Hard climb: Pikes Peak's altitude tough on drivers and engines, too DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2005) -- "Breathtaking" describes this week's NASCAR Busch Series stop at Pikes Peak International Raceway -- not only for the scenery surrounding...
Hard climb: Pikes Peak's altitude tough on drivers and engines, too
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2005) -- "Breathtaking" describes this week's NASCAR Busch Series stop at Pikes Peak International Raceway -- not only for the scenery surrounding the Colorado landmark, but for the physical effort required to adjust to being at high altitude for a three-day period.
The ability to manage the altitude for both drivers, crews -- and cars -- will be a major factor in the outcome of Saturday's event. Both human and mechanical elements will be tested at over 5,550 feet above sea level on the one-mile track in Fountain, Colo.
"At higher altitudes like Pikes Peak and Mexico City (7,400 feet), the air is less dense so there's actually less oxygen", said NASCAR Busch Series Director Joe Balash. "So teams need to tune their engines accordingly. Carburetor adjustments and/or adjustments to the ignition timing would be most prevalent. These adjustments allow the engines to run at the higher altitudes, producing as much power as they can without damaging the internal parts.
"The altitude really doesn't bother me that much," said Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), current series points leader and winner of two of the last three races. "I think Mexico City was higher than Pikes Peak and we were fine physically there.
"It is really hard on the engine, though. It's a lot like the Tour de France ... Lance Armstrong dominates in the mountain stages every year because he's the strongest. The team with the strongest motor will certainly have a great shot at winning, because they will be able to get off of the corners so much better."
Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet), currently second in the rankings, 142 points behind Truex, agreed.
"The change in altitude can really make you lose your breath easier, but our guys are all fit and ready to go," Bowyer said. "They have a mandatory workout schedule, so I'm not concerned with their fitness level. And I try to run as much as I can fit it into my schedule."
"The thinner air does play a role on the engines," Bowyer said. "It takes a little away from the horsepower."
"Although the altitude doesn't bother me much, it can be a problem," said 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford). "NFL teams travel to Colorado a full week in advance to play. Our crewmembers have to get up here on Thursday and get right to work. We have to look out for each other all the time. Altitude sickness can hit you before you know it."