March 01, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Move should lessen turbulent air impact at intermediate tracks
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars competing on the series’ intermediate tracks this season will be doing so without the familiar roof camera, beginning with Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
According to series director John Darby, the removal of the camera (for approximately two-thirds of this year’s points races) is just one of several moves made during the offseason as officials worked through changes on the new Generation-6 car. Of primary concern was how to lessen the impact of turbulent air that previously hampered side-by-side competition at the series’ intermediate tracks.
What officials found was that changes made underneath the car “seem to stay more consistent, whether you are out front by yourself or seventh in a pack of cars,” Darby said.
“Those are the kind of enhancements that we were looking for. Typically a spoiler would … give you more (downforce). The problem with the spoiler is the guy out front gets more value from that than the guy that’s seventh trying to come through traffic.”
Likewise, he said, roof cameras can provide as much as 80-90 pounds of downforce on a car, but are much more beneficial to the race leader.
“The old way of thinking was, if that’s the case then … make sure everybody has got one on the car so everybody’s the same,” Darby said. “But in reality the downforce is toward the 80-90 pound range for the leader that’s out front by himself. But going back to (the car) in seventh place, you’re not getting (any benefit) off it because the air is too turbulent.
“It’s not just about having them all the same, it’s removing stuff like that that gives the leader even more benefit than he used to have.”
Roof cameras will continue to be used at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the road courses at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International, as well as the series’ smaller venues.
“We want the air messed up (at Daytona and Talladega),” Darby said. “The short tracks are slow and small enough that it doesn’t affect it as greatly.”
Television partners FOX, TNT and ESPN will continue to have cameras in various locations inside the cars. Among the new pieces for FOX, which opened the season with coverage of The Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500, was the Gyro Cam, a center-mounted camera that rotates to remain level with the horizon as a car speeds through the turns.
According to Rich Feinberg, vice president of motorsports production for ESPN, the same company provides the in-car camera systems for ESPN, FOX and TNT.
“And we are in the process now of developing new options to replace (the roof camera),” Feinberg said. “Perhaps behind the rear-view mirror, various places inside the car.
“We try to be at the forefront of creating new elements. So we’ll get to see what happens over the next few weeks; we’ve begun the conversations about alternate locations inside the car because that seems to be the area in which we can have the most significant conversation with the teams and with NASCAR.”
Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus, fresh off a victory with driver Jimmie Johnson in the Daytona 500, said the removal of the roof camera isn’t that much of a concern for teams.
“It’s minor,” he said, “and everybody has the same thing so it’s not a huge, huge deal. It’s not a big change.”
Knaus said the Hendrick organization had been aware of the change, and tested its intermediate-style cars with that in mind.
“So that’s the way all of our cars are now baselined,” he said.