When asked about how much about coatings is being learned from work with NASCAR Cup cars, Tracy Trotter (president of Calico Coatings) responded, "We actually work with Cup teams and do a considerable amount of testing on our own. As an example of working with Cup cars, right now these engines are running flat-tappet cams. We've learned you can't run the cams currently being used without coated flat-tappet lifters. The parts just won't survive.

"I suppose there could be an engine re-design to go back to what they ran in the past, but they'd be down a significant amount of horsepower. So because of this, we're developing a new coating specifically for this application. We also buy one- or two-year-old Cup engines to do our own testing. This usually involves working with an engine builder or facility that has the most up-to-date testing equipment. From there, we'll work with a team who'll use the coating in practice engines and eventually in races."

Interestingly, coating materials and application processes are continually undergoing testing and evaluation, particularly since other factors influence what they need to accomplish, as previously mentioned. By working directly with race teams and engine builders who've had prior experience using and evaluating coatings, the suppliers and service providers are continually updating product lines to meet ever-changing demands and applications.

Moving outside powertrain, both coatings and surface finishing are currently in practice. Opinions vary on the amount of power that may or may not be gained by micro-finishing or super-finishing transmission gears but there's uniformity in the belief that durability can be extended by applying these processes. In fact, some contemporary coatings work best when applied to these type surfaces.

Are there specific benefits to coating various brake components? In Trotter's opinion, "We don't see much in that area any more. Benefits from this seem to have come and gone. Ten or 15 years ago, before we began seeing better cooling for brakes, bigger brakes and improvement in areas where coatings were previously of benefit. But based on some of things we're seeing today, coating of certain brake parts may come back into play. We're on the threshold of doing some coating and testing again, but it's not our highest priority right now."

What's on the general horizon for coatings of the future? It appears we'll see cutting-edge coatings become thinner than today's, there will be further improvements in how they function, and indications are the cost of materials and application processes may decrease. Comments from the coating industry are that it's on a very fast pace right now, and because of the mobility of the demands placed upon both materials and services will continue to advance the technology. That's pretty much an overview.

Looking beyond generalities of what may lie ahead, there are some existing coatings that have been around for a time but not received much attention. An example of this might be so-called "clear coat" materials that tend to shed mud, if the track is dirt. There are other spray-on, air-dry coatings that either reduce the time required to clean a race car on a short-term basis or some that have a much longer use life.

These are among the coatings that seem to be gaining in popularity, rather than materials that represent new compounds or thinking. However, there are additional coatings coming to market on an ongoing basis. Among them are spray-on thermal barrier coatings that can be applied to the backs of disc brake pads to reduce heat transfer into the calipers. Thermal dispersants can be applied to calipers to reduce brake fluid temperature.

Indications (at least from Techline) are that new coatings on the horizon may include materials that address multiple functions, whereas it may have previously required more than one coating process on a single part to accomplish the same net objective. You may want to watch for that.

What should be understood is that existing coatings can be applied to numerous areas on a race car, outside the engine and powertrain package. Even shock absorbers are not immune from the possibility of improved operating temperatures, with the intent being to help these types of parts function more within their design limits, in terms of fluid temperature and control. Perhaps another view is that the use of thermal barrier and dispersant coatings enable a racer to "manage" race car heat in a way that improves its overall on-track efficiency.