'Dega preparations require precision

Tight Leash
The car of driver Jeff Gordon goes through tech inspection.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.


When it comes to preparation for your superspeedway car, be it for Daytona or Talladega, it’s still true like it was back when I was a crew chief, that there definitely is extra effort put into it. Obviously, you try and think outside the box, but the differences from back in my time to today … well, the box has gotten a lot smaller to work with.

You want to keep the car as small as possible, so you come in as low on the minimum side of the templates as you can get. Why? It’s because the smaller and lighter the car is, the faster it will run and cut a smaller profile in the air. In round numbers a car is 20-feet long and six-foot wide. If you can take that car and get it to where the profile of that car is half a percent smaller, that is one of the details that gets a lot of attention.

Don’t get me wrong; you just can’t wing it. You have to be extremely precise in today’s NASCAR because of the restrictions and limitations these teams are placed under. The good teams will put it right, and I mean right, on the line of acceptability by NASCAR to make sure they are pushing the least amount of air possible.

One of the most important factors I believe when it comes to these big tracks is managing the air that goes through the front grille to the radiator. There again, NASCAR has certain restrictions on what size openings you can run on the front of the car. So it is real important that you work to get the air that’s not going into the radiator going over and under the car.


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I don’t thing race fans realize how much detail goes into underneath the race car these days. The goal is to keep it as smooth and as slick as possible. The attention to detail is keeping a head of a bolt out of the air or an extra coat of clear paint underneath there to make it as slick as possible. The ultimate goal is always to eliminate anything that will create drag or mess up the air flow under the car.

These are things that are looked at and addressed in the wind tunnel. It’s the restrictions these teams are facing by NASCAR that lends itself to this type of exacting detail. It’s the really good teams that have a handle on this that can deliver their driver a really fast race car and make it look really easy.

Literally since we got back from the July race in Daytona, the teams have gone right back to work on their superspeedway car knowing that this weekend in Talladega really wasn’t that far away. They work on it just as hard as they can. The stakes are that great, especially with this weekend’s race being one of the 10 Chase races.

That’s just the car. We haven’t even mentioned the guys in the motor room. They aren’t thrashing to find one or two horsepower. They are killing themselves to find a quarter of one horsepower. That’s the kind of fine detail that everyone has gotten down to these days when it comes to restrictor-plate racing.

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