ASK DW: Rookies adjust faster than vets to new setup

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Paul from Montgomery, Texas: I have heard you refer to the younger drivers driving off the right rear while the older drivers drive off the front. Could you elaborate on that difference? : I always had to have that right front standing up there. I wanted to feel it holding the car. Today you have to hold up that right rear. You don't want it to sink down because you've got all of that rear downforce. I think open wheel drivers as well as sprint car drivers who are used to running dirt like that feel. It could just be the aerodynamics and the setup on the cars are so different than what the veterans have known for all those years. It makes it difficult for the more experienced driver to go with the kind of setup that these cars are asking for these days. These cars used to be really loose in the back. We had no rear downforce. We had front downforce. You look at all the old Monte Carlos, the Luminas or any race car that you can think of back in the '70's, '80's and early '90's. We had a ton of front downforce. We knew how to make front downforce. You just rolled the headlights back and put a lip or an air dam on the front bumper. You could create some front downforce, but we just didn't have enough rear downforce so you always had to hold up that right front corner to try to keep your car from being loose. You put a big spring in there, and the car wouldn't roll over in the turn.
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As aerodynamics overcomes the mechanical aspects of the race car, we generate more downforce we generate. In the old days, we would generate 400 pounds of front downforce and about 200 pounds of rear downforce. They've learned to build today's cars with 800 pounds on the front and 800 pounds on the rear so you've got a really good, well-balanced race car. Now they try to do is hold up the right rear corner of the car with a big right rear spring, which keeps the spoiler higher in the air. It doesn't let the rear of the car go down. It's the opposite of what you try to do at Daytona and Talladega where you want to put the softest springs in the back so the spoiler will get down and out of the air. At the other race tracks on the circuit, you want as big a rear spring as possible to hold up the rear blade in the air and give you maximum downforce entering the corner. The design and aerodynamics of the cars changed the way you set them up.

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