DUSTIN LONG: CAR SETUP CRITICAL AT PIR
By Dustin Long
November 11, 2011
Car setup will be critical at altered Phoenix track
It's not game film Jim Pohlman studied, but Juan Pablo Montoya's crew chief prepared for this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix similar to a football coach.
Pohlman's focus, though, wasn't on a team, but the track.
He reviewed notes from computer simulation programs, wind-tunnel testing and other such "lab" work, as he calls it, to create the setup for Montoya's car. Every crew chief did the same thing. They do it every week, but this week is different. Since the series last raced at the 1-mile track in February, it has been repaved and reconfigured with the banking slightly increased and the dogleg off turn 2 altered.
"It's almost like a new race track," Denny Hamlin said.
Said points leader Carl Edwards: "It will be more of a crew chief/engineer race. The setup is going to be hugely important."
Thus, the weight on Pohlman and his race engineer, Billy Curwood for Montoya's team.
Montoya was fast in an open test there last month, but with so much time before this weekend, it allowed every team to review their test data and improve.
Unlike race weekends, teams can place sensors on the car to collect data such as how much a driver turns the wheel, how much he pushes the brakes, the aerodynamic forces on the car and more.
"Any single variable on the car, you can measure if you want to," Curwood said.
The challenge for Pohlman, Curwood and others at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing was to make their car better than it was at the test.
They'll find out in practice today if the changes they made worked.
Another plan that could be different with Pohlman than other crew chiefs will be his focus this weekend. He notes that turns 1 and 2 at Phoenix are now similar to Richmond and turns 3 and 4 at Phoenix are similar to New Hampshire.
Pohlman says if a crew chief sets the car to be faster in turns 3 and 4, then it won't work as well in turns 1 and 2 and vice versa.
While Pohlman said he believes most of the field will want to be stronger in turns 3 and 4 to build speed for the frontstretch, he's going with a different plan.
"I'm going to bank that I want to get through (turns) 1 and 2 better,"' he said. "I think your only passing zone is going to be off of (turn) 2."
He sounded like a coach devising a different scheme.