What drivers said after Darlington

3 Comments

Erik Jones – winner: “(What was your late-race battle with Kyle Busch like?) Well, it was just a lot of pressure. Kyle (Busch) is a great race car driver. I’ve raced him a lot and you obviously want to beat him to win, right? I know our first win at Daytona was great, but man, this one feels good. Just getting back to victory lane, showing we can do this continuously. Man, it was a lot of work. I’m mentally drained, I’m physically drained. I knew he was running the wall and I knew I was going to have to go up there and try to hold him off. It took everything I had to do it. I was pedaling hard. Fortunately, he got into the wall a couple of times. He gave me a little breathing room for the last two laps. That felt good, but awesome to come home with this win.

“(Is that the hardest you’ve ever had to drive and how much pressure was Kyle Busch putting on you?) “Yeah, I mean, I’m wore out just mentally and physically – more mentally than anything, but Kyle was really running hard, and he’s one of the best guys out there. Our Sport Clips Camry was good, but man, I was pedaling as hard as I could and just glad to hold him off and to finally get to victory lane. I feel like it’s been coming for us for a long time, so it just feels really good.

“(How special is this win?) Well, it’s pretty special, my 100th start. I guess sometimes funny things happen, right, and 100th start we’re in victory lane with my first‑ever scheme on a big car, so it’s pretty special.  Thanks to Sport Clips for letting me run that. That meant a lot to me and my family. My mom is here for this one and that’s great. But all my partners, man, I’m so happy for them, DeWalt, Craftsman, Reser, Stanley, Circle K, Interstate, Toyota, just sticking with me through this – it’s been a big year of speculation and maybe moving around and I don’t think there’s much more to say than this right here, so it’s pretty good.”

Kyle Larson – finished second: “It was just really hard to pass. I think this package has been good for a lot of places but here. It’s a high grip track, already narrow. It was just tough to pass. I felt better than the 18 there at the end. Anytime I got within a few car links from him, I would lose a lot of grip. It came down to restarts and pit stops. We just didn’t have the greatest restarts there to allow Erik (Jones) to get by me and then that last green flag stop was not as fast as the 18 or the 20. I’m disappointed about that, but we had some good stops and some bad ones. But, all in all, it was a good day. Good to get another good finish here. It was nice to have a shot to win. We thought we would have a dominating car after practice, but we were still a top-3 car. I thought it would be a little easier.

“(What did you need to beat Jones at the end?) Erik (Jones) did a good job on that last restart to get by me and I was better than him throughout that run, but I could never do anything with him just because the dirty air was really bad. It’s a worn-out surface and the groove was already narrow and it was extra difficult. I feel like both the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) and I were a little bit better than he was at the end, but I couldn’t do nothing with him. So, that part of it was frustrating. But still, it was good to have a good run.”

“(You’re now locked into the playoffs) I feel like we were going to have a good shot to make it after the last few weeks we’ve had. It would have been nice to get a win today, but yeah, it’s good to be locked-in and to look ahead to the Playoffs. We’ve been running really strong here lately. So, we’ve just got to keep going.”

Kyle Busch – finished third: “You just can’t get there with this package. It’s just such a one‑lane racetrack. There’s not enough options, there’s not enough grooves that you can get enough air on your car to close that gap and make that pass. We kind of lost control of the race there on pit road when we came down the leader and then came out third and I thought if we could just keep in touch with those guys and keep close to them, then we might be able to out‑pit road them at the end of the race, and we did one of them but not the other one. Overall a good day and the Snickers Camry was fast and was the best we’ve run here in a long, long time, so that was fun.  It was nice to lead some laps, be up front like that, but I hate it that we got behind on pit road and then we couldn’t make it up on the track. That kind of sucks.

