk with them and let them know what development project we've got going, what revisions there are to our existing parts, what we are looking for as far as future parts. You can run data acquisition like oxygen sensors, so you can look at air/fuel distribution as the car's going around the track. You can't do that on a race weekend."

IS THE ONE-ENGINE RULE A MOOT POINT NOW? "I think so, pretty much. I think the guys have run enough races. Earlier in the year the guys were going to maybe err on the conservative side because they didn't know what to expect with practice, qualifying and the race. They've since had, for the most part, real good reliability. Now it's getting to the point where, OK, let's get a little more risky, let's take more chances and try some more cutting-edge technology or weights or combinations that they weren't running at the beginning of the year, but now they've had good success. That's the way it always goes. Now that they're comfortable with the reliability of the package they've got they're pushing the envelope. They did that in past years too. They had something that ran just the race, but if they were successful with that they would push the envelope and come up with something a little more radical to see if they could increase power and take a little more chance at reliability."

DOES GM HELP OR IS IT JUST THE TEAM? "The teams pretty much do that. Our role is more on a global aspect, but when you get down to camshafts, profiles, valve springs, piston designs and things like that, that pretty much gets down to the teams. We supply the core parts, the blocks, cylinder heads, intake manifolds, and they work from there."


"I've been here both last week and this week to not only attend the safety meetings, but to talk to the drivers, crew chiefs, look at the cars and see if there's any kind of guidance or help we can give the teams to make their cars safer."

HOW HAS THAT GONE? "The meetings went well, a lot of progress has been made since last year. NASCAR gave a little insight into how the safer wall was constructed and how the tests at University of Nebraska went. They had a lot of video of those tests. NASCAR showed us some of the data that they've gotten from their black boxes in general, on where the cars have been hitting and how it's helped them decide the important parts of the car to work on."

DID YOU TALK TO DRIVERS AFTER THE MEETINGS? "The drivers thought that the meetings were very good. They're very concerned about their own safety, as you might expect. There was a lot in there about how their seats have gotten better over the years, but they still need to put stiffer components in their seats and also look at using nets that go from the head surround and the shoulder up to the dash. Not only does it help the seat, but it helps to keep the driver's head in an envelope so it doesn't get too far out."

TALK ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA'S PROGRAMS: "Dean Sicking, professor at University of Nebraska was at the meetings. His expertise is highway barrier construction and testing walls. IRL funded that project to come up with a safer wall for Indy that would work both with the IRL cars and the stock cars. I think they succeeded. The wall is up now and it has been obviously hit with the IRL cars during the Indy 500. They will use it for the Brickyard and they can retune the wall by putting more Styrofoam behind the wall." (Note: University of Nebraska has projects ongoing relating to highway safety and roadside barriers. "They were a natural selection to look for the expertise to come up with something that would stop race cars," added Gideon.)

-gm racing-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jerry Nadeau