Dr. Diandra: The weak (rear toe) link

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The Next Gen car’s composite body stands up to impacts far better than Gen-6 metal bodies. No longer do bumps with the wall come high probability of a cut tire a few laps later.

Instead, a new word has entered the NASCAR lexicon: rear toe link. A broken rear toe link can put a driver out of the race just as fast as a cut tire. Let’s learn what the rear toe link is, what it does, and why making it more robust would actually be worse for drivers and fans.A graphic of a car with no toe

Toe

Look down at a passenger car from overhead. All four tires would be oriented parallel to a line drawn down the length of the car, as shown at right.

Racing — especially racing on banked ovals — requires setting up the car to keep as much of the tire in contact with the track as possible. Toe is one of the adjustments a team can make to help optimize the tires’ contact patches.

Toe is the deviation between a tire and the car’s centerline. The diagram below shows toe in (positive toe), zero toe and toe out (negative toe). Remember that you’re looking at the car from overhead in this graphic.

A graphic showing the variations of toe possible on a car

Toed out means that the fronts of the tires are farther apart than the backs of the tires. Toed in means the opposite. Engineers specify toe either by an angle, or a distance — usually the difference between the fronts and rears of opposing tires.

Toe Links

The rear toe link (shown below) pulls one side of the wheel/tire closer to the car’s centerline or pushes it further away.

A graphic showing the rear toe link
Adapted from NASCAR rule book

The rear toe link, fabricated by Visser Precision to NASCAR’s specifications, is a rod with a connector on each end. The side with the circular connector attaches to the rear upright and hub assembly (on which the wheel and tire are mounted), while the fork-like piece connects with the upper control arm.

 

The graphic below shows the rear toe link (in white) as part of the rear suspension.

  • The upper and lower control arms attach to the chassis.
  • The turquoise element is the shock absorber.
  • The mustard-colored rod is the rear anti-roll bar.
  • The burgundy piece that’s just barely visible is the weight jacker assembly — that’s the part being adjusted when a crew member put one of those long wrenches into a hole in the rear windshield.

A graphic from the NASCAR rule book showing how the rear toe link attaches to the car.

NASCAR rule book

Teams adjust shims to change the effective length of the toe link. Even if you don’t want any toe, you still need the toe link there to fix the toe at zero.

Strengthening the rear toe link

Considering the stoutness of the other components in the rear suspension, it’s not surprising that the rear toe link is the most likely component to break when a car hits the wall.

That’s not an accident. The rear toe link is one of the easier parts in the suspension to replace since it has only two connections. As Chase Elliott‘s team showed at Charlotte, teams can even replace the rear toe link on pit road. It’s not a fast fix, and probably puts the team laps down. But they’re still in the running. I suspect it’s also one of the least-expensive parts in the suspension.

If a suspension part has to break, the rear toe link is the best part to have break.

It’s safer for the driver if a part on the car breaks because it takes energy to break things. Energy used to break the car is energy that can’t get through to the driver.

A race car going 160 mph has about the same energy as is stored in one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of TNT. Because it’s impossible to create or destroy energy, all that energy has to go somewhere when a car stops. Every crumpled fender, squished piece of foam and screeching tire transforms energy. Energy dissipated by the car doesn’t reach the driver. The rear toe link is one element in a chain of sacrificial components.

The Next Gen car is stiffer than the car it replaced. Much of that stiffness is due to reinforcements that protect the driver from debris coming into the cockpit. Greater stiffness dissipates less energy, which means more energy reaches the driver.

“The little slaps against the fence that may not look that big,” Joey Logano said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive”, “you feel them way more than we used to, for sure.”

That makes the role of intentional ‘weak links’ like bumpers, foam and rear toe links even more important. Safety elements that protect drivers in potentially serious crashes sometimes come at the cost of them feeling the smaller impacts a little more.

Indestructible cars make for worse racing

Leaving safety aside, there’s a strategic rationale for not making the Next Gen car indestructible. If a driver can hit a wall and just keep going, the importance of skill decreases. Racing turns into bumper cars and drivers become more aggressive because they can do so without penalty. In the worst case, that leads to more accidents — and potentially more serious accidents.

The Next Gen car demands drivers employ a different skill set. The edge between ‘fast’ and ‘in the wall’ is thinner than ever before. Drivers must combine finesse behind the wheel with aggression. Like Denny Hamlin did last week at Charlotte, drivers must balance speed and passing with preserving their car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”