Talladega Test Successful
August 28, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Nineteen drivers tested different aerodynamic and restrictor-plate combinations Monday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway as NASCAR officials try to find a solution to the difficult problem of racing at the two superspeedways.
NASCAR changed its aero rules last year for the second Talladega race, adding a roof strip and a steeper-angled spoiler. The rules got the desired effect, as the cars were bunched together in tight packs the entire race.
After three more races this year with the rules, however, drivers became more vocal about the inability to separate from each other. So NASCAR is trying again. A test in April with Sterling Marlin and a taller roof didn’t work, so the sanctioning body returned to Talladega to try different spoiler angles and restrictor-plate sizes.
“One example of the data we were searching for was to find a balance between aerodynamics and restrictor plates,” Winston Cup director Gary Nelson said. “The way we did this was to reduce the aero drag on the car, which in turn picks up speed, and then we offset this with a smaller plate. The current aero package in place is a high aero/drag combination.
“Now keep in mind, the speeds at Daytona and Talladega, more so Talladega, have been satisfactory. We wanted to maintain that pace but with a lower drag combination. With the number of teams here testing, we received an unprecedented amount of input from the drivers. We were able to zero in on what the driver was feeling after a run.”
The teams tested three different restrictor-plate sizes – 15/16ths, 29/32nds and 7/8ths – the removal of the roof air deflector and the 90-degree “wicker bill” atop the rear spoiler and different rear spoiler angles.
“What probably came out of that is that it looks like that – especially at Talladega – it’s not going to be necessary to run the roof spoiler or the wicker bill,” Ricky Rudd said. “Most of the drivers left here (Monday) agreeing that the cars drove better without those roof spoilers on them.”
Rudd said some in the Chevrolet camp “seemed to be adamant about keeping the roof spoilers on.”
The roof spoiler and other changes had the desired effect, creating a bigger hole in the air and allowing cars to catch up more quickly – too quickly, Rudd said.
“There’s been a lot of near misses,” Rudd said. “The drivers haven’t been huge fans of these roof spoilers just because of the closure rates. Things are going backwards and forward so quick, you almost can’t keep your eyes on what’s going on.”
Team owner Ray Evernham, who had driver Bill Elliott at the test, said speeds were in the 190 mph range. That’s about the speed NASCAR wants to maintain at the two superspeedways. The speed can be controlled with restrictor plates, but NASCAR wants close racing, too. In the past, it was difficult to pass. With the newer aero rules, thought, it was almost too easy to pass. Somewhere in the middle is the goal.
“I kind of liked this,” Marlin said. “We’ve run good here in the past. We just would like to get it to where we can get out from under everybody.
“So far I like it better than it was. Now we must be precise with our passing. It’s not as easy to pass as it was. It has made it more difficult to pass, but you have that control.”
Nelson said the test started with 20-lap runs with all the cars, with NASCAR officials and the teams talking after each run. Later, 15 cars ran 15-lap runs. At one point, Nelson said, the cars used an aero package similar to the Busch Series – a 60-degree spoiler with no roof strip.
“It was a very productive and informative day,” Nelson said. “We were able to learn many things. We couldn’t have learned the things we did in a single-car test or in the wind tunnel or dyno-type tests. We needed a pack of cars to help us obtain all that we did. Our next step is to take the information gathered and analyze all of it. That will obviously assist us in our decision process.”
It is unclear whether any new rules will be announced before the EA Sports 500 at Talladega on Oct. 21.
Other drivers at the test were Rusty Wallace, Kevin Lepage, Johnny Benson, Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart, Elliott Sadler, Ward Burton, Jerry Nadeau, Jimmy Spencer, Joe Nemechek, Ken Schrader, John Andretti, Buckshot Jones, Bobby Hamilton, Todd Bodine and Dave Marcis (driving Kevin Harvick’s No. 29).