Nashville’s concrete track poses challenges to IRL teams

Fernandez Racing technical director John Dick is regarded as one of the top engineers in racing. After the last three seasons as a race engineer for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, Dick now oversees the engineering and technical efforts for the teams of Kosuke Matsuura and Scott Sharp. In addition to the current Fernandez roster of drivers, Dick has worked with Roger Yasukawa and also engineered Alex Barron's winning effort at Nashville for Blair Racing in 2002.

"The biggest challenge about Nashville is that it is concrete; it doesn't have a lot of grip and is quite bumpy. The other challenge is that the concrete surface maintains a relatively constant temperature from day to night. You think that would make it more consistent, but it actually makes it harder to forecast what the grip level is going to be like. For instance, at some tracks when you go out for practice in the morning, you know it has a lot of grip and by qualifying time, it is going to have less grip if it is very hot or more grip if it is cooler.

Nashville stays such a constant temperature that you can't use your typical estimate of track grip. An asphalt track loses temperature very fast when the ambient temperature falls; a concrete track loses temperature a lot slower. It is harder to adjust the car for because it cools off in steps and never reaches that equilibrium while we are racing, like on an asphalt track, so it changes the entire race.

"A white concrete track never gets as warm as an asphalt track, and it is quite abrasive as well. You probably experience the most aggressive tire wear at Nashville. As a result, fuel economy is not such an important aspect in the race due to tire wear. Tires will take a lot longer to get up to temperature than on an asphalt track, and could take five to seven laps to get up to working temperature.

"To win here, you need good grip and a car that is consistent. Restarts will be especially important to gain track position because it is difficult to pass a car of equal speed. At Nashville, it is more a series of sprint races than our other 1.5-mile tracks."

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