“(Were you trying to save a little bit to try to get to Jones late in the race?) Yeah, when he started to inch out a little bit, I was trying to save my right front because I knew my right front wasn’t going to make it the whole rest of the way without me knocking the wall down, and I was right. I hit the wall with about four to go and then I hit it again with three to go, and that was ‑ it killed it that time. Luckily, we were able to salvage a third, just dragging the fence for the last two laps. I don’t think I’ve ever seen NASCAR not throw a caution in that scenario ‑ oh, yes I have, that’s right. I blew a left-front tire at California in an Xfinity race and we had to finish the whole last lap, so doesn’t surprise me.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: “I don’t think it was really anything that was one spot, it was just all weekend we just struggled with the front of the car.  Really, they did a great job to do the things that we did tonight to finish fourth and made the car better all night and just had a solid night and finished fourth. … I ran (the race) without air-conditioning or fans or anything. The battery went dead, so we had to turn it all off, and luckily it was cool. They did a good job. It was nice and cool inside the car tonight.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fifth: “It was kind of a blue-collar top five.  We just hung around fifth to tenth all day and was able to clear off a few cars there at the end and ended up fifth.  We had really good short run speed with the Miller Ford, but we didn’t really have the long run speed and the long runs, you’ve got to have that. … (On late start due to rain) I actually thought it was great.  I had as much fun as I’ve ever had here at Darlington.  I thought it was good.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: “(What about the late contact with Jimmie Johnson?) Obviously the situation there at the end with Jimmie just trying to hold on and fend for spots.  He’s doing everything he can do to make the Playoffs and we are too.  You don’t want to race those guys like that.  He’s one of my old heroes, a good friend, but that’s all out the window when you’re on the race track.

“(You’re 15th now in the points. Is that a relief heading to Indy?) Yes, it is.  That was the task at hand.  We put ourselves back in position, but, kid you not, yes, I want to make the Playoffs, but I want to make the Playoffs to get past the first round and to hit that thing in stride and race to our capabilities.  Tonight was our capability.  Single-digit finishes we’re capable of rattling off and this was a good shot in the arm, a momentum boost for our race team going into that last race in Indy, and if we can do that again is what I’m looking for because, again, you always have to be looking down the road.  Yes, the task at hand is right here in front of us, at the forefront of making the Playoffs, but, man, to be honest with you, my eye is on making those Playoffs and getting through that first round.  It’s kind of like racing on this race track, you’re racing that guy in front of you, but you’ve always got your eye on the guy in front of him as well.”

Kurt Busch – finished seventh: “I thought our Camaro was going to be bulletproof, and we just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and got some damage. It hurt the left-front toe. I just couldn’t dodge the cars, there was like five or six of them in front of me. We just ended up getting collected. I’m proud of the crew for getting the toe straightened back out. We got the fenders to clear and I didn’t think we would run that good after we got all that damage. But we raced our way back up to seventh. Overall, we had a race winning car and we led a lot of laps early. We just have to seal the deal. We have to have solid pit stops all night, we have to keep our track position, and I have to dodge cars better when they are wrecking.”

Paul Menard – finished ninth: “It was an up-and-down night.  We had big swings with balance.  The whole race was in darkness, it wasn’t like we went through a transition, but we fired off really tight and did a fairly normal adjustment and got really loose.  We got back to tight with no adjustments, so I don’t know if we had some inconsistencies in tires or what, but basically just freed it up all night long and got something to show for it.  Greg made a great call and got us some track position and held on. … (This is your first career top 10 at Darlington) Yeah, it feels good.  I’ve always loved this place even though she hasn’t always liked me, but it was a fun night.  Anytime you drive any car at Darlington it’s a lot of fun.  These 550-horsepower tracks sometimes get a little timid, but Darlington is one of those tracks you just have to be on all the time and it’s a lot of fun.”

Austin Dillon – finished 10th: ““It has been hard mentally for everybody on this team across the board, and I’m glad my grandfather (Richard Childress) stuck with us and believed in us. It was really nice to give him a good run in his car tonight, that was special too. I love Darlington, it’s so much fun to race here. I wish we raced here two times. It’s just a fun track to race. I hope we have a little bit more speed next week to kind of dictate what we want to do there at the end.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 11th “It’s gonna be a lot of fun going to Indianapolis and have everybody all in pretty much with Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.  I feel like we’re gonna race extremely hard all the way to the end. … I think we’re putting on a good show for you guys and all the fans, and now being tied heading to Indianapolis that makes things even more interesting, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge. … (Are you confident going to Indy?) Yeah, for sure.  My team has been strong.  I feel like today we missed it a little bit.  We had a faster car than 11th, but we just missed it for whatever reason heading into the race.  We have to study what happened and come back stronger.

