Why no Air Titan at Chicago? Where was Air Titan, the new-fangled drying system that has been proven to remove moisture from tracks as much as 80% faster than the antiquated method of using jet dryers to blow hot air? Back in Concord, N.C. On a day that the diesel-powered air-compression contraption could have served as savior by ensuring an official finish at a reasonable hour in one of the sport's biggest races. The race was stopped 25 laps - or roughly 15 minutes - short of the halfway point that makes it official. It started one hour and 20 minutes late. It took two hours to dry the 1.5-mile oval (the race was red-flagged for five hours and 10 minutes). Air Titan surely would have cut at least 15 minutes and given NASCAR a chance to declare a winner.
The worst part? Anyone could have seen this coming. Despite being touted as a miracle-working game-changer since the preseason, Air Titan has become NASCAR's No. 1 political football this season as tracks have blanched at a varying cost that sometimes exceeds $100,000.
The absence of the Air Titan was especially conspicuous considering the smaller version of the system (used for track prep to clean the surface for a race weekend) was on property last Thursday. As of Sunday, NASCAR said Air Titan had been returned to its garage. A person who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information said the track didn't include Air Titan in its budget.
Track president Scott Paddock called Air Titan "an exciting, emerging technology" but also "a work in progress" that the track elected not to use this year. "It has the potential to be a great advancement for our sport," Paddock told USA TODAY Sports. "I think it could have been an option to have it. I think it's a work in progress. We actually brought in a higher complement of jet dryers. We stuck with the known commodity. The price tag for having Air Titan at Chicagoland? Apparently $50,000. Who has that kind of money lying around in a sport that has announced $8.2 billion in long-term TV contracts over the past year? USA Today
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