Drivers Battle Extreme Heat during Tire Test
With late-afternoon temperatures approaching 100 degrees and track temperatures exceeding 140 degrees, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers and David Ragan tested Goodyear tires Monday at Lowe's Motor Speedway in preparation for the Bank of America 500 on Saturday night, Oct. 13.
Even though the four teams had an eye on 2008 as they tested NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, a portion of what they learn during the two-day session will apply to the current cars that will be used here this fall.
"This test today is important because I believe in testing in the extreme," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "The track temperature is about 145 degrees up there in the fourth turn, and that's about as extreme as it will get here. Even though it will be a lot cooler in October, this track is notorious for changing quickly and this is a good test for that.
"I'm particularly glad the Car of Tomorrow is here," Wheeler added. "The Bank of America 500 will be the last race for what I call the ‘Twisted Sister' car and I'm glad to see it head down the road."
Offering a bit of relief from the scorching heat, Wheeler distributed popsicles to the drivers, crew members and Goodyear engineers and showed off an ice carving that resembled a Goodyear tire.
"It's really hot and that makes it kind of miserable inside the race car," said Newman. "It's hard to stay focused, but we're getting Goodyear some good feedback and data for the Car of Tomorrow. I don't think there is anything different for this fall, but for next year there are some options that we are working on. The actual tire we ran in May still feels like a really good tire with this car.
"Honestly, the temperature is not going to be much different when we are here in the fall. I've seen it be 90 to 95 degrees then," Newman added. "It cools off at night a little more, but I think we are still going to see plenty of temperature."
Wheeler said the extreme temperatures were having a greater impact on the drivers and crews than the race cars.
"Look at the way Ryan Newman is sweating," he said. "I'll bet he'll lose 12 to 14 pounds of water just being in that race car. It's 130 to 140 degrees inside the car and that's like working up on a roof, pouring hot tar. On top of that, they're running 300 feet a second and the concentration and focus is a tremendous strain."
When asked about the hottest he's ever been in a race car, Truex Jr. responded, "Probably today. I guess it's because the car is not set up to race and doesn't have all the heat shields and the insulation in it. Fifteen laps feel like 800 miles to me."
Ragan, a Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contender, said he would like to run the Car of Tomorrow in the Oct. 13 Bank of America 500.
"It's a shame we can't run the COTs here in the fall," Ragan said. "The COT car doesn't handle as badly here as I was anticipating. Usually, Lowe's Motor Speedway is known as a hot, slick track during the summer months, but with this car it's not that bad.
"The biggest thing for me is to just make some laps because this is the first time I've been in a COT car on a track bigger than Dover or New Hampshire."
The tire test is scheduled to continue through Tuesday afternoon with the same four drivers expected to once again battle the elements.
Tickets for the Oct. 13 Bank of America 500, round five of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, can be purchased by calling the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or visiting www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. Tickets for the Dollar General 300 NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday night, Oct. 12, and Bojangles' Pole Night on Thursday, Oct. 11, are also on available.