A group of math and science students recently gathered at Charlotte Motor Speedway to hear a panel of experts, including an astronaut, explain a number of similarities between auto racing and space travel. Both astronauts and NASCAR or Formula 1 drivers rely on a team of aerodynamic scientists to maximize their speed while complying with safety measures. Both are subject to G-forces and extreme heat, and both are familiar with, and reliant upon, materials such as carbon fiber and Kevlar – an incredibly strong composite para-aramid synthetic fiber used in various applications.
While astronauts travel around the earth at approximately 17,500 miles per hour, seeing an entire day and night pass by in around 45 minutes, following the initial launch astronauts are no longer under tremendous physical stress. Traveling at high-speed, racing drivers have corners, gradients and camber to deal with, all of which can put tremendous strain on the human body – and while this G-force effect is not constant and not as strong as an astronaut experiences during a launch, it is repeated many times during a three or four hour race. The effort of intense concentration also takes its toll on a driver, requiring physical and mental fitness.
Site manager of Windshear Inc. and panel member at the Charlotte event, Jeff Bordner, noted that the principle of aerodynamics for automobiles was a spin-off of the aerodynamics and technology developed for aerospace. Windshear runs a 180 mph rolling-road wind tunnel used for testing vehicles, with NASCAR providing up to 65 percent of the company’s business. NASA and NASCAR have long been connected, going back to the time when General Electric engineers established facilities along Volusia Avenue in Daytona Beach, Florida – a street which is now known as International Speedway Boulevard – where it assembled rocket parts to be used at Cape Canaveral. Early astronauts, such as Gus Grissom and Pete Conrad, were reportedly big auto racing fans, and this fascination with speed among astronauts has continued over the years. Captain of the Apollo 13 mission, Jim Lovell, has served as a NASCAR grand marshal, and astronaut Dominic Antonelli lists NASCAR as one of his interests in his NASA biography page. In 2008 the green flag for the Daytona 500 50th anniversary, flew on the shuttle Atlantis prior to the historic event.
What can you do with an automotive degree in NASCAR? The answer is simple: work with a racing team and aim to become a member of the pit stop team. The NASCAR Nation explains that only six crew members have the opportunity to work on pit stops during a Sprint Cup series race. A seventh crew member remains on stand-by; if he is allowed to join the crew during a stop, he has the job of swiftly cleaning the windshield.
The more common tasks performed during these hurried stops include the change of all four racing tires and a fuel tank top-off. How much time is allotted for these tasks? No more than 13 to 15 seconds; any NASCAR pit stop that goes beyond this time frame is considered to be a problem. In extreme cases, an inexpertly conducted pit stop can cost a team the race.
So how does an automotive degree figure into the equation? Considering that the maintenance tasks are not particularly involved, it would make sense that anyone trained in basic car care could serve as a pit stop crew member. Then again, remember that the automotive degree enables the crew member to make split-second decisions – based on professional training – that can turn a good pit stop into a great one. In fact, NASCAR history shows that there are a couple of amazing stops along the way – even if they only took up seconds.
Case in point is Sterling Marlin’s 2002 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 pit stop. Speeding in the pit lane, although not by choice, should have led to a 15-second penalty. Because of an error on the part of the racing officials, the driver never received the penalty and instead won the race by 1.163 seconds. The quick work of the pit crew, which may have prevented the officials from quickly realizing their errors, undoubtedly factored into this memorable NASCAR pit stop.
In fact, 2002 was the history-making year for the pit stop. At the Sprint All-Star Race XVIII, a final pit stop strategically planned by Jeff Burton’s racing team might not have been enough for Victory Lane, but it led to a change in NASCAR rules. The final pit stop, just 100 yards away from the finish line, propelled Burton into an advantageous position and earned him an extremely short time in the pit. Recognizing the unfair advantage that this stop represented to other drivers, current NASCAR rules now stipulate a target lap for each pit stop.
The National Auto Racing Memorabilia Show – the premier Indy 500 collectibles event in the USA – will celebrate its 33rd gathering this May 27 and 28 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. A long-time fixture on the calendar of events associated with the running of the World’s Most Famous Race, the event can brag that it is America’s second-oldest sports memorabilia show. This is the Original!
In this, the Centennial Year of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, what better way to celebrate the history and tradition than a trip down Memory Lane? You’ll find it all here, in one trip, one stop, under one roof. Three of the Show’s biggest fans have been Andy Granatelli, Chris Economacki and Robin Miller.
Any long-standing show such as this offers three key elements to the attendee: the opportunities to Buy, Sell and Trade.
BUY: You’ll be able to find mementoes and souvenirs, or additions to your collection, that you’ll find nowhere else in town. Want a race crew-used shirt or a ticket stub from the race the year you were born? How about a photo of the winning driver from your first Indy 500? The Show also features programs, ticket stubs, pit badges, advertising signs, driver suits, helmets, original Speedway bricks, intricate die-cast cars, autographed pictures, pins, and anything else racing-related you can think of. Exhibitors flock to this event from across the United States and several foreign countries to offer their collectibles for sale.
Margaret Stempel, of Maryland, a Show regular, commented, “My family likes the Show. The relatives we bring with us enjoy it, and I absolutely love it. There’s something here for everyone.”