“(What happened with Ryan Newman?) “That’s a racing thing.  I didn’t touch him.  As a driver it’s very, very easy to know that the guy behind you is very, very close and to feel that air, but he’s experienced to know.  Once he sees the race he’s going to realize that we didn’t touch.  It was everything aero and just hard racing, that’s it.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 16th: “I had at least 15 years with a lot of luck on my side, 7 years of championships and having 2 or 3 bad ones is just part of it. I keep saying that we’re getting and tonight we showed it, from the way we qualified to how we ran on those stages. I was running fourth when that accident took place in turn three and I just had nowhere to go.

“(How do you view Indianapolis?) I mean we are running out of days, and if we miss it, it’s just going to be by a few I believe. If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave away a few points. So, it’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indy. But it is what it is and we are going to go there to win a race.”

Aric Almirola – finished 17th: “That’s what happens. It’s really, really hard to unload a backup car and not get any laps on it. I put our race team behind on Friday and wrecked our primary car and then we just battled all night. At the beginning of the race we had a 30th place car and we worked on it all night and fought really hard and got out of here with a 17th-place finish, so I’m actually real proud of that. I know it’s crazy to be proud of a 17th-place finish, but that’s the kind of fight and perseverance and determination that I feel like will pay off in the playoffs. … “(Would you have liked a better finish with only one race before the playoffs now?) Absolutely.  You want to build that momentum, but the worst thing we could do is have another 35th place finish in a wreck and a DNF.  We did that at Michigan and Bristol, so we kind of need to right the ship and finish a race and get back on track and get the wheels turning the right direction.”

William Byron – finished 21st: “I think we were sixth, maybe seventh, there and everything was going pretty well. I guess the guys started wrecking in front of us. We passed the beginning of it and somebody got hooked back up the track or something and we hit them square. From there, we were just kind of off the pace and had to ride it out until the end.”

Ryan Newman – finished 23rd: “We got spun and we came back, and we did not have a top 10 finish, so it’s unfortunate. We lost some points today, but we’ve got a lot of fight in us and we’ll go into the last one here in the regular season and fight. … (Do you feel like you owe Suarez something?) I have to watch the replay. They said he hit me, but I don’t know. He had me jacked up sideways going into the corner, so do I owe him? Probably a little something.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 37th: “I’m really proud of this team, but I’m kind of at a loss of words. Our No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet got better and better throughout the last half of the race and we were moving through the field. I felt like we had a top-10 car in the final stage until the contact with the No. 6 car, which cut the right rear tire. I hate so many other cars were involved. That incident damaged something under the hood and ended our night. Everyone at RCR is working as hard as possible to get better and it will pay off. Tonight was just not our night. I know we’ll show up to Indianapolis next week stronger than before. Thank you to Caterpillar for the awesome scheme for Throwback weekend, and to all of the fans that waited through the weather today at Darlington.”

Michael McDowell – finished 38th: “I saw the 8 start to get loose like he blew a tire and chased it up the track. I was already on the bottom and I saw the 11 and a few other cars on the top and they were just trying to get down and we all kind of jumped on the brakes. You’re so fast at that point when you jump on the brakes the cars get pretty loose and out of control. I think I got clipped by the 11 in the right-rear and just kind of turned me hard right into the wall and in front of the field, but it’s really unfortunate.  We had a decent Dockside Logistics throwback car. We were logging laps trying to get to the end and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Drivers for Drive for Diversity combine revealed

0 Comments

The 13 drivers who will participate in the Advance Auto Part Drive for Diversity Combine were revealed Thursday and range in age from 13-19.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. Cup drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson came through the program.

The 2020 and 2021 combines were canceled due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We are thrilled that we are in a position to return to an in-person evaluation for this year’s Advance Auto Parts Drive for Diversity Combine,” Rev Racing CEO Max Seigel said in a statement. “We are energized by the high-level of participating athletes and look forward to building the best driver class for 2023. As an organization, we have never been more positioned for success and future growth.”

The youngest drivers are Quinn Davis and Nathan Lyons, who are both 13 years old.

