The Building Speed Blog

The Science of Fast

Testing…1…2…

Scene Daily reports that NASCAR has given teams the draft of a new testing policy. At present, there are a limited number of NASCAR-sanctioned tests, plus teams are free to test as much as they want at tracks the Cup series doesn’t race at. According to the article, the main features of the policy are:

  • 24 test days at tracks where the Cup series races
  • Max of two cars per test
  • You can have more than one driver per car, but they have to be drivers that drive for the company already
  • No testing between November 1 and January 15th
  • No testing at a track the week before the race
  • Daytona tests remain as they were and aren’t counted in the 24 days

Apparently, this is about 80% of the way to a done deal.

This proposed testing policy is indicative of one of the major changes in NASCAR over the last few years, which is the evolution of the NASCAR quantum from teams to companies. The two (team and companies) used to be synonymous, but now we have the company Roush Fenway Racing with five teams on one hand, and the company Hall of Fame racing with one team on the other.

But even one- and two-team companies aren’t out there on their own. GEM provides engines to GEM, Petty Enterprises and Robby Gordon. Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines provides engines to DEI and RCR. Hendrick Motorsports provides engines to HMS and Haas. So it isn’t surprising that teams with common engine programs have some coordination during practice and testing.

The racing enterprise has expanded. Instead of the crew chief at the top of the org chart, there is a meta-crew chief (usually with a much fancier title) who coordinates the teams across the organization. This has a great impact on testing. It would take Solomon to come up with a testing policy that would be equally fair to everyone.

A company can have up to four teams, so why not let four teams test per test day? That would either force the smaller companies to build extra cars and hire test drivers, or to be at a disadvantage because they couldn’t test as many different things. This requirement also means that, with few exceptions, no one team will test less all 24 days. Divorce lawyers across Charlotte are no doubt disappointed.

The requirement that only drivers who drive for that company (and I don’t have the official wording, so I don’t know if they said company or team) slants testing in a specific way. When you read Jayski’s lists of testing, how often these days does it say “The Hendrick Motorsports R&D team” or “The GEM test team”? A number of n-car companies are now actually n+1 car companies because they have full-time research and development teams. In addition to the cost, remember that the car isn’t the team. It’s the symbiotic (at least in the best case) system of the car, the driver and the crew. Success is dependent on the driver feeling comfortable with the car and the crew working together as a unit. These tests are aimed at strengthening the team, not just giving the engineering department scads of data.

One wonders what the revised policy will do to tracks like Kentucky, Nashville and Milwaukee (the latter of which is already experiencing financial problems) when Cup teams aren’t spending money to rent the tracks. What about the short track that Penske is trying to build in the shop’s backyard?

No testing at a track the week before the race tells us that NASCAR wants teams to try to gain general knowledge about the car, not give them an extra day of practice before each race. Before the CoT, teams had accumulated notebooks upon notebooks of data from tracks under all kinds of conditions. All that data went out the window with the introduction of the new car. The new testing policy allows the companies to re-build their databases faster than they would be able to do if they only had race weekends.

The decision to allow testing during the Chase is interesting. It may turn out to be a leveling factor. The teams that aren’t in the Chase can start working on next year. The teams that are in the Chase can try to gain an edge. Teams will have to decide how many days they want to use up prior to the Chase.

Here’s my theory about why 24 days. The maximum number of teams is four. 24 is divisible by four, so an owner with four teams can divide testing dates equally. BUT: 24 is also evenly divisible by three and by two. The next larger number divisible by 2, 3 and 4 is 36 and that’s “there is no way in heck I’m testing that much because my wife/girlfriend/dog will leave me” territory.

And now, a few random thoughts.

…and then the Laws of Physics kick in‘. I really wish that the folks on SPEED would stop saying this. God is not standing there with a light switch turning gravity on and off. When you throw a ball in the air, gravity pulls it down the whole time, even when the ball is moving up and even when it momentarily stops before it starts coming down again. When a car crashes, it’s not because some law of physics suddenly became active, it’s because the driver let the force pushing the car toward the wall get bigger than the force keeping the car turning. It’s all physics, folks, not just when bad stuff happens.

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Ever listen to someone on television and thought, ‘why can’t that person even put together a coherent sentence?’ Me too. Turns out, it’s not as easy as it looks (or sounds, as I prove every time I do a radio interview). While at Daytona, I got to talk to Dave Moody in person in the official Sirius on-site mobile microstudio. Instead of just hearing the hosts, you hear people talking in your headset who don’t come over the radio and they talk while you’re talking. This is helpful in some respects: When they say two minutes, you know how long your answer can be, but it takes a bit of getting used to.

