22 April 2007
Press Snoop: Wither weather, in the drivers' seat.
The weather at Phoenix International Raceway ran the gamut Saturday. The day started out with blue skies, and then quickly clouded over. On the way to the track I ran into two separate hard but hit and run rain showers. The skies were cloudy and overcast, clear, and back.
For the start of the race the skies were clear blue with a brisk breeze. Glare could be a problem for the drivers, unlike Friday's Busch race which was clouded over. It rained overnight Friday at the track, which cut the dust Sunday. Arizona takes its dust suppression seriously and there were water trucks making laps in the dirt parking lots.
The rain also cleaned off the track and washed away the rubber.
In Driver Introductions, JIMMY JOHNSON/#48 Chevrolet got the loudest positive response. His team-mate, pole sitter JEFF GORDON/#24 Chevrolet got the longest and loudest response, but it was mixed cheers and jeers. The loudest boos were for KYLE BUSCH/#5 Chevrolet, both Saturday and Friday.
Jeff Gordon got permission from NASCAR to swap out his helmet for safety reasons - he couldn't communicate with his crew because the Push To Talk button didn't work.
KEN SCHRADER/#21 Ford qualified thirty-fourth, but will drop to the back of the field at the start due to an engine change.
One of the features of the Car of Tomorrow is that the driver's seat is moved more towards the centre, making it safer for the driver. The move is to prevent the driver's head from hitting the wall or roll cage during an impact. Last year NASCAR moved the shifter on top of the transmission, which freed up some extra space. At that time some teams moved the driver's seat to the right several inches. This allowed more room for carbon fibre seats, which some drivers use - such as KYLE PETTY/#45 Dodge, ROBBY GORDON/#7 Ford and all but one of the Hendrick Motorsport drivers.
KYLE PETTY/#45 Dodge has a Reynard seat, which he got from CAL WELLS several years ago. Wells/PPI Team sold off about 20 of its carbon fibre seats to various teams. Petty and ROBBY GORDON/#7 Ford are the only drivers who still use them. Gordon has five. These seats are heavier than aluminum seats, such as the Butler Seat. The Reynards are the heaviest, at approximately 85 pounds. They are snugger and more form fitting. Petty has the full seat including leg extensions. Petty's team-mate, BOBBY LABONTE/#43 Dodge uses a Butler seat.
Hendrick Motorsports now makes its own carbon fibre seats, which are used by all the Hendrick drivers and some other drivers including JAMIE McMURRAY/#26 Ford and REED SORENSON/#41 Dodge. All Hendrick drivers that is except KYLE BUSCH/#5 Chevrolet. His crew said he will be making the transition, but at Phoenix he still had a Butler. The Hendrick seats weigh in around 63 pounds.
Helton said NASCAR must test and approve the driver's seat. They are checked for configuration and construction, thickness and other specifications. They must have a full head surround.
NASCAR drivers must wear a helmet with a Snell rating of 2000 or 2005. It also has to have a SFI rating. If a driver's helmet is impacted, either accidentally or on purpose, it is impounded and checked.
Back to Cal Wells - he is at PIR this weekend. He said it wasn't his choice to leave NASCAR and he hopes to be back - in Nextel Cup. Wells likes off-road racing but it's not like it used to be and he prefers NASCAR. While Wells is in Arizona, back at the shop he is auctioning off his race team equipment. The auction began Wednesday and will run through the weekend.
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