Change is difficult to swallow for some. There are still pockets ofresistance that feel anything new may be accompanied by a hidden agenda.It makes life difficult for those who have a vision of the future andbelieve that the future can be better served by changing a bit of thepresent. After all, it has been proven, for the most part, that thesport has grown because of change.
In the near future, there are going to be some changes for nearly all ofthe major sanctions. Even touring sanctions will see changes as newplayers enter the environment. As change occurs, so does risk. We'llnever be able to predict the full effect of changes, how long they willlast, or who they will impact, but the changes that loom can alter theface of the sport.
The traditional USAC Silver...
The traditional USAC Silver Crown Car will have a different look in 2006for pavement races. The car was unveiled in December 2004 and has beentested for competition in January 2006.
The world got a look at the next-generation USAC Silver Crown Car at the2004 PRI show in Indianapolis. It was different, and many wereconcerned. Maybe it was too different for some, but the differences camewith reasons.
The series is seeking growth opportunities, and one of thoseopportunities comes with the longer racetracks. The 1-mile to 1.5-miletracks hold plenty of promise with greater seating capacity and otheraspects that can assist a series in reaching a higher level of success.While the tracks exist, a Silver Crown Car that can run safely at thosetracks did not, so there was a need to create the car.
The idea can be traced to a query made by International SpeedwayCorporation (ISC). Looking for companion classes to NASCAR shows, thegroup approached USAC about the feasibility of supplying the USAC WeldSilver Crown series for events. It was determined at the time that thecars were not constructed for the higher corner speeds involved, but itset the plan in motion.
A good look at the USAC Silver...
A good look at the USAC Silver Crown Car that will be in competition onpaved large tracks in 2006.
USAC understood there were some key considerations that had to be partof any change. In today's racing, safety always comes to the forefront.With the greater speeds, the concern would be a viable one. In addition,USAC wanted to consider the cost factor. Most of the teams in SilverCrown racing are essentially blue-collar operations. They work all dayand work on the car at night. The new car couldn't be too complicated ortoo different from the existing plan.
Based on its experience in other racing forms that employ many technicalinnovations sought, Riley Technologies was given the task of producing aprototype car. The car had to be safe at certain speeds, use as manyexisting Silver Crown components as possible, reduce effects ofwheel-to-wheel contact, and retain as much of the traditional look aspossible.
The end result implemented plenty of state-of-the-sport design elements,borrowed from the Indy Racing League and Grand Am competition. In someways, the looks of the car were sacrificed for greater good.
USAC president Rollie Helmling summed up some of the changes between the2005 car and the new model: "We've added bodywork to the car, and thecar has an energy-absorbing bumper. The idea is to build a safer car, sowe have crash-tested them. The car is heavier and it has a longerwheelbase."
USAC Silver Crown action in...
USAC Silver Crown action in 2005 at Richmond (Virginia) InternationalRaceway. Stevie Reeves (71) and Jerry Coons Jr. (35) mix it up. You cansee the physical differences of the '05 car versus the new model.
The testing portion has been nearly constant in anticipation of theseason ahead. The on-track tests were the latest phase, running throughOctober (at this writing), but there was much more done in the way oftesting before the first wheels were turned.
"With the use of computer modeling, you can crash each part," saidHelmling. "We were able to generate fullsize cars and see what wouldhappen. There's a lot of technology involved. We were able to useinformation from the NASCAR tech center. They have run a lot of programsthat are helpful in safety and competition. We were able to put thatdata to good use."
The added bodywork is designed to offset the dangers of the higherspeed. The side pods will help prevent cars from climbing wheels andbecoming airborne.
Another change comes at the rear of the car. "We have changed the tankplacement," said USAC's Owen Snyder. "The previous design was similar toa Sprint Car with twice as much hanging off the rear of the car. Withthe new design, the fuel is all in the bladder in front of the rear axlewithin the confines of the frame. In the old design, you'd have 70-75gallons of fuel hanging off the rear of the car. With all of that weightand the effects it had on handling, this new design will make it betterfor the driver."
The new Silver Crown Car is...
The new Silver Crown Car is prepared for a test at Kansas Speedway inearly October. Three cars were used in the test, and results werepleasing to USAC officials.
By its design, the new car requires more driver input. The offset hasbeen taken out of the car, and it will be using a slightly narrowright-rear tire. During the on-track testing, there were no concernsabout the higher speeds, even though the test drivers had never gonethat fast before. The speeds in the straightaways are fine, but thedesign is created to slow the corner speeds to safer and manageablelevels.
"Owen put his Indy Car experience to use here," said Helmling. "When wehooked up the data acquisition, we really weren't surprised at what wesaw. Speeds have been close to what we want, and we have had severaldifferent drivers testing at a few different tracks."
Prior to the on-track tests, an existing Silver Crown Car and an '06model were taken to the wind tunnel at Langley for an aerodynamiccomparison.
