Track Tech 101: Fire Retardant Suit
Fire Retardant Suit
With powerful engines and speeds of up to 200mph, safety becomes a major point of emphasis for drivers on the track.
One of the most iconic and important pieces of the safety precautions are fire retardant suits. These suits are made with Proban or Nomex, two materials that protect against fire.
Overall, these suits provide between 3-40 seconds of protection against flames from the engine or car and are one of the most important pieces of equipment for a driver during a race.
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Track Tech 101: Thunder Gun
The impact wrench is the device used to unscrew and screw back the lug nuts around the tires.
In NASCAR, the impact wrench used is called the Thunder Gun. The gun uses compressed Nitrogen to quickly remove and replace the lug nuts, allowing for a crew to replace tires in under 20 seconds.
By applying 1000 lb. of torque, two tires can be changed in as fast as 5 seconds, providing a quick pit stop that can be the difference between winning and losing the race.
Track Tech 101: Carbon Fiber
When the new Generation 6 cars were introduced in 2013, safety was the major focus of the new model.
These new cars have been built with a different metal on specific aspects of the car body, using carbon fiber on the hood of the car as well as the deck. Carbon fiber has made each car lighter than ever before, which leads to lower centers of gravity and more speed. Although an increase in speed may lead to more crashes in theory, the usage of carbon fiber mitigates some of the force from the impact of crashes.
As technology continues to improve, keep on the lookout for what will happen with the next generation of NASCAR stock cars.
Track Tech 101: Pit Box Monitors
Pit Box Monitors
Using television monitors, Pit Crews can analyze every piece of data necessary to plan a strategy for the race.
The top monitors are used to look at weather forecasting during the race as well as lap times, car mileage and scoring data. Laptops are used to calculate fuel mileage and look at previous race statistics. Lastly, a weather station is used for wind measurement, monitoring how the wind is blowing and how that will affect the car.
Overall, the pit box serves a variety of purposes essential to race day.
Track Tech 101: The Air Titan
This newly introduced machine provides a revolutionary new way to dry the race track when it is raining. Using technology similar to an air gun, compressed air is used to dry the track in less than 2 hours.
The Titan will push moisture off the track onto the vacuum, drying up the moisture as it goes. The Titan is followed by jet dryers that will catch any moisture that the Titan misses.
Overall, the Air Titan can cut drying times by up to 80 percent, allowing rain delays to finish far sooner than ever before.
Track Tech 101: Laser Inspection Platform
Laser Inspection Platform
As a part of each pre-race inspection, every car needs to be checked for weight, dimensions and safety precautions.
This inspection station uses RFID chips to measure the dimensions of the car, making sure each one fits with the precise regulations of the NASCAR certifications.
The platform can use the lasers and RFID chips to take over 40 different measurements and each inspection can be done in 3 minutes or less.
Track Tech 101: HANS Device
This piece of equipment worn by drivers is a head and neck restraint, used to prevent head and neck injuries in a crash scenario.
Basilar skull fractures are the main injury this restraint prevents, as it keeps the head and neck connected and in an upright and stable position. A director for the Safety R&D for NASCAR said the HANS Device reduces force from a front-on collision by 600 pounds of force.
The HANS Device, along with the similar Hutchens device, have greatly reduced head and neck injuries in NASCAR.
Track Tech 101: Tire Technology
One of the most important, yet forgotten pieces of technology in racing is the tire. One of the major adjustments that teams make with tires are the differences in circumference. The tires on the left side of the car have smaller circumferences than those on the right side of the car as a way to improve turning on the car.
Additionally, the tires are created differently than a regular tire, trying to maximize the surface area of the tire that touches the track. Each NASCAR tire is filled with nitrogen, because the compound can handle higher temperatures than air and does not deflate as quickly.
The performance of the tires used can have a significant impact on the result of the race and one wrong adjustment or malfunction can end the race for a driver.
Track Tech 101: SAFER Barriers
One of the most innovative pieces of technology coming out of NASCAR are the SAFER barriers, which are walls that absorb collision impact and limit the damage done to drivers and vehicles.
Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers are two distinct pieces. The first is a barrier of steel tubes that forms a primary buffer between the wall and the car. In between these tubes and the wall are foam cylinders that act as shocks to absorb some of the collision impact and lessen the collision force. With the combination of the steel tubes and foam, cars are less likely to bounce back into the middle of the race track after a crash and the cars themselves take on less damage from the collision.
These barriers are starting to be implemented onto more tracks during the Sprint Cup Series, making each collision far less dangerous.
Track Tech 101: Digital Communication System
One thing that makes NASCAR unique as a sport is the exclusive access that fans have to the drivers. At any given moment, a fan can listen in on the communication between drivers and their crews.
Fans see how drivers' strategies change during the race, when they attempt to make moves and how they navigate the track. Additionally, fans have data analytics given to them with all the information they need to watch a race.
These FanVision devices can be rented at each NASCAR race and provide people with an experience unlike any other. This technology enhances the race day experience and fans can feel a part of the team by listening in on the conversations being had.
Track Tech 101: Electronic Fuel Injection
Electronic Fuel Injection
Electronic fuel injection, introduced in 2012, altered the way that cars run on the track. For years, the fuel was mixed through a carburetor to power the engines.
The alternate system measures how much fuel is needed in the car and calculates when to add the fuel and ignite the engine.
Cylinders attached to the engine hold the fuel and the system determines when fuel needs to be added to ignite the engine. More than just efficiency with the fuel, the new system also comes with an ECU or electronic control unit. This ECU provides valuable driver data about the engine, allowing teams to make pre-race adjustments.
Track Tech 101: Restrictor Plates
Sometimes, the speed of the cars can get out of hand and speeds can outperform what the track can handle.
NASCAR has implemented restrictor plates, a piece of technology that helps slow down the cars at certain tracks for safety reasons.
Restrictor plates are square, aluminum plates with four holes that are placed into the engine to reduce the flow of air into the combustion chamber, reducing the speed and horsepower. Currently, restrictor plates are only required at Talladega and Daytona.
Track Tech 101: Shocks and the Shock Specialist
Shocks and the Shock Specialist
The shock specialist's role on the pit crew is to figure out the best shock combination that keeps the car as low to the ground as possible without causing damage. The better the shock system in place, the better handling and comfort the driver has.
Springs control the height of the car, and every week, the car height may need to be changed to insure the fastest and most controlled car possible. In terms of the shocks, front and back shocks are implemented on each car, controlling the impact when cars hit an unbalanced portion on the track.
With each track being unique, the specialist needs to use simulations to find the right shock and spring combination to provide their driver with the best chance to win.
Track Tech 101: Jack
Unlike the traditional jack used to change automobile tires, the specialized jack used in NASCAR only requires a single pump to lift the car.
The jack uses a powerful hydraulic system that makes lifting the car a lot easier and more efficient than when using a standard jack. The jack is also very lightweight, weighing only 35lbs. This makes it easy to carry around, providing quick and easy pit stops.
The role of the jack man is to lift each side of the car so other members can put the new tires on.
Track Tech 101: Digital Gauges
Starting in 2016, every driver in the Sprint Cup Series must use the new digital dashboard being implemented into NASCAR.
This new digitalized dashboard can provide each driver with more information about their car that was not previously accessible through the older version of the dashboard.
Additionally, using a digital dashboard can give fans exclusive access to seeing what the drivers are looking at during the race in real time.
Digital dashboards were allowed starting this past August 2015, however, an enforced change will not take place until January 2016 where it will be the talk of the 2016 season.