Pocono: This Week in Ford Racing

This Week in Ford Racing June 7, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series For the first time in about 15 years, NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers will not be shifting at Pocono Raceway when the series visits the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped race...

This Week in Ford Racing
June 7, 2005

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series

For the first time in about 15 years, NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers will not be shifting at Pocono Raceway when the series visits the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped race track this weekend. This year a rule change no longer allows teams to use overdrive, effectively ending the drivers' need to shift at superspeedways where they've traditionally shifted, like Pocono and Indianapolis. Ford Racing talked with four drivers and crew chief about the changes and how it will affect their weekend.

GREG BIFFLE - No.16 National Guard/Charter Taurus

WILL FANS NOTICE A DIFFERENCE? "They're probably not going to see a lot of difference, but our speeds will be a little slower. I think it's the wrong thing. I think we need to shift at Pocono. The engines are going through such RPM range that we need to shift. But, whatever they want to do."

IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE SLOWER, WHERE DO YOU LOSE THAT SPEED AND HOW CAN YOU MAKE ADJUSTMENTS FOR THAT? "You're going to be slow off of turn one and slow off of turn two, slow off the tunnel. The only place you use high gear, really, is down the front almost. So, really, your laps times are just going to drop all the way around."

KURT BUSCH - No. 97 IRWIN Tools Taurus

WHERE WILL YOU LOSE SPEED AND HOW DO YOU ACCOMMODATE FOR THAT? "You'll lose speed between the sections of turn one and turn two, the tunnel turn, because that's where you used to shift and you're going to have to maintain a ton of speed through turn one so you can carry that momentum down that straightaway. So, that's going to be the biggest challenge. Turn three used to be the corner that you'd win races there, it might be turn one this time, we'll see how it shakes out."

WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE IT THE OTHER WAY AND SHIFT THERE? "I'd rather have to shift. I mean, 500 miles at Pocono is pretty boring, so this is definitely going to be a different strategy this time around."

ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus

WILL THE NO-SHIFT RULE CHANGE ANYTHING AS FAR AS FANS WATCHING THE RACE? "No. I think you're still going to see great racing. It's going to be a lot less work on the driver, no shifting. So, that's pretty cool, but it's going to be definitely harder on the motor guys. So, I think the motor guys will be chewing the finger nails off pretty much the whole race to the end. Five hundred miles is a long time at Pocono with a no-shift rule, the engines are going to go through a lot of cycles, a lot of RPM, but we're going to try to take care of our motors the best way we can all weekend long until it's show time on Sunday afternoon."

WOULD YOU PREFER IT THE OTHER WAY? "I think from a driver standpoint, an engine standpoint, shifting would be better. The teams really work hard on their transmissions to get it where you get a little bit, but I understand the shift rule. It takes a lot out of it, that's cool. But, it's just going to be tough on those motor guys."

BUT EVERYBODY'S AFFECTED THE SAME, SO NOBODY WILL HAVE AN ADVANTAGE. "Yeah. Probably whoever's car handles better will be the faster car."

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus

FOR THE FANS WATCHING, WHAT DOES NOT SHIFTING AT POCONO MEAN? "A little bit slower lap times. It was a deal that when you did shift, not when only a few shifted, there was an advantage to it, but once everybody's shifting you're right back in the same boat. I think it's much easier to drive the race car than having to make the shifts there. Going into turn one, that shift there always kind of scares you because if you miss that gear you can end up wrecking pretty easy down there. That's usually what happens, if you ever see a wreck down in turn one it's usually because a guy missed a gear or it popped out of gear or something like that. So, it's going to be a little bit safer. It'll be a lot easier on the drivers. Pretty uneventful, really."

ON TWO RULE CHANGES. "Back to that other thing: They have a gear rule also, besides the non-shift rule. The transmissions, really, the shifting came about as a result of trying not to turn the motors too many RPM."

HOW LONG AGO? "It wasn't that long ago, maybe 10 years ago. You didn't shift, then you just put a low-enough gear so the car would run across that tunnel turn with it because your car tends to bog down, you drop more RPM there. So that's the reason the shift, the transmissions came about. If they simply said no shifting, you'd see a lot of blown motors because guys would be going back and putting these real low gears in their car. But they also have a gear-rule in effect, if I'm not mistaken. So, that will keep the engines from breaking. As long as everybody as got the same stuff, it's no big deal."

YOU MENTIONED SLOWER TIMES. WHERE WILL YOU LOSE THE SPEED? "Where you will lose most of your speed is, I guess they call it turn two, going into the tunnel turn. You don't lose it going into the corner, you lose it coming out, the short shoot. It's a triangle-shaped race track, you lose it in the short straightaway. You also lose it a little bit coming down the front straightaway, you come out of turn three, which is the last corner. The motors just don't make the horsepower. They tend to bog a little bit. But from the fans' perspective, you won't notice anything."

AND SINCE IT AFFECTS EVERYBODY... "It might knock about three-tenths of a second out of a lap time, that's about it."

MICHAEL McSWAIN - crew chief, No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus

"We can't adjust the gear ratio in the transmission, so we can't put overdrive in it. So, if you can't put overdrive in it, you can't shift."

STRATEGICALLY, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT THE TEAM? "The motor's going to turn a lot more RPMs on the front straightaway, and a lot less everywhere else."

WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO LOSE SPEED? "It's not going to make a difference if everybody's doing it. That's the way I look at it. What are you going to do? Everybody's got to do it, so how are you going to fight it? I'll tell you, the motor guys probably have do a little work to be ready for that, but that's a different issue."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup