What drivers said after Phoenix

1 Comment

A look at what drivers said after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway…

Championship 4

Kyle Larson – Race winner and 2021 Cup champion: “I think, just thinking about the journey and how tough of a road it’s been to get to this point for so long, but especially the last year and a half, and too, I think just the atmosphere, I haven’t felt an atmosphere like this maybe ever. With the pressure of this race and everything that was on the line, to win this championship – every one of these fans made me feel it. I was trying to tell myself to just chill out, stop tearing up. I make fun of my dad all the time for crying, and I’m worse than he is. It’s just so cool. So cool. So thankful. Thank you to (team owner) Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon. We have so many people from Hendrickcars.com here, Hendrick Motorsports. This is just awesome, an awesome day.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 2nd in race and 2nd in points: “I don’t know. Clean air seemed to be a good bit of an advantage there. Whoever got out front was there for 20, 30, 40 laps and then the long run cars would start coming around. I don’t know. Ultimately, we needed to beat them off of pit road. It’s unfortunate, but we win and lose as a team. I’m really proud of our efforts this year. Big thanks to everyone that makes it possible – Bass Pro Shops, Auto Owners, Reser’s Fine Foods, Toyota, TRD, Sherwin Williams, Oakley, Textron, Noble Aerospace, all of our partners. That’s three times that we’ve been second and that sucks. Second hurts, I’m not going to lie, especially with the car we had and the job the guys did. That’s racing as they say, and sometimes you’re just not on the right side of things. We were on the right side of things to get the lead there, and weren’t able to hang on to it. If we could have had the lead, I think it would have been over, but that’s kind of how the 5 (Kyle Larson) did it. They had a hell of a season, congrats to them. Gosh, dang, it sucks. I hate it.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 3rd in race and 3rd in points: “I really liked where we were at with 25 (laps) to go. We were just exceptional in the long run, which wasn’t too surprising. Started running the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) back down there and got within a couple car lengths. Obviously, that debris caution changed a lot. Special congrats to (Kyle) Larson and their team. Any time you win 10 races in a year, you’re absolutely a deserving champion. They did a great job on the last pit stop and got him out there. It was over after that. Proud of my team, great effort adjusting on the car all day getting it so much better. Thank you to our partners at FedEx, Toyota, Jordan Brand – just a really good year, a really, really good year. It just didn’t pan out. We needed that thing to go green and it didn’t.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 5th in race and 4th in points: “Yeah, maybe (we needed) just the right set of circumstances. I felt like our NAPA Chevy was really good, and I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week. I was really proud of our group. I thought we brought a really good car and did a lot of things that we were wanting it to do today, just didn’t work out, and the sequence of the way all that went certainly was unfortunate for us. But look, proud of our team, a lot to build on, and also congrats to Kyle and Cliff (Daniels). What an amazing season. Very, very deserving champions, and glad to see Kyle have success. When you’re a good driver and a good person and you surround yourself with good people, success is warranted. It’s good to see that. But we’ll be back stronger next year and try to give them a run.”

Other Drivers

Ryan Blaney – Finished 4th: “We had a good race. There was a group of us that were kind of behind the top-4 guys that were racing pretty much all day. We had a good Mustang there on the last run and we were able to get up to fourth. I am really proud of that effort. It was a really good last run for (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) before he hangs it up. I wish it was a win. I can’t thank him enough for the last couple of years and I can’t thank this whole group enough for this year. It has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we will be in the Championship 4 next year.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 6th: “What a season. What a day. We worked so hard to finish off the season strong, and we ran where this 10 team was capable of running all year. It was such a rollercoaster of a year. We had some really high highs and really low lows. We capped off the season with two sixth-place finishes when we’re running in the midst of the championship-contending playoff drivers, and I can’t be prouder of that after the year we’ve had.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 7th: “We had a decent M&M’s Camry. We just lacked overall grip, something we fought for the entire day. We had some good pit stops and made the best of the car we had.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 10th: “Yeah, it was a fun race. We couldn’t really catch any breaks today. The first stage there we stayed out and got that long run and kind of got ate up. We recovered from that and got ourselves back in the hunt to sixth or seventh and then we pitted under green a little early to try to pick up some spots. But the yellow came out and trapped us a lap down. We were 23rd with like 50 go to and we drove back up through to 10th. I would have loved to see that race run a really long green there at the end to see what we could have done. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Cole Custer – Finished 13th: “We started off strong today and finished in the top-10 in the first stage but then started to really struggle with the balance on our racecar in the second stage. That caution during green-flag pit stops in the final stage put us back, but we were able to recover for a top-15. Thankful for the support this season from all of our sponsors, Ford Performance and SHR. We learned a lot this season and will continue to build in 2022.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 15th: “Crazy to think that today was my 300th NASCAR Cup Series start. It went by fast, and I’m so thankful for RCR, ECR, our partners and fans for supporting us through all of the highs and lows. We had fast Dow Coatings Chevrolet today at Phoenix Raceway, just got a little bit behind early. We took a gamble and stayed out during a Stage 1 caution, but it didn’t pan out and we went one lap down. We burned off the right-rear and lost all of the track position that we had gained by staying out. It was only a small setback, though, and this RCR team never gave up. We earned the Lucky Dog in Stage 2 to get back on the lead lap and we were knocking on the door of a top-10 after that. Our Chevy was pretty good for most of Stage 3, but it started to get a little too snug at the end. Congrats to Team Chevy for earning the Championship this year. Thanks to the Dow Coatings group and Behr for all of their support this weekend, and to all of our partners and fans for all of their support all year. We’re already looking forward to 2022.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 19th: “This season has been great for our No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team. We learned a lot and made significant gains from the beginning of the season. We found ourselves in a hole early to start this year, but Randall Burnett and everyone on this team pulled together and we steadily climbed our way out of it. To make the playoffs in just my second full Cup season is an accomplishment that I’m proud of. Today, our BetMGM Chevrolet made us work extremely hard for every little bit. I was scratching my head at times figuring out what the car was feeling, but with every adjustment, we would make small gains. Overall the car was just too tight to really run up front and contend for the win. I wish our result would have shown what we have built all year, but I couldn’t be prouder of this team. Now, it’s time to get ready to play with the NextGen car in 2022.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 35th: “It’s definitely cool to end the season as Rookie of the Year and to have that in all three series. I definitely had higher expectations coming into this year, but it was a weird year. As a company, we struggled way more than we thought we would. You base your expectations off of last year, and we just weren’t quite there from a performance standpoint, so you alter those expectations a little bit. The 14 team was competitive in a couple of races and battling for a few wins and top-fives. I think we have proved that whenever we get the car driving right and have the speed, we are fully capable of running up front with those guys. I wouldn’t say the season was a thumbs up or a thumbs down, maybe somewhere in the middle. There is still a lot that I have to learn to do better. The Cup Series guys are so good. You have to be on it 100 percent and clean up a lot of little things. I feel like going into the Next Gen car it will be nice to have a year under my belt and know all the little things to work on during the off-season to try to apply to next year.”

Appeal panel gives William Byron his 25 points back

0 Comments

William Byron is back in a transfer spot after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded his 25-point penalty Thursday for spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas.

By getting those 25 points back, Byron enters Sunday’s elimination playoff race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC) 14 points above the cutline.

Daniel Suarez is now in the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. He is 12 points ahead of Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Christopher Bell is 45 points behind Suarez. Alex Bowman will not race this week as he continues to recover from concussion symptoms and has been eliminated from Cup title contention.

NASCAR did not penalize Byron after his incident with Hamlin because series officials did not see the contact. Two days later, NASCAR penalized Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel stated that Byron violated the rule but amended the penalty to no loss of driver and owner points while increasing the fine to $100,000.

The panel did not give a reason for its decision. NASCAR cannot appeal the panel’s decision.

The panel consisted of Hunter Nickell, a former TV executive, Dale Pinilis, track operator of Bowman Gray Stadium and Kevin Whitaker, owner of Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

Here is the updated standings heading into Sunday’s race at the Roval:

Byron’s actions took place after the caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race that the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

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)