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New track drying technology to slash rain delays

Helton said that it was time for the series to move on from jet driers, originally introduced in 1976 but which were now as outdated as the even older original system of simply continuously running cars around wet tracks, dragging old tyres behind them to help the drying process.

"Someone came along with the jet dryer that expedited it quite a bit and served its purpose for a long period of time," said Helton. "But in today's world with the expectations of getting the show done and getting it on, there was a high priority placed by Brian and the rest of us to come up with a way that we could expedite that.

"The folks at the R&D Center responded to that and came up with ideas, and this one seems to have quite a bit of validity to it."

NASCAR will own the proprietary rights to the technology and could lease out the as-yet unnamed equipment to tracks for race weekends as well as to other motor racing venues and other sporting stadiums. The series has 24 units of the new track-drying system already available and ready to roll for an initial trial deployment at the Daytona 500, although the system will clearly not have been perfected by then.

“We're not there yet. But the progress we've seen [has] been really very promising," said O'Donnell.

"The design work is done, the fabrication work is almost done.” NASCAR's vice president of competition Robin Pemberton agreed. "We've had some track testing with it, and it shows a lot of promise.

"It sheets the water right off the surface. It takes a little bit to touch things up afterward, but it takes a good swipe at it the first time by. It's better right out of the box, but we'll keep working on it," he explained. "From what I've seen, it's significantly better", although he said that the preformance would clearly depend on relative humidity and temperature at the location. "But it is better. And we'll chase that all day.”

Marcus Smith, the president of race track owners Speedway Motorsports Inc., said that the new technology sounded very promising and that he would love to know more, as it could make a lot of difference to the running of events in future.

"When you have the spotty showers throughout the weekend, it seems like it always happens where you have a window that's gong to be two or three hours to dry the track," said Smith. "You finish drying the track and then in five minutes it starts raining again, that's a big downer."

"Any time we have a rain delay, it's a challenge for our competitors, for our fans," agreed Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III. "Any opportunity we can have to shorten the window that we're red for rain or wet conditions, that's going to be good for the industry, for sponsors, for fans and for TV.

"We've done a lot of testing [of the new system] here at our racetrack. I hope we don't have to use it, but if we do, I think it's going to improve the experience for everyone involved."




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