The group includes 17-year-old Andrés Pérez de Lara, who finished seventh in his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Sept. 15 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Also among those invited to the combine is 15-year old Katie Hettinger, who will make her ARCA Menards Series West debut Oct.. 14 at the Las Vegas Bullring. She’s also scheduled to compete in the ARCA West season finale Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

 

Name

Age Hometown
Justin Campbell 17 Griffin, Georgia
Quinn Davis 13 Sparta, Tennessee
Eloy Sebastián

López Falcón

17 Mexico City, Mexico
Katie Hettinger 15 Dryden, MI
Caleb Johnson 15 Denver, CO
Nathan Lyons 13 Concord, NC
Andrés Pérez de Lara 17 Mexico City, Mexico
Jaiden Reyna 16 Cornelius, NC
Jordon Riddick 17 Sellersburg, IN
Paige Rogers 19 New Haven, IN
Lavar Scott 19 Carney’s Point, NJ
Regina Sirvent 19 Mexico City, Mexico
Lucas Vera 15 Charlotte, NC

 

Dr. Diandra: Crashes: Causes and complications

0 Comments

Two drivers have missed races this year after hard rear-end crashes. Kurt Busch has been out since an incident in qualifying at Pocono in July. Alex Bowman backed hard into a wall at Texas and will miss Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Other drivers have noted that the hits they’ve taken in the Next Gen car are among the hardest they’ve felt in a Cup car.

“When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway in practice), I thought the car was destroyed, and it barely backed the bumper off. It just felt like somebody hit you with a hammer,” Kevin Harvick told NBC Sports.

The three most crucial parameters in determining the severity of a crash are:

  • How much kinetic energy the car carries
  • How long the collision takes
  • The angle at which the car hits

Angle

The last of these factors requires trigonometry to explain properly. You can probably intuit, however, that a shallower hit is preferable to a head-on — or rear-on — hit.

A graphic show shallower (low-angle) hits and deeper (high-angle) hits
Click for a larger view

When the angle between the car and the wall is small, most of the driver’s momentum starts and remains in the direction parallel to the wall. The car experiences a small change in velocity.

The larger the angle, the larger the change in perpendicular speed and the more force experienced. NASCAR has noted that more crashes this season have had greater angles than in the past.

Busch and Bowman both had pretty large-angle hits, so we’ll skip the trig.

Energy — in pounds of TNT

A car’s kinetic energy depends on how much it weighs and how fast it’s going. But the relationship between kinetic energy and speed is not linear: It’s quadratic. That means going twice as fast gives you four times more kinetic energy.

The graph shows the kinetic energies of different kinds of race cars at different speeds. To give you an idea of how much energy we’re talking about, I expressed the kinetic energy in terms of equivalent pounds of TNT.

A vertical bar graph showing kinetic energies for different types of racecars and their energies

  • A Next Gen car going 180 mph has the same kinetic energy as is stored in almost three pounds of TNT.
  • Because IndyCars are about half the weight of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, an IndyCar has about half the kinetic energy of a Next Gen car when both travel at the same speed.
  • At 330 mph, Top Fuel drag racers carry the equivalent of six pounds of TNT in kinetic energy.

All of a car’s kinetic energy must be transformed to other types of energy when the car slows or stops. NASCAR states that more crashes are occurring at higher closing speeds, which means more kinetic energy.

Longer collisions > shorter collisions

That seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Who wants to be in a crash any longer than necessary?

But the longer a collision takes, the more time there is to transform kinetic energy.

A pitting car starts slowing down well below it reaches its pit box. The car’s kinetic energy is transformed into heat energy (brakes and rotors warming), light energy (glowing rotors), and even sound energy (tires squealing).

The same amount of kinetic energy must be transformed in a collision — but much faster. In addition to heat, light and sound, energy is transformed via the car spinning and parts deforming or breaking. (This video about Michael McDowell’s 2008 Texas qualifying crash goes into more detail.)

The force a collision produces depends on how long the car takes to stop. Compare the force from your seat belt when you slow down at a stop sign to what you feel if you have to suddenly slam on the brakes.

To give you an idea of how fast collisions can be, the initial wall impact in the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt Sr. lasted only eight-hundredths (0.08) of a second.

SAFER barriers use a car’s kinetic energy to move a heavy steel wall and crush pieces of energy-absorbing foam. That extracts energy from the car, plus the barrier extends the collision time.

The disadvantage is that a car with lower kinetic energy won’t move the barrier. Then it’s just like running into a solid wall.

That’s the same problem the Next Gen car seems to have.

Chassis stiffness: A Goldilocks problem

The Next Gen chassis is a five-piece, bolt-together car skeleton, as shown below.

A graphic showing the five parts of the Next Gen chassis.
Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click to enlarge.
The foam surrounding the outside of the rear bumper
The purple is energy-absorbing foam. Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click for a larger view.

