NASCAR Media Conference
October 3, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by NASCAR Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton, and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director, John Darby.
A lot of us saw that Air Titan was out here today, and yesterday, and if you could speak about why we brought it out here and what its purpose was?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Everybody knows Air Titan is a great system to dry the tracks. But one of the things that we are testing, and it looks like it's got some value, is actually cleaning the racetracks before we get to them. There's been a couple times this year that we went and we had taken Air Titan to a facility and it actually does a really nice job of cleaning the pores of the racetrack, gets the sand, the silt, the dirt and the grime that's out of it, the oil that's saturated and baked in there.
So we were out here. We did Chicago, we did Richmond, and those tracks it appeared that it was better when we opened up for opening day. The grip level was pretty good, and then it's an opportunity for the track to take on an actual‑‑ the natural rubber of the tire that's going to be raced there this weekend.
So we did it here before we came and tested tires a few months ago, and then we did it again yesterday. You'd be surprised, even after two of those prep sessions, the amount of stuff that just naturally comes out of the track that obviously it's probably not good to get started on a race weekend.
So we're experimenting with some things, and it's just another advantage of having that piece of equipment available to us, and we'll see what happens at the end of the year. We may continue to do it next year too.
Q. John, we have the Goodyear Zone Tread tire back on the cars this weekend, and we've added three hours today. What did you see today, and what are you looking for?
JOHN DARBY: I think the best answer for that is we didn't see anything, which is good news. If you look through the whole Goodyear tire development process and how they do it, obviously, they reach a point where they need some race teams to help test the tire for them.
With the Kansas race being in the Chase, it sometimes becomes real difficult on who does the original test for the tires. What we know is if our best drivers and best teams test the tires for Goodyear, the end product is going to be much better than if we do it some other way.
So when you look at who you would label the best teams right now in the garage, a number of those competitors were pretty certain they would be Chase competitors at the time it took to test the tire here.
So to make it fair and put everybody else on an equal platform in regards to the rest of the Chase competitors, or, quite frankly, all the rest of the competitors in the garage, and to take it a step further to confirm that the tire was good and without fault, it makes sense sometimes, when we come to a race facility that is, number one, a recent pave as well as a new tire strategy, that we take the time and the effort to let the guys run on it for a while.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'll add a little to that. Typically we don't have a mid‑season code change on the tires between a spring and a fall race, but this is a unique set of circumstances, I think, with the repaves as we really try to‑‑ Goodyear has gone above and beyond more than any year to develop tires and to try to really bring the best stuff they can to the racetrack. It's a test that they really didn't have planned on the books to do mid‑year, but we felt, along with Goodyear, it was better to get another tire out here on the racetrack instead of what we ran in the spring. So that's one of the other reasons why.
Q. How many tracks would you like to see this Multi‑Zone Tread tire have or be on next season? Is it applicable to all tracks or just mainly the intermediate tracks?
JOHN DARBY: I don't know if we know that answer for sure yet. One of the exciting parts of having it here at Kansas is because this is a recently repaved track that's very smooth, right? We ran the Zone Tread at Atlanta without any technical issues or failures and had a good race. But that's on a very aggressive, coarse track surface, one that's already known to chew up tires. We had that example.
This is kind of like the other end of the spectrum for the tire. It's fresh pavement that is smooth. And to be able to run the tire here this weekend, I think‑‑ that's why I mean I don't know if we know yet. We'll have to wait until we come out of the weekend and evaluate it to see if there were some benefits to it.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think Goodyear has a list prioritized between racetracks that they would like to get a little better performance out of them, and this will enable them to do. I think if you take the time to go talk to Greg Stucker or Stu Grant, they probably can narrow it down for you.
Q. Robin, looking back in your history, you know, you spent a lot of time as a crew chief talking and conversing with some great drivers. Do you understand the importance or can you talk about understanding the importance of what the driver really feels out of that track and out of a test session? And when they complete one, do you spend time talking to drivers to see how much they can really feel out of these tires?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think and‑‑
JOHN DARBY: You remember Rusty drove for him, right? (Laughing).
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The highest average tire bill for a ten‑year span, I'm sure.
But the reality is I think when you‑‑ and I've been fortunate. The list of the guys that I've worked with, whether it was Richard Petty or Bobby Allison, Kyle when we had it going on for a while, and Mark Martin, Rusty, when you look at all of those guys, every one of them had something unique to their DNA that they did, they felt, they worked on.
Bobby was mechanical. Richard was really smooth and I'll work on it during the race. Rusty would kill you for a ten‑pound spring change when people were changing springs 150 pounds. Mark Martin was like get it close and we'll work on it because the track is going to change. Every one of those guys brought something different.
