Las Vegas: GM - Doug Duchardt interview

Las Vegas will tell more of 2003 aero story. DETROIT, Mich., Feb. 27, 2003 - This weekend's Winston Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway should go a long way toward telling NASCAR's 2003 aero story, and GM's two new race cars - the Chevrolet...

Las Vegas will tell more of 2003 aero story.

DETROIT, Mich., Feb. 27, 2003 - This weekend's Winston Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway should go a long way toward telling NASCAR's 2003 aero story, and GM's two new race cars - the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Pontiac Grand Prix - expect to be a major part of that tale.

Although two races are already in the books in 2003, neither was held at a facility with characteristics like Las Vegas, which is flat, fast, 1.5 miles in length and run without the use of restrictor plates. Those factors all point to a race in which aerodynamics will play a key role in determining who comes away with a victory on Sunday afternoon.

Thoughts From Doug Duchardt, NASCAR Group Manager, GM Racing:

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS WEEKEND? "Many of our teams tested at Las Vegas with their new cars, so they probably feel like they have a much better handle on what they're going to have when they get out there, versus Rockingham, where only a handful of our teams tested. We should be heading into this weekend with a lot fewer unknowns than we did last weekend, so I think the teams will feel pretty confident about what they have when they get to Vegas.

"The one thing that we're trying to come to grips with is how these cars respond in qualifying trim. Teams knew what to do to the cars in the past and how to balance it. But, when they're taping off the front (for qualifying) they get a lot looser because they're getting a lot more front downforce. There's a balance between knowing that they have to tape off the front (grill) and then knowing how far to push the fenders in to keep the balance correct. Trying to figure that out with the new cars has been a little more difficult. They're just trying to figure out their qualifying setups. But, I think they feel very positive about their race setups."

DESPITE THE FACT THAT MANY OF THE TEMPLATES USED ON ALL FOUR MAKES ARE THE SAME, IS THERE STILL A LOT OF ROOM WITHIN THE RULES FOR MANUFACTURERS AND TEAMS TO SEPARATE THEMSELVES COMPETITIVELY? "Based on what our competition is saying, there is a huge amount of room. Our competition is saying that we snookered NASCAR and we have some kind of 'magic nose.' The truth is that all four makes in the garage area have new noses, and three of them have new tails. We had two new cars approved, Ford had a new nose and tail approved and Dodge had a new nose approved, as well.

"The thing we can say definitively is that we see the wind tunnel results within our own divisions and there is still a fairly significant variation from team-to-team within a given car make. That proves to us that there is still a lot of room to maneuver within those rules.

"The other key to remember is that the templates that will be used this weekend at Las Vegas are the same templates that were used at Daytona, and yet, there will be around 500 pounds of difference in the downforce exerted on those cars. At Daytona the cars were roughly at 900 pounds of downforce and we'll unload at Vegas at over 1,400 pounds within the same templates.

"That's a sizable difference and makes it a little easier to understand some of the flexibility that still exists under this new system."

SOME PEOPLE EXPECTED TO HEAR COMPLAINTS FROM GM AFTER LAST WEEK'S RACE AT ROCKINGHAM - IMPLYING THINGS MAY NOT HAVE BEEN EQUAL...WHY WAS THAT NOT THE CASE? "My disappointment in Rockingham lies in the fact that we didn't execute, not that we were disadvantaged. Our focus is on executing at the next race. For people that think we had magic nose on our car that made the difference in Daytona or will make the difference this year, then they are mistaken. The variation from manufacturer to manufacturer is much smaller this year than the 100-pound disadvantage we were at last year. That's why you don't hear a lot from us.

"If we don't put a car in the top 10 this weekend, I'm not going to complain in the media or to NASCAR. Improving on that will be our responsibility and the responsibility of our teams.

"If someone asked me about our performance at Rockingham, I would say that we're not happy with what happened there and that those other guys (non-GM teams) ran a good race. We had some good cars that had bad luck and for all those reasons we weren't where we wanted to be. But, we know that we're in an envelope where we just need to keep working hard and try to compete.

"We're confident that if we took these [four makes of] cars to the wind tunnel that they would be close enough for us to be able to compete and not have to worry about it. Compare that to last year when we knew that when we had a bad day in Las Vegas that we were at an aero disadvantage. We then went to the wind tunnel and saw that we had an aero disadvantage and then had to wait well over a month to get a small concession."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup