Talking Tech With Fans

This week’s answers are from Gordon Gibbs (chief mechanic) and Tim Whelan (gears and transmission specialist) of the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Winston Cup team.

Q. - What’s the most expensive single piece of equipment on a Winston Cup car? What’s close behind?
Sioux Falls, S.D.

A. - First -- the driver! No, it’s probably the motor. Then the next thing would be the body of the car. They’re actually probably equal, but it depends on who is hanging the body and how much they charge for it. If you piece it out to different suppliers, the car and the body itself is probably more expensive.

Q. - If you won with a particular body style one year, then Chevy came out with a new body style for the next season, could you run the car you won with or would you have to go to the new car?

A. - You would have to run the new style. You can’t run the old style. People have done that, but the ones you see that do are your lower-budget racing teams. Very seldom do you see teams do it. We’d also loose manufacturer support if we didn’t use the new style body.

Q. - Does gas burn up faster on the short tracks or on the superspeedways? Why?
Port Charlotte, Fla.

A. - You burn up more gas on the short tracks because you’re on and off of the gas pedal instead of running wide open like you do at Daytona and Talladega. Pocono is a good example of that because you’re on and off the gas all of the time, and gas mileage always comes into play there.

Q. - On multicar teams, are the cars worked on in the same shop, or are you all in different buildings?
Las Vegas

A. - Some are in the same building, but all of the Hendrick Motorsports teams are in different buildings.

Q. - I heard something about a tire’s contact patch. What is that?
Albany, Ga.

A. - The tire’s contact patch is the part of the tire that is touching the track surface. It’s the actual part of the tire that sits on the asphalt. It moves as the tire rotates. It’s going to be the same size depending on camber -- the relationship of how the tire is leaning to the surface of the race track -- but it’s the same all the way around.

Q. - How many guys in your shop came from other Winston Cup teams, and how many have only been with Hendrick Motorsports at the Winston Cup level?
Wilmington, N.C.

A. - Almost everybody came from other Winston Cup teams. You have to work your way up as you go through this sport, and this is one of the top teams to work for.

Q. - How often do you have full team meetings, and does the crew chief do all the talking?
Cumberland, W.V.

A. - Every morning. The crew chief doesn’t always do all the talking, but when he does, it’s short and sweet because we all have a lot to do every day. Sometimes the car chief will have something to add, or maybe our shop foreman will say something, too.

Q. - Where are the fire extinguishers in the cars, and how easy is it for the driver to get to it (I’ve never seen one used by a driver)?

A. - They are located behind the seat within arm’s reach of the driver. But you said you’ve never seen one used by a driver -- that’s because they never reach for it. They’re always worried about getting out of the car, not saving it. They’re on the way out of the car before they even think about a fire extinguisher -- I would be too.

Q. - If you just couldn’t get a driver’s radio/ear piece to work, even a replacement one, would you go to pit boards to communicate? Do you even have such a thing at the track?
Charlottesville, Va.

A. - You could. You’d have too. If he can hear you but you can’t hear him, then you can communicate through hand signals. We don’t have anything like that (a pit board) at the track, so we’d be looking for some big pieces of cardboard if Jerry couldn’t hear us.

Q. - Are the steering wheels all metal, plastic, rubber? Is that up to the driver? What does Jerry Nadeau use? Are there finger grips or notches on them or are they solid?
Georgetown, S.C.

A. - All steering wheels are mandatory to be metal. They have to be steel. They can have different configurations of rubber grips, but Jerry just uses the standard rubber-grip steel steering wheel.

If you’re a techy or a rookie and have a question you’d like to ask, simply send the question – plus your name, city and state - to

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