If you looked and saw Kyle up on the board, it showed you needed to back the corner up a little bit more. He was a little smoother. Great‑‑ probably one of the best test drivers that I've ever worked for.
So everybody brings a little something different to the table. Not all of them really‑‑ some of them feel the air different than others. Some feel tires. Some feel spring changes. Earnhardt was the best working the draft, in my opinion, than anybody. It's not that he could see the air, but he knew where it was, you know.
Everybody brings a little something different to the table. I wish that some of these guys had the opportunity today in today's world to work with some of the guys that I was able to work for the last 25 years or so. But it's all different.
Q. With the Air Titan, using it to clean, will that age the track at all by removing that stuff? That doesn't do anything? Does it help with grip taking that stuff out? Because you said it makes for a better weekend. What's it do?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's actually just prepping the surface. We've analyzed some of the residue that's come off of it, and even there might be some small particles that are track surface related, but the reality of it is a lot of it is dirt and grime and oil and mold and mildew and things like that.
So we did Phoenix also a few months ago when we were out there testing, and it was incredible. And as you can only imagine, that when you go to a place like Phoenix over the years, the first 30 minutes of practice were basically useless to a team. It was like liar's poker who wanted to go out. Because the track surface, no matter how hard they tried to blow it and everything, you couldn't get down into the pores of that.
So we used the Air Titan when we were out there to prep the track before the tire test. And a few of the drivers that were out there, and I forget right now who was actually there, but they came to us after the test and said, actually, the racetrack was two and a half‑‑ two and a half seconds faster early on than it was at any other tire test that they had been running. Which not faster than track record speed, but the fact is they were up to speed sooner and you'd get right to the test quicker.
Q. On the Air Titan, so you did it for the first time here when? Last week?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We were here yesterday, and then they were here before the tire test, whenever that happened to be. It all runs together at this time of the year for me. It was earlier than yesterday.
Q. And you happened to use it for the rain today too?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Pardon me?
Q. You were able to use it for the rain today too. So you got double bang for your buck. And, John, could you amplify just a little bit on the good news today? Was the good news today that nothing happened? How did you phrase it? What would have been bad news?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We've had bad days.
JOHN DARBY: We've had test days like this before where the end result was Goodyear scrambling tonight to get six more trailer loads of tires in here for tomorrow to help work through the problem. But then those are things that you feel good about when you come that you won't have a problem, but it's a lot more secure feeling when there's 43 guys all nodding and acknowledging the fact that they're not going to have a problem.
Q. Last year there was a lot of speculation that with the new G6 car that you guys might open up the window, let's say, for mechanical grip. Is that the case, and where was that allowed?
JOHN DARBY: As the teams work on the mechanical grip, it's probably the stuff that's not as visible to everybody, you know? There's obviously a bunch of new rear spring configurations and usage compared to what we had with the G5 car. Part of it being learning the aero, the signature of the G6 a little bit better. But a lot of it is just knowing that without the rear sway bar and some of the soft rubber bushings that they had last year in making that transition, they've worked more towards just fixed dimensioning of axel housings and truck arm angles and the real soft rear springs, different shock packages, stuff like that.
Q. (Off microphone) than in years past? Was there something that said this was out of bounds and you need to work in this area now?
JOHN DARBY: No, not really, I don't believe so.
Q. Robin, the teams that were out there today had the data acquisition boxes on them. Can you explain why that's allowed for like a test, but then you guys cut it off and it's not allowed‑‑
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I didn't hear the first part of the question.
Q. The teams with the data acquisition boxes collection, obviously it's allowed during tests like today. But why is that not allowed when teams are practicing prior to a race?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: If you look down through the garage area and see the rows and rows of tables and engineers that are out there banging on computers, you would understand that that's an added expense and overhead for the teams that they would have to incur week‑in and week‑out.
There is a balance between testing and the economics of testing, whether it's out on their own for two‑ or three‑day test somewhere, or if it's here a day early. There are different values to that. Because when you are here testing, you're really only testing for this one event. You're really practicing with data for tomorrow. So you're not gaining for other racetracks or some global grip thing that you're working on or trying to find.
We have to balance that. There are times that it works well to go a day early like today or half a day. We do that periodically. But you can't just‑‑ I don't think that it would benefit any of us if we just did that for 20 times a year or anything like that. Teams still want to take the time to go off to another racetrack and a facility to test properly, test bits and pieces and use their engineering that way.
So this is just for today, this type of test, but I don't think it's something that would‑‑ there are times that it works well for us, and there are other times I think it would just be a pain in the butt to most of them.
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