That graphic doesn’t show another important safety feature: the energy absorbing foam that covers the outside of the bumpers. It’s purple in the next diagram.

All cars are designed so that the strongest part of the car surrounds the occupants. Race cars are no different.

The center section of the Next Gen chassis is made from stout steel tubing and sheet metal. Components become progressively weaker as you move away from the cockpit. The bumper, for example, is made of aluminum alloy rather than steel. The goal is transforming all the kinetic energy before it reaches the driver.

Because the Next Gen car issues are with rear impacts, I’ve expanded and highlighted the last two pieces of the chassis.

The rear clip and bumper, with the fuel cell and struts shaded

The bumper and the rear clip don’t break easily enough. The rear ends of Gen-6 cars were much more damaged than the Next Gen car after similar impacts.

If your initial thought is “Just weaken the struts,” you’ve got good instincts. However, there are two challenges.

I highlighted the first one in red: the fuel cell. About the only thing worse than a hard collision is a hard collision and a fire.

The other challenge is that a chassis is a holistic structure: It’s not like each piece does one thing independent of all the other pieces. Changing one element to help soften rear collisions might make other types of collisions harder.

Chassis are so complex that engineers must use finite-element-analysis computer programs to predict their behavior. These programs are analogous to (and just as complicated as) the computational fluid dynamics programs aerodynamicists use.

Progress takes time

An under-discussed complication was noted by John Patalak, managing director of safety engineering for NASCAR. He told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long in July that he was surprised by the rear-end crash stiffness.

The Next Gen car’s crash data looked similar to that from the Gen-6 car, but the data didn’t match the drivers’ experiences. Before addressing the car, his team had to understand the disparity in the two sets of data.

They performed a real-world crash test on a new configuration Wednesday. These tests are complex and expensive: You don’t do them until you’re pretty confident what you’ve changed will make a significant difference.

But even if the test goes exactly as predicted, they aren’t done.

Safety is a moving target.

And always will be.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

0 Comments

NASCAR Cup Series drivers race on the road for the final time this season Sunday, as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course ends the playoffs’ Round of 12.

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course incorporating the CMS oval and infield will determine the eight drivers who will advance to the next round of the playoffs. Chase Elliott won last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway and is the only driver who has qualified for a spot in the Round of 8.

Entering Sunday’s race, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the playoff cutline. Bowman will not qualify for the next round because he is sidelined by concussion-like symptoms.

The race (2 p.m ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 81 with a 6% chance of rain.

Saturday: Mixed clouds and sun. High of 67 with a 3% chance of rain.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 68 with a 3% chance of rain.

Friday, Oct. 7

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 – 5 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Saturday, Oct. 8

Garage open

  • 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Rodney Childers fined $100,000, suspended for four races

1 Comment

NASCAR has suspended Rodney Childers, Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, for four races and fined him $100,000 for what the sanctioning body called modification of a part supplied by a vendor.

The team was penalized for a modification to the deck lid.

Harvick, who is out of the Cup Series playoffs, and the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team were docked 100 points.

Harvick’s car and that of Martin Truex Jr. were taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. after last Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. There were no penalties assessed to the Truex team.

Harvick has been particularly critical of the Next Gen car in recent months, once referring to the “crappy-ass parts” provided by suppliers.

Harvick’s car erupted in flames during the Southern 500 Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway. After he climbed from the smoking car, Harvick blamed the fire on “just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times. They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.

“The car started burning and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and then as the flame got bigger it started burning stuff up and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out the brakes and part of the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash.

“What a disaster for no reason. We didn’t touch the wall. We didn’t touch a car, and here we are in the pits with a burned-up car, and we can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.”

MORE: AJ Allmendinger to return to Cup Series in 2023

Unless the team appeals, Childers would miss races at Charlotte, Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville and would return for the season finale at Phoenix.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps told the Associated Press that officials have not targeted Harvick. “I would say that’s ridiculous,” he said. “No one has a vendetta against Kevin Harvick or Rodney or anyone at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Harvick tweeted, “Seems strange…” A Childers tweet called the penalty “Shocker…..”.

NASCAR also announced Wednesday it has suspended Young’s Motorsports crew chief Andrew Abbott indefinitely for a behavioral violation during pre-race inspection. He must undergo anger-management training to be reinstated. The team races in the Camping World Truck Series.