Category: Michigan International Speedway

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Daytona, Catchfences and Flying Cars

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Track barriers originally were erected to keep cars separated from spectators. In addition to concrete walls to prevent the cars from driving off track, debris-spewing accidents necessitated fencing to contain airborne objects.

Catchfences should have the same properties as walls, but they can’t block the view. Chain link fence is a good compromise: It’s cheap, plentiful, easy to put up and surprisingly strong given its high visibility.

Chain-link fabric is an elastic metal mesh. It can give in two ways: gentle forces cause the mesh to deform. The diamonds stretch out of shape, but when the force is removed, the fabric springs back to its original shape. The fence can also deform by stretching the wires that make up the mesh. A large-enough force will break the wire entirely.

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Dive! Dive! Dive Planes… on Stock Cars?

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A persistent motorsports issue (and not only with stock cars) is the aerodynamic passing problem. You can’t pass without grip. Grip is a direct result of downforce. Downforce comes from two places: the weight of the car (mechanical grip) and the billions and billions of air molecules hitting the car (a.k.a aerogrip).

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The Trouble with Pit Road Walls

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We saw a very scary incident during the Cup race Sunday when Mark Martin was T-boned by the edge of the pit road wall. Luckily, the car hit the wall behind the driver’s seat — otherwise, that could have been very serious.

The ends of walls are probably the biggest safety problem NASCAR has right now. The SAFER barriers have radically improved the ability of drivers to walk away from standard crashes, but there are still some vulnerable areas.

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Why 200 mph Laps at Michigan are not like 200-mph Laps at Daytona or Talladega

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That fact that people are even talking about restrictor plates for Cup racing at Michigan International Speedway indicates a lack of understanding of the issues that give rise to concerns about cars getting airborne.

I touched on the difference between average and instantaneous quantities last week with the pit road speeding issue at Pocono. Instantaneous speed is the speed you are going at some particular instant. A radar gun measures instantaneous speed.

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