Here’s what really impressed me: When you hear Dave go to a break, it sounds like he finished the interview and went to break. In reality, there’s a person counting down in his ear from twenty seconds, and Dave is figuring out what to say–on the fly–so that he ends exactly when the person in his ear says “two…one…”. It’s pretty impressive.

Don’t knock it, Pt. II. Last week, I expanded my horizons beyond NASCAR. I taped a segment for ESPN for the X-Games. It focused on an event called ‘Step-Up’, which is high jump using a motorcycle. The rider goes up a steep ramp and tries to get as much height as possible. The physics is exactly the same as the classic example of tossing a ball from one hand up in the air to the other. Exactly. (Except, of course, that it is a motorcycle and not a ball.) We took an entire morning to tape what probably will end up to be about twenty or thirty seconds on air.

The funniest part is that I’ve been so NASCAR-ized that we had to do two or more takes for just about every question because I could not stop saying ‘driver’. Motorcycles don’t have drivers, they have riders. I was so bad that, by the end of the shoot, I had Ben (the poor producer) saying ‘driver’. Doing things like that makes you aware of all your little annoying habits (like starting way too many sentences with “So…”). I’m just hoping now that my K’NEX model of the step-up ramp doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor. I’m starting to get a little too carried away with these wonderful building blocks: It dawned on me that one could make a scale model of Bristol with them.

My apologies to those of you I’ve slighted this and last week on correspondence (especially Marc). We had a major disappointment losing a potentially big sponsor for our latest education project, which has left me feeling quite Dario Franchitti-ish. I promise to catch up in the next few days, as I’m then off to Charlotte for a few days to learn some more about engines and aerodynamics. I look forward to sharing them here in the coming weeks.

6 thoughts on “Testing…1…2…

  1. I think the testing rules in place today did have merit and for a time did indeed save teams money. However, ‘off-track’ testing with 7 post machines and such have morphed into something that requires the most deep of pockets. A change is needed, and I think NASCAR realizes this.

    My question about testing over the years when dealing with multi car teams is chassis identification. Lets say GEM has two teams and then a ‘test team’ (or multiple test teams), on any given test they could be testing up to 6 chassis (or more) and the problem was that I wasn’t sure just where (or which team) any of these chassis ended up. It was an advantage for a team like Roush and a disadvantage for a team like the Wood Brothers.

    With these new testing rules, NASCAR seems to have identified this advantage for the ‘larger’ teams/companies and should level the ‘testing field’.

  2. No apologies needed Diandra.

    You have far less time than us out-of-work and retired bloggers that have nothing to do but cheer from behind the fence.

  3. Maybe I’m confused by all this, but I thought the 24-test limit was only going to apply to NASCAR sanctioned tracks to replace the current 7-test rule.

    After working in the industry I would hope this is not the case as employees of race teams would actually be able to spend a few weeks at the shop instead of testing every week, but I wonder how NASCAR would be able to sanction testing at tracks they do not race at such as Greenville-Pickens, VIR and others. Also if these will act as more restrictions on testing, this could be even worse news for the current Nationwide-only teams.

  4. Hi Bill:
    Since the plan is still a draft, there is plenty of room for confusion (and change). Yes, the current plan is to replace the en masse tests NASCAR currently sanctions. I haven’t heard that teams won’t be able to test at Milwaukee, Nashville, etc.; however, the primary reason for testing at, for example, Milwaukee, is because it is similar to Phoenix. If you can test at Phoenix, and test using Goodyear tires, what more are you going to learn testing at Milwaukee?
    And I am 100% behind you on the team members needing to have lives. You can make all the arguments you want that drivers and crew chiefs make the big bucks and can survive working hard, but the tire specialist and the mechanic aren’t making megabucks and staying in fancy motorhomes or hotels. I talked to a Nationwide group in Daytona that were leaving Friday night, had Saturday off, and had to be in the shop Sunday to get ready to leave for Monday/Tuesday test.
    Everything in the Nationwide series is in flux. I heard that a lot of teams were considering scaling back or pulling out of the Nationwide series because of the introduction of a CoT-like car and the escalating costs; however, the Nationwide CoT initiative is apparently on hold becuase of cost and implementation concerns.

  5. Diandra, thanks for the reply. Great work with the blog, I appreciate all your background research on each topic as it helps me to remember all those lessons learned from engineering classes. – Bill

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright © All rights reserved. | Newsphere by AF themes.