I'm Now A Fan Of The Cool Shirt!
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that I get to help companies get national exposure that they normally wouldn't get. In this line of work you do a lot of stories about products, and companies. But sometimes you don't get the chance to actually have the product in your hands to be able to sample it.
This was the case in the October issue of Circle Track. I did a story about what drivers could do to make them more comfortable and safer inside a vehicle. We highlighted a few products, with one of those being a Cool-Shirt, the system that runs ice-cold water throughout a shirt that you wear under your uniform. It's designed to keep your body temperature down and keep you cool throughout the race. Even though I had done the story I had never actually had the opportunity to wear one at all, let alone in competition.
Fast forward to July 25 at Hickory Motor Speedway where it had been close to 100 degrees all day long. Kris Burgess and Bruce Baker of Cool-Shirts were present for the race and had an extra system they decided to let me try during the race. We fastened the 10-pound system into the car with wire ties and then I put on the shirt and turned the pump on. I couldn't believe the difference it made.
However, I was even happier that I had it around lap 100 when another competitor hit me on pit road. A crush panel fell out of the left front of the car, and from the driver seat I could see the left front tire. Immediately the car was filled with a ton of brake and exhaust heat. The cockpit of the car heated up way beyond its normal conditions. It got so hot that I really couldn't feel the cool-suit any longer. But what I noticed was that I wasn't getting tired and I wasn't dehydrated. The suit was doing its job. I can honestly say that if I hadn't had that suit on, I would've had to come down pit road to have someone try to put the crush panel back in the car. Since the suit did its job, I was able to keep the car out on the track and ultimately finish Eighth.
While this might sound like a shameless plug for Cool-Shirts, it's not. Race car drivers often accept the heat that we battle each race as just part of the game, a necessary evil. It's just something you have to deal with if you want to race. As the car heats up, your body will start to sweat, and when you sweat enough you lose weight. I have run races where I've lost 5 or 6 pounds during the race.
So what's the big deal about losing a little weight? Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds here and there anyway, right? This type of weight loss is fluid loss from dehydration and it can have significant negative physical effects on the body. Fluid loss can lead to a decrease in the amount of blood flowing throughout the body. This means we have less oxygen reaching our vital organs, and are much more likely to suffer from impaired concentration, decreased energy, and fatigue-not something we want while in the cockpit of a race car. (Check out "Cool It" in the Sept. '07 issue of Circle Track for some in-depth information on this subject.)
If you're constantly overheating inside the race car during the summer months, then do something about it. I remember this past year at Myrtle Beach I got out of my car after the race and had to stand in front of the hauler air conditioner unit to cool down before I could even change because of how overheated I was. If this is you, then don't stand for it.
When your body gets too overheated, you can pass out while on the track, putting yourself and your competitors at risk. We need to take a different approach when looking at some of these items. I know we always evaluate new items with, "does it make the car go faster?" and if not, those items frequently never get purchased. In this case though, if my concentration is better, it may very well make the car go faster. And isn't that really the point anyway?