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DATE News (chronologically)
11/27/07
nascar
With the COT, technology replaces driver  If you're familiar with the 1980s Steely Dan song "Glamor Profession," you might recall the lyric, "We'll make some calls from my car."

If you listen to Roush Fenway Racing team owner Jack Roush, however, that's something his NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers won't be doing next year.

With the car of tomorrow being the only race car available for use in NASCAR's top series next year, technology will take on an even bigger role in determining race set-ups. Driver feedback about the handling of the cars remains important, but Roush says the days of taking a driver's suggestions on how to fix a problem are gone.

"They can't make calls from the car," Roush said last week.

In the past, with the car that is now obsolete, Roush Fenway drivers Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards or Jamie McMurray might make recommendations for adjustments based on what they felt the car doing on the track. Now, Biffle concedes, computer simulations and the seven-post shaker rig (a machine that simulates suspension dynamics) are far more reliable in determining what a race car needs.

"Some people may not know it, but these COT cars are all about engineering and computers and gadgets to make them go," Biffle said in mid-October. "You still have to have a good driver, but I can't pick a spring, a sway bar or nothing. We got rained out in Loudon (N.H.), and we called a guy in Michigan who's got a 'sim' program to find out what front sway bar we're going to race.

"I feel like we're [Formula One] racing. Whatever the computer says, whatever the seven-post shaker rig says is the best set of shocks, by God, it's the best set of shocks - period. I've only found a couple of times where I've found a shock a little bit better than what the seven-post said, but I can't beat it."

Roush says the heavy emphasis on technology flies in the face of what his drivers would like to do from the cockpit.

"What Greg wants to do, what I would want to do, what Matt wants to do and what [former Roush driver] Mark [Martin] wanted to do was to sit in the car and say, 'All right. This thing is loose in, so put some more spring in the right rear; put some more load in the right rear,'" Roush said.

"Or, 'It doesn't turn in the middle, so I want to go down an eighth on bar. [With the COT], the driver can't make that determination. What the driver needs to do - given all the data and all the support the engineering people bring - what the driver needs to do today is say, 'OK, my worst problem is I'm loose in, my worst problem is it won't turn in the middle, my worst problem is I'm loose off,' and let the engineers go back and in four- or five-dimensional space decide to move some weight, change the shock, change the bar and change the spring.

"Myself and all the drivers I know think two- or three-dimensionally. They certainly can't think four- or five-dimensionally. They can't go back and figure what the net effect will be of making the four changes that need to be made at the time. That has taken it out of the hands of the driver, not from the point of view of providing the information that's required, but from making the determination of what to do."  More at Scenedaily.com

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