KEYS FOR SUCCESS: Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Friday, Feb. 24, 2012) – Each race weekend, selected SRT Motorsports Engineers, Penske Racing engineers and crew chiefs, drivers or engine specialists give their insight on the ‘Keys for Success’ for the upcoming race. This week, Howard Comstock, SRT Motorsports Engineering – provides the keys for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
Track: Daytona International Speedway (Race 1 of 36 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)
Race: Daytona 500 (200 laps / 500.0 miles)
Trivia Question: Who was the first Dodge driver to win the Daytona 500? (Answer Below)
HOWARD COMSTOCK (SRT Motorsports Engineering)
Keep Cool: “It looks like we’re going to catch a break and get some cooler weather for the weekend which really should help. The temperatures are in the 60s rather than the 80s on Thursday. You’ve got 20 degrees more help from Mother Nature in keeping the engine water and oil temperatures at acceptable levels. We saw Thursday in the Duel races that there were some teams that had a lot of trouble with spitting out water during the race. Elevated engine temperatures are one thing.
You can get out from behind somebody, get a breath of fresh air, get the thing cooled down and you can fix elevated engine temperatures. The point where it starts hurting you is if the pop off valve allows water to escape from the system. Now, if you can get the temperature back down, you’ve got less water to work with so the next cycle the car is going to heat up faster and you’re going to shoot more water out. It’s a dangerous spiral for the team. The only way to put water back in it is to stop on pit road. And the danger there is now you’ve got a 250 degree temperature engine and you put 75 degree water in it, which is another shock to the system. Drivers are going to have to be careful about keeping water in the car.”
Aero Grip: “We’ve taken a lot of spoiler off these cars and it makes them more unstable, especially in the draft, and we’ve seen all the races here at Speedweek where just the smallest nudge at the wrong time can upset the cars and with less spoiler on the rear deck we’ve got less down force to keep ‘em stuck to the racetrack.
You get one little wiggle and it looks like you can’t survive a smaller wiggle than we’ve seen in the past. We used to see that you get a little wiggle and that spoiler catches some air and it’ll straighten car back out and with the deck spoiler as short as it is now we’ve lost that. It’s going to be 500 miles of being careful with your engine temperatures and being careful with your aerodynamics.
If you are a driver, don’t get stuck in a bad spot (laughs). Everybody has got the same spoiler so everybody has got basically the same aerodynamic package. You’re going to have to be careful that your buddies aren’t helping you too much, careful that you’re not trying to help somebody in front of you too much and get them spinning. Once you spin out the guy in front of you there’s a pretty good risk that you’re going to be involved in his crash.”
Pit Strategy: “I heard drivers in the Shootout and the Duel that said we don’t have enough grip as it is so tires will help me. So I would say that earlier in the 500 you may see more guys going for four tires try to just make sure they’ve got that little to keep ‘em from getting turned around. It’s not surprising when you look at how short that deck spoiler is.”
Trivia Question Answer: Richard Petty in 1973, his fourth of seven Daytona 500 victories but his first in a Dodge – his three previous victories all came behind the wheel of a Plymouth. Fellow Dodge driver Buddy Baker won the pole for the 500 with a lap of 185.662 mph.