SELL: For any true aficionado of racing collectibles, there is always the possibility that you will be holding items that you either have duplicates of, or items you no longer wish to collect. Perhaps a death in the family has left you with a loved-one’s collection, or a friend has asked you if there’s a place you know of where these items could bring a good and fair price. Free appraisals (up to 3 items) are available on Saturday only. The Show has ready and willing vendors who all sport one thing- cash- if you should decide to sell!
John Douglas of Lebanon, Indiana, one of the Show’s owners states, “I buy Indy 500 memorabilia all year long. But, in the two days of the Show, I buy as many items as I do in the other 363.” The current economy has contributed to the increased supply of items being sold, for sure.
There are few better places to sell racing-related collectibles than the NARM Show.
TRADE: Trading is definitely an option for the collector. While you may not come out ahead, most vendors at the Show will consider trades if they can diversify their inventory, or monetarily, the transaction is to their advantage. That’s not a bad scenario, either, in this economy.
Mike Reeves, a long-time attendee from Ohio, added, “I bring stuff to trade every year. Sometimes it all works out and I get a few things I really want without laying out cash I really don’t have. Other times I happen to stumble across another collector who’s looking for what I threw in to my attaché. I’m seldom disappointed.”
The Show hours are Friday, May 27 from 2:00-8:00. (Hoosier Hundred starts at 8:00 adjacent to the Show’s Our Land Pavilion location); and Saturday from 9:30 until 5:00. Admission is $10.00 on Friday and $7.00 on Saturday. Young people, ages 7-14 are $3 each day. Former Indy 500 race drivers and personalities will be present both days to meet fans, take photos and sign autographs.
Article contributed by: John Douglas
Located around seven miles west of Willows in California, Thunderhill Raceway Park is a popular racing venue for both cars and motorcycles and is used by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for its events. The three mile track has a total of fifteen turns, but is designed to allow event organizers to reconfigure the course to suit their needs. Thunderhill hosts the longest race in the United States – the annual 25 Hours of Thunderhill – a National Auto Sport Association event supported by the US Air Force.
Fans play an important role in the sport of auto racing. Not only do they bump up the excitement level with their enthusiasm, entrance fees help towards the many expenses incurred in keeping a racing track in peak condition. Following a three week break from racing action, Thunderhill Raceway Park reopened on 23 April, and racing fans no doubt noticed the changes that have been introduced, specifically with them in mind. Improvements made to the facilities at Thunderhill include the expansion of the Midway area under the grandstands, with more kiosk options including a souvenir shop. Families will no doubt appreciate the new play area, complete with inflatable bouncers to keep the children occupied. “Meet the Drivers” sessions will become a regular feature of racing at Thunderhill, where fans will have the opportunity to chat with the drivers and obtain autographs, as well as to find out more about their favorite drivers through live interviews by the announcing team.
Thunderhill owner, Mary Ann Naumann, noted that keeping the fans entertained was a priority, and she wanted people to have a good time from the moment they arrived until it was time to leave. To this end Naumann has appointed Ryan Conine as the track’s production director. With years of experience in the entertainment business, including working on The Longhorn Sports Network; Texas Music Series (KVET 98.1 FM); and Texas Radio 2.0 (live365.com), Conine knows what it takes to keep a crowd happy, and visitors to Thunderhill can look forward to a memorable occasion at every racing event. Thunderhill Raceway Park is gearing up for months of summer entertainment and action, so be sure to keep an eye on their events calendar and enjoy the vibe at the track where fans rule.
There are many names in the auto racing industry that are worth remembering as having been instrumental in the development of the sport. In the Midwest there is also a proud history in regard to racing, which is documented and displayed in the Midwest Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame. The main focus of this establishment is to preserve the passion and heritage of the sport and pay tribute to those who have assisted in bringing auto racing to where it is today through their innovative ideas, racing skills and dedication to their sport.
Many stories line the walls of the Midwest Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame, such as the history of the first midget car that was constructed in 1934 by Alexander Pabst that led to the first St Louis Midget Race in 1936 and the founding of the St Louis Auto Racing Association in 1938. The latter was however disbanded in 1976, but made a huge impact on racing in this state. This year a few more names were added to the Midwest Hall of Fame in a reunion and induction ceremony that was held on 22 January 2011 at the Springfield Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. Having the induction at the fairgrounds was extremely symbolic; as it was here that many memorable moments were created on its legendary speedways.
One of the inductees receiving the Pioneers award is Johnny Morris, who is a racing fan and team sponsor. Joining him in the Pioneers inductees section is Mark Perry, Gerald Wilson and Steve Long. Under the Legend inductees category was Bill Frye (Driver), Dave Williams (Driver), Steve Schahuber and Rex McCroskey (Driver). What makes Steve Schahubers’ induction so special is the fact that he not only raced the cars but he built them as well as making repairs on his car where needed. He is also active in promoting the sport and developing the same passion he had within the younger generations. The Midwest Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a spectacular affair, which also featured historical photographs, vendor booths, racing cars on display and collectables stands. It was a day of paying tribute, remembering the past and looking towards an exciting future.