NASCAR teams face dilemma in today’s Brickyard 400 – keep driver cool or sacrifice speed

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After some Xfinity drivers battled heat exhaustion Saturday, NASCAR states it is monitoring what Sprint Cup teams will do to cool their drivers for today’s Brickyard 400.

Muggy conditions are expected again today with highs in the mid 80s.

Competitors say that the extra heat in the cars is partially a result of the rear bumper extension – an addition with the high-drag aero package debuting this weekend. NASCAR is trying the package to see if it induces more passing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

What is happening, competitors say, is that with the rear sealed, it prevents air from escaping under the car. With the side skits sealed to the the track when cars are at speed, more of the hot air is trapped underneath the car. Combine that with drivers on the throttle more and that creates more engine heat. It will make for hot conditions.

Teams can cool drivers with openings in the windows that attach to hoses to carry that air to the driver. For every opening, though, it affects a car’s downforce. Each crew chief has to determine how much they want to impact the car’s aerodynamics with taking care of the driver.

Teams might have multiple openings in the window but seal them at the start of the race. If a driver is getting hot early, then a team can remove the seal to allow the air to get to the driver. That typically will be done by the jackman or a tire carrier.