Crew Chief Says Last Saturday's Winston Open, Sprint & Winston Demonstrated Pontiac's Downforce Disadvantage ...
Crew Chief Says Last Saturday's Winston Open, Sprint & Winston Demonstrated Pontiac's Downforce Disadvantage
#10 Lycos Pontiac Crew Chief James Ince didn't like what he saw last Friday afternoon during practice for the Winston Open. No matter what the Tyler Jet Motorsports team did during the session driver Johnny Benson complained of an oversteer or "loose" condition on the high-speed track. The rear of Benson's Pontiac kept sliding around in the corner. While the rest of the team worked on the car, Ince returned to the Tyler Jet race shop less than a mile from Lowes Motor Speedway and began cutting the body off the car the team had planned to run in the 600-mile race on Sunday. Ince said he did the cutting all in the name of creating more downforce. He said all Pontiacs are struggling with a downforce disadvantage that showed Saturday night when no Pontiac led a lap or finished higher than 13th in the Winston Open, sixth in the No Bull Sprint or ninth in the Winston.
On Wednesday night, no Pontiac qualified better than seventh for Sunday's 600-mile race and only three made the top twenty. The average qualifying position for a Pontiac Wednesday was 27th.
Here are the Pontiacs from Wednesday's qualfying sheet.
7. (18) Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 184.200
9. (20) Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 183.755
17. (43) John Andretti, Pontiac, 183.132
23. (14) Rick Mast, Pontiac, 182.797
30. (93) Dave Blaney, Pontiac, 182.100
31. (22) Ward Burton, Pontiac, 181.971
34. (36) Ken Schrader, Pontiac, 181.305
39. (10) Johnny Benson, Pontiac, 180.421
41. (44) Steve Grissom, Pontiac, 180.060
46. (27) Mike Bliss, Pontiac, 178.371
James Ince On Pontiac's Winston Open & Winston Performance:
"When people ask me about the Pontiac I like to use the term aerodynamically challenged. It looked like to me (Saturday) that all the Pontiacs were crippled. In the Winston the best Pontiac was ninth. You may say that was because of all the wrecks, but I didn't see any of the Pontiacs running up front. Same with our race the Winston Open and the Sprint at the end. . The best finishing Pontiac in the Sprint was us at sixth. As bad as we were we seemed to be we were about the only Pontiac that could go out there and pass cars. Heck, they inverted the top 12 cars in the Winston which put Pontiac third, fourth and fifth and they all dropped through the field like a rock. I think all of us Pontiacs are fighting a war we can't win at the moment."
Cutting Up The 600 Car:
"On Friday I came back to the shop and cut up a car that was being waxed and ready to bring over to the Speedway for the 600. It was that bad. All the guys just looked at me like I was crazy, but I'm not taking a car over to the Speedway knowing we are going to get our butts whipped. So now we are taking a Martinsville car to Charlotte this weekend and that is pretty sad. On the drag issue Charlotte is a big race track where normally you wouldn't take a high drag race car. But we are in such a position that we don't have a choice. You have to get through the corners before you can worry about the straight-away. We are taking the car that creates the most downforce we can get and we are still way off what the Fords and Chevrolets are taking. We are going to give up our drag ratio on the straight-away and depend on Hendrick to give us an engine that can make up for some of that. That's asking a lot of them."
The Difference Downforce Makes:
"The Pontiacs are off on rear downforce and that is something you just can't overcome with shocks, springs and body changes. If your car is off on downforce compared to the others on a track as fast as Charlotte you are history and Saturday night you saw that all of the Pontiacs were junk. Downforce essentially makes the car stick in the corner without that you are on the ragged edge risking everything at every second.
"Pontiac has done a good job of testing to find out what it needs and right now we are just waiting on NASCAR to make the changes we need. The Pontiac is a great race car but NASCAR has improved the other two models to the point where we aren't competitive as those two models are right now. Basically we are about 200 pounds of downforce off those other models. That 200 pounds is both front and rear. It's not that we need to work on one end or the car or another. It's both. That is the difference between running 15th or winning the race. You take the 15th place car on Sunday and have that race again and if he gets those 200 pounds of downforce then he could win the race. Its that simple."
Asking For NASCAR's Help:
"The Monte Carlo is a new car, the Taurus is essentially a new car, but the Pontiac is still the same car. They try to keep all the models the same but they have let those two models improve themselves recently and we get behind. It's not Pontiac's fault, its not the race teams fault, it's that we are waiting on NASCAR to allow us what they have allowed the others.
"All we are looking for is parity and consistency. We went through a big push a while back where NASCAR was taking everything to the wind tunnel. Everything had to go to the wind tunnel no matter what. When they got the results NASCAR started making changes to the other models. Now when they get the numbers showing Pontiac is down on downforce they decide they are going to ignore those numbers and say there are only a few Pontiac teams that can run well and that is why Pontiac is off.
"They don't have to do anything major. NASCAR could approve a few minor changes that would help our race cars short term and get us competitive. Give us the changes they gave the Monte Carlo which were an extension of the front valence and a little more rear spoiler. Let's just get back even. I don't want to have to cut off more bodies."