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Roush Asks NASCAR To Trim Sims, Keep It Real

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 10 2010

Jack Roush and driver Carl Edwards may have fallen behind the leaders because of increased use of simulations in NASCAR. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

NASCAR has preferred that teams relied less on technology and more on good old fashioned racing experience. But those days are gone, even if NASCAR won’t allow teams to use their laptops in the pits at the races.

Since the sanctioning organization banned most testing at the end of the 2008 season in an effort to cut costs for everyone, teams big and small have had to rely on relatively newfangled technology – simulations – to prepare for the races. Longtime team owner Jack Roush, head man at Roush Fenway Racing, said that has been the biggest problem for his once dominating team, which has yet to win this year in either Sprint Cup or Nationwide.

“We’ve got third-party vendors, not Ford and not Roush-Fenway, that were engaged in our data analysis and in our simulations and, quite frankly we haven’t got the results this year that we had expected,’’ Roush said this week in a teleconference. “Certainly the results aren’t as good from the simulation data, that analysis point of view, as we had in 2008, and given the fact that we don’t have testing that has been a handicap.’’

He added, “We have this year arrived at the racetrack, unloaded with simulated strategies for setups that have not been as good as our competitors’, and that’s what brought us to the point of looking at what we were getting and looked for the correlations and found that we didn’t have the correlations that we’d expected on many of the simulations.

“So we’re starting off with not as good a setup in the car based on simulations as we’ve had in the past and as we’ve expected. We’re working to fill that void. I hope that we’ll break through at (Michigan this weekend) and be able to win again and rack up Ford’s 12th win there …  because hopefully we could win twice there. We’ve done that in the past sometimes.’’

Roush said his team is looking to new third-party vendors to help solve the problems with preparations away from the tracks.

To combat this problem of relying so heavily on technology like “sims”, Roush said he would like to see NASCAR let the teams test again, at least a little.

“One of the other things I had discussions with NASCAR about last weekend  (at Pocono) was the idea of letting some of the testing come back,’’ Roush explained. “Right now, if you don’t have a simulation that’s as good as the next man’s simulation, it doesn’t matter how good your driver is or how able your crew chief is or how good your engine is; you just can’t get around the racetrack. And until you sort out what you need at that racetrack, you’re playing from a position of disadvantage.

“I encouraged NASCAR. They’re certainly listening. I think that we’d have less reliance on our simulations and on the technicians that are behind the scenes if we were able to go to some of the racetracks and be able to test on the tire at the track in close proximity to the race, that this sensitivity to and this importance of all the simulations will be diminished.’’

How much testing would Roush like to see?

“I would propose something between eight and time times per team,’’ he noted. “If a team had between eight and ten vouchers, that would give you a chance to test at all the racetracks, at all the different kinds of tracks, the short tracks, the intermediates, the restrictor (plate) tracks, and the road race tracks. That would give you a chance to test at all those with every driver and every car enough so that every crew chief would have for himself his idea of what he needed and not just have to rely on the simulations that the engineers would propose.’’

In Cup, Roush Fenway fields cars for Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan. All of them, but particularly Edwards, who was considered a championship contender only two seasons ago, have been disappointed by the team’s failure to get to Victory Lane.

But it hasn’t been all bad.

Kenseth, a former Cup champion, is fourth in the points, with Edwards ninth and Biffle 10th, all of them in position to make the 12-man Chase for the championship. Only Ragan, 25th, is out of the playoff picture.

“I think everybody has pretty much done a good job not getting frustrated,’’ Roush said. “Carl has obviously matured in the last four or five years that he’s been with our program, four years I guess it’s been. He’s gone from being brash and, if not ruthless, certainly overenthusiastic in some of his actions on the track. And he’s matured into being a card-carrying senior guy now.

“Anybody that stays in this business very long understands that you can’t be in the top all the time. … If you anticipate a problem, you fix it before it becomes serious. If you don’t anticipate it when it comes up, you fix it. And you have to have confidence in the people that you’re with and with the organizations that support you that you’re doing the right thing.

“Matt has certainly been a good soldier,’’ Roush added. “Greg Biffle has done a nice job. David Ragan has done a nice job, and Carl all have done a nice job. But they look forward to winning races and look forward to maintaining their position or getting in the Chase as the case might be.’’

A little technological help would be appreciated – at least by Roush, if not by NASCAR.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 10 2010


  • ed says:

    Translation: “My team can’t figure out how to use simulations, so no one gets to use them. Boo, hoo.”

    Jack Rousch, 2010

    • Erik says:

      NASCAR is raced on an actual track, not a computer. Bring the testing back, this is the real thing Ed, not one of your video games!