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.
The popular Daytona 500 will see 43 NASCAR drivers competing in this highly prestigious event. A highlight this year will be the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds performing a thrilling fly-over. The race is heald annually anc covers a distance of 500 miles, consisting of 200 laps.
Date: 26 February 2012
Time: 1 PM
Venue: Daytona International Speedway
City: Daytona Beach
Country: United States of America
Two-car tandem racing has become a feature at Daytona and Talladega, with drivers working together to gain the highest speed possible around the track. In this two-car collaboration the trailing driver pushes the lead car around the track. Due to the position of the cars, the driver doing the pushing has a limited view of the road ahead and relies on the leader to make the right moves. However, the close proximity of the two cars can lead to overheating, and so the pusher needs to trade places with the leader from time to time. The temporary breaking of the pusher-leader partnership causes a dramatic reduction in speed for both cars and is potentially hazardous.
Three days of testing at Daytona saw NASCAR trying to break this two-car tandem racing pattern, and revert to the pack racing format that auto racing fans enjoy the most. During the testing, Kyle Busch clocked a 205.813 mph in a pack racing format, while Regan Smith and Kurt Busch formed a two-car tandem, with Kurt Busch clocking an incredible time of 206.058 mph.
Bearing in mind that NASCAR has traditionally been against exceeding speeds of 200 mph, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon reportedly queried the high speeds being achieved on the track, and was assured by NASCAR officials that they have no problem with the new record speeds. Nevertheless, with pack racing bringing in the fans, in November last year NASCAR Chairman Brian France made it clear that he wants drivers to move away from two-car tandem racing, so in addition to a series of changes to rules governing aerodynamics of racing cars, driver-to-driver communications over their scanners has been banned.
While a number of changes have been made during testing, with drivers and their teams kept informed all along the way, it is very likely that more changes will be made before the much anticipated Speedweeks begin, with the iconic Daytona 500 taking place on February 26. NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton noted that while there may be some loose ends to tie up as they make final plans for Speedweeks, and was reported as saying that “everything is going according to plan.”
Sunday, 20 February, was a day of excitement, thrills, victory and remembrance at Daytona International Speedway. Tribute was also paid to Dale Earnhardt Sr., who ten years ago, on the 18th of February, was involved in a fatal crash at Daytona. Always driving the number three car, fans stood in silence holding up three fingers on the third lap of the Daytona 500 in remembrance of a legend. It was not long after that, that the action on the speedway started, with black flags, car crashes and an unforgettable victory for Trevor Bayne.
The 2011 Daytona 500 was a race that kept everyone busy. Spectators were holding onto their seats as collisions caused restarts and no less than seventy-four lead changes. Clean up crews had their hands full and even Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were taken out the race due to a crash a mere six laps from the finish. The Daytona 500 was also sent into an overtime period due to another incident four laps from the finish. A mistake made by David Regan on a restart, by changing lanes too soon, saw Trevor Bayne take the lead, and experienced drivers fighting to find a way to outclass the twenty year old rookie.
Trevor Bayne drives for the Wood Brothers racing team, which was established in 1950 by Glen Wood. The team tasted their first success in North Carolina on 16 October 1960. But in the last ten years, the team has not enjoyed one victory, until their well-known red and white Ford crossed that finish line with an elated Bayne behind the wheel.
When asked about the black flag incident that put him in the lead, Bayne commented: “That rule is tough. Do I agree with it? I don’t know what to say because we’re sitting here in victory lane… Neither one of us might have ended up in victory lane had he not gotten black-flagged. I have to thank them for getting us up there because if it wasn’t for them we never would have been in that situation to take the lead.”
An elated Eddie Wood, team owner, commented: “We never did quit. We just kept trying. Bringing back the red and white car with the gold numbers that Pearson drove, that just seemed like it put things back to normal.”
Trevor Bayne also became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, in the history of the race.
It is a big moment for the Daytona 500 as well as for Ford, as the 2010 event, which kicks off on 14 February, will unveil a new pace car for its racing season. It will be the first time in forty years that there will be a Ford pace car on the track, with the last Ford gracing the racing circuit being a Ford Torino GT Convertible in the year 1970. Not only will a Ford be making its way back into Daytona 500 history, but it is the iconic Ford Mustang GT that has been selected for the job. Ford and racing fans are extremely excited to see the new pace car in action.
Ford will produce exactly fifty of the limited edition Ford Mustang GT Pace cars, and along with the original pace car, they will be for sale to the public. The actual pace car will be the exception, as it will go on auction. Collectors interested in purchasing this rare part of Ford heritage will have the opportunity to bid on the vehicle at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector Car Auction. Interested parties can also look forward to a few special features that will be added to the vehicle for this special occasion.
The Ford Mustang GT will be based on the 2011 Mustang GT, and one of its features is a new paint job, which will showcase a brand new design with a Daytona 500 theme. The car will also have an improved and upgraded strut tower brace and Ford Racing suspension. Mufflers have also been added to the specs, as well as painted wheels (customized 19 inches) to enhance the themed design. Branded plates will be a special limited edition feature and the interior will be getting a number of changes of its own. Under the hood, a powerful machine awaits future owners, with a 5.0 liter engine that generates a staggering 412 horsepower. Other features include vented disc brakes, integrated blind spot mirrors, message centre technology and MyKey programming. This magnificent V-8 collector’s item is a must have for motoring enthusiasts. It is going to be the pride of the Daytona 500 and the lucky members of the public who are able to get their hands on one!