Safety, Cost Reduction Improvements Highlight New Race Vehicle
NASCAR announced today the Car of Tomorrow will begin competition in 2007. Teams will use the newly-designed race car for 16 events next season, beginning with the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway - currently the fifth event on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule.
A five-year project overseen by NASCAR Vice President for Research and Development Gary Nelson, the Car of Tomorrow offers important safety and performance upgrades. It also addresses cost reduction, providing teams with a more efficient car to produce and tune.
"The Car of Tomorrow represents one of the sport's most significant innovations, and we feel everyone involved in NASCAR will experience the benefits," said NASCAR President Mike Helton. "No subject is more important than safety, and while the Car of Tomorrow was built around safety considerations, the competition and cost improvements will prove vital as well."
Aside from Bristol events, teams will use the Car of Tomorrow in 2007 events at Phoenix International Raceway, Martinsville Speedway, Richmond International Raceway, Dover International Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway.
It also will see action at Darlington Raceway, the fall event at Talladega Superspeedway and road-course events at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International.
With the exception of the 2.66-mile Talladega track and the two road courses, all tracks where the Car of Tomorrow will debut in 2007 are short tracks.
The 2008 Car of Tomorrow implementation schedule includes 26 events - adding both races at Daytona International Speedway, California Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Speedway, the spring event at Talladega and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Teams will run the entire 2009 schedule with the Car of Tomorrow, adding both events at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, plus events at Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. The rollout schedule could be sooner.
"All of our engineering staff and each of the teams and manufacturers that contributed will now be able see the product of their hard work in competition," Nelson said. "Many of the obvious safety and competition benefits have been a topic since the beginning of this project. We think one of the major benefits is yet to be realized as the car owners begin to build a more cost-efficient race car."
The next round of Car of Tomorrow on-track testing will be scheduled following Speedweeks in Daytona, with officials from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., refining car components and performance baselines.
The Car of Tomorrow is a collaborative effort, with Nelson's team leading the way. Manufacturers, teams and industry suppliers all contributed during the design phase, with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams and drivers offering important feedback during the latest round of on-track testing.
NASCAR's prototype car, built by the Research and Development staff, is driven by Director of Cost Research Brett Bodine, a former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor and team owner.
The Car of Tomorrow began as a design five years ago, progressing through simulation, laboratory and wind tunnel tests. Of primary significance are the safety innovations: the Car of Tomorrow is four inches wider and two inches taller than current NASCAR race cars. The driver compartment, or "roll cage," has been shifted three inches to the rear. The driver's seat has been shifted four inches to the right, allowing more protection from a driver's side impact. More "crush-ability" is built into the car on both sides, ensuring even more protection.
The Car of Tomorrow exhaust system is another safety innovation. It runs through the body, diverting heat away from the driver and exiting on the right side.
Another important Car of Tomorrow feature is performance - how the car handles in traffic and reacts to downforce. The project represents the latest move by NASCAR to reduce current cars' aerodynamic dependence, and several innovations have addressed it:
- The windshield is more upright, designed to increase the amount of drag, thereby slowing the cars.
- The more box-like front bumper, which is three inches higher and thicker, catches air rather than deflecting it, another way to slow the car.
- The air intake is below the front bumper, which eliminates the problem of overheating. Wind-blown trash can cover current car grilles, blocking air flow.
Several components - both those built into the Car of Tomorrow and those being tested - will make the car easier to drive in traffic. Some of those components also are bolt-on, bolt-off pieces that teams can use to tune their cars, making them cost-efficient as well. Those include:
- The "splitter," a flat shelf below the front bumper that can be adjusted.
- A wing, like those commonly used in sports car series, also is a possibility. It fits on the car's rear deck lid, in the same spot where the spoiler is bolted.
- The spoiler, a NASCAR staple, is a straight line on the Car of Tomorrow, rather than curved, as on current cars. A straight spoiler yields more stability in traffic.
"We designed this car to run for a long time, at road courses, short tracks, intermediate-sized tracks all the way to Daytona," Nelson said. "You would be able to run the same foundation car, the frame, the cage, the body, all of the components that today are being swapped around as the cars are purpose-built for certain types of tracks. We're eliminating that with this car."