Several companies had expressed intent to build the new cars. Thesecompanies will use their unique characteristics, but all cars willcontain certain spec parts. Some of those parts include the two-speedtransmission (EMCO Gear), fuel cell (Fuel Safe), forged wheels (Weld),and front spindles (MPD). Nose assembly, side pods, rear attenuator, andtail section are made by Five Star.
USAC officials don't hold any unrealistic expectations for 2006, buttheir passion for open-wheel racing is driving the desire to make theclass a success. Their goals include creating a class that can assist inbuilding audience and participation, which helps the overall state ofthe sport.
The Ford Fusion was tested...
The Ford Fusion was tested at Atlanta Motor Speedway before going to thewind tunnel for final NASCAR approval.
The changes can come rapidly when connected to production cars.Automakers are looking for new design cues that will appeal to thebuying public. No matter how subtle, the stylistic changes lead to thereplacement of certain models from the showroom floor.
Ford Motor Company has discontinued production of the Taurus, which isthe model that had been used for NASCAR Nextel Cup racing. As such, Fordteams had to direct their efforts to the new models, a process by whichthey are not wholly unfamiliar. After all, it wasn't that long ago thatthe Taurus came onto the scene itself.
The new model is the Fusion, which is an '06 branded entry into theconsumer market. It marks the first all-new nameplate entered by Fordfor competition since 1968 and the Torino. At the time of itsintroduction into racing, the Taurus was already a familiar name to Fordcustomers.
The head-on view is menacing....
The head-on view is menacing. Take away the graphics and you have astylish street car.
The street Fusion will be available as a 2.3L four-cylinder inlineengine or a 3.0L six-cylinder model. Both are DOHC engines with thesix-cylinder being produced domestically. The four-cylinder model is 139ci and produces 160 hp. The six-cylinder will have 182 ci and 221maximum horsepower. The model is expected to eventually be offered as ahybrid model.
Former NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett was tabbed for shakedown duty as the'06 Fusion went into on-track approval phase in August. Final approvalcame after wind tunnel testing.
"I think what we've done with the Fusion is we built a car that's goingto be very nice on the racetrack, but it's going to be one that thepublic will go to a dealership and want to buy," said Jarrett. "That'swhat we want to achieve--something we can win with on Sunday and thepublic will buy on Monday.
"I think the biggest thing we fight with the Taurus is if we get enoughdownforce in the rear to make it where we can drive at tracks likeAtlanta, getting into the corner, then usually we fight a problem of thefront end not sticking as [well] as we need. It wants to lift up. Thiscar seems to have a better balance about it. That's what we're trying toachieve with the Fusion, and I think we've done that."
The C&R Racing facility in...
The C&R Racing facility in Indianapolis will produce some chassis forthe new USAC Silver Crown Cars.
C&R Racing has expanded its racing services to include construction ofthe new USAC Silver Crown Car. While most racers are familiar with thecompany and its radiator line, C&R is much more than that. The companyhas been building chassis, including sports car frames like the GT-40,for the past three decades.
"I see it as a very interesting project and foresee it as a big stepforward," says C&R's Chris Paulsen. "The new car will take Silver Crownracing to the next level. We've lost a rung on the ladder. The youngopen-wheel racer is going to NASCAR, and the thought of using SilverCrown and Midget racing as a stepping stone to Indianapolis isn't there.We've seen open-wheel racing become a bridge to NASCAR with drivers likeTony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman. The new SilverCrown Car will provide a lot better testing ground."
As the process is underway for the first C&R chassis, the company willutilize its existing resources. The skilled technicians have plenty ofexperience with CNC machine tools, metal fabrication equipment, andCAD/CAM technology. Paulsen has been involved with Indy Car teams as achief mechanic with experience in Supermodfieds and Sprint Cars.
In late October, the C&R car was in the design phase, as Paulsen makessure it is done right. "We may build four cars, maybe six," he says. "Wewant to have two cars available by PRI (December 2005) and test themafter that.
"The car is designed on the computer. The bulk of the design work willlead us to cutting the pieces, which will fit together during theassembly. There's a spec nose, tail and side pods, but the rest of it ispretty much up to us. We'll be doing some wind tunnel testing of our careventually."
Paulsen plans to build the complete car, giving the customer the chanceto add the engine and go. He will have a house car, but it will beidentical to any customer car.
IRL will be requiring a blend of methanol and ethanol as the fuelfor 2006. In 2007, the series is expected to mandate 100 percentethanol.
Rules concerning tires lead the changes. The series banned tirechanges during racing events in 2005, but has rescinded the rule toallow changes in 2006. Minimum tire allotment has also been raised.
The creation of the National SprintCar League will providecompetition to the World of Outlaws.
UPDATE: Richard Petty Driving Experiencehas withdrawn its support of the new National Sprint Car League. For astatement on why, click HERE
Possible changes in spring regulations and testinglimits.