Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rolling-road wind tester

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR teams looking for an edge will have a new outlet starting in April when the Windshear, Inc., wind tunnel opens for business in the Concord area.

Wind-tunnel testing has always been a staple of NASCAR off-track work, but teams usually had to travel out of town to do those tests. That, however, isn’t the main advantage of this $40 million facility. It will be the first of its kind in North America to have rolling road.

The road is actually a continous stainless steel belt that weighs 2,000 pounds and goes from 0 to 180 mph in 60 seconds. Paired with a fan that has 5,100 horsepower, it gives teams a more accurate reading of what a car would do on a race track.

“Formula One teams are already using this type of technology, but on a smaller scale,” said Peter Zierhut, Windshear’s business manager. “They use a five-belt system, which isn’t as accurate as our single-belt system.”

Zierhut says teams and manufacturers buy time at $3,500 per hour, with the time being spread out over several weeks or months. A 10-hour session is typical. He says one manufacturer and one team have already booked time and many more teams are expected to sign up when the wind tunnel opens.

Challenger auction

To coincide with Petty Enterprises celebrating 50 years of racing at Daytona, Dodge will auction off a Dodge Challenger SRT8 on eBay beginning Feb. 12, it was announced Tuesday.

Dodge will build 6,400 2008 Challengers this year, and each one will be numbered. The 43rd car will be the one auctioned, and the proceeds will go to Kyle and Patty Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camp. According to Dodge Brand marketing director Mike Accavitti, the car will be the only one painted B5 Blue, reminiscent of Richard Petty’s successful Dodge No. 43 car.

The winner will be able to get the car detailed as he or she wants. Accavitti said the No. 1 Challenger was auctioned this past weekend and brought more than $400,000.

Everything, Evernham

When Ray Evernham sold half interest of the Dodge team he founded to the Gillette family, the deal not only brought in new capital to the team but also gave Evernham a different role. Instead of dealing mostly with sponsors and the business side, he now can go where he’s most needed at any time.

“I know in the past that the guys would have loved to see me in the shop all the time, but the reality of it was I couldn’t be,” he said. “Now I can be wherever I’m needed.”

Driver Elliott Sadler believes the new role can only help the teams.

“Ray doesn’t have a title, but when you have 350 employees, there are going to be some weak links here or there within a race team,” Sadler said. “It’s going to be his job to go and help those weak links. One week it might be with the body, the next week building the chassis, then the following week the engine department.

“He has a lot of hats to wear, but the good thing for us is that he’s wearing all the hats on the competition side. He doesn’t have to worry about sponsorship or flying in for appearances. I think his new job ... will be very, very important for Gillette Evernham Motorsports.”

Co-owner Alex Gillette said Tuesday the organization is close to hiring a CEO but added, “It won’t be a Gillette and it won’t be an Evernham.”

A Nationwide try

Richard Childress Racing announced that driver Clint Bowyer will compete for the Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series championship this year. RCR will field three Nationwide teams, with Jeff Burton and Scott Wimmer sharing time in the Holiday Inn car and veteran driver Bobby Labonte teaming with Stephen Leicht in the 21 car with which Kevin Harvick won the title two years ago.

Harvick will drive his own Kevin Harvick, Inc., car in the series this year.

Red Bull after all

The most humorous moment of the early part of the tour came Tuesday when, as the buses were prepared to roll off to the wind-tunnel visit, someone driving the Team Red Bull Toyota came speeding through the Embassy Suites parking lot. After making a couple of circuits, the car sped off, only to be seen again as the buses returned from the visit.

It seems the team is not happy it was left off the tour’s list of visits. Lowe’s Motor Speedway spokesman Keith Waltz said an offer was extended to Team Red Bull but that the team did not want to work with the tour’s schedule.

Someone quipped as the car roared past the bus, “That’s the fastest that car’s run. Ever.”

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