We had a bit of a cooling trend today out at Infineon, it was only 98 degrees this afternoon! Luckily both Cup practices were run before noon today so the drivers and crews missed the worst of it but it made for an early start today.
I made it to the track at 7a but then walked the 30 min to the garages and arrived just about the same time the drivers were pulling into the garage in their rental cars. I headed over to the Miller Lite garage stall to find the crew already at work. They finished the tear down and rebuild of the car last night and were pretty much set to go for practice.
During the first practice, the Miller Lite team worked to fine tune the shock package that they hit upon yesterday for qualifying. We watched with the crew near turn 12 (the 180 degree turn) and held our breath as several cars got squirrelly and almost hit the outside wall, while many others were locking ‘em up and sliding through the entire turn.
Unfortunately, Kurt’s teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr. also took a wild ride and ripped his splitter off.
Most of the mechanics on Kurt’s team and Ryan Newman’s team headed over to the 77 garage stall and the entire Penske team worked to get that splitter back on so he didn’t have to go to a back up car.
Time was flying by and Happy Hour came only a half hour after the first practice. The Miller Lite crew was working on fuel mileage as were most of the teams. Lots of crews pushing their cars through the garages and a few didn’t make it all the way around the track.
Early in the first run, Pat Tryson (Kurt’s crew chief) radio’ed him to come on in for some changes and Kurt radio’ed back saying he was feeling “pretty sporty” out there and stayed out longer. It is a further reminder that we can’t always make conclusions about practice times, especially when we don’t know what the crews are working on each run. Here is Kurt getting some information on his runs during Happy Hour.
Immediately after Happy Hour ended the engines cut and the BBQ’s fired up.
The entire garage basically took a lunch break and boy did it smell good in there. The Miller Lite crew grabbed some chicken wings,burgers and sausages off the grill and headed in for a team debriefing inside the air conditioned hauler. The three Penske drivers, crew chiefs and team engineers all meet in one of the team haulers and went over what they learned and help each other out with setups.
I was on “special assignment” immediately after Happy Hour. I followed Luke, the shock specialist, from the moment he removed the shocks from the car until he turned them into NASCAR. We got the whole process on video so you can see the process for yourselves.
As many of you know, NASCAR confiscates the rear shocks from all the teams after Happy Hour and returns them before the teams go through inspection on Sunday before the race. NASCAR does this because they found teams pushing the limits with the pounds per square inch. Before NASCAR takes the shocks, Luke has to put them on the shock dyno to test to make sure the shocks are working properly. Then he takes out all of the pressure from the shock and then walks them over to the inspectors. Luke has to fill the shocks to whatever the team decided between 25 psi to 75 psi as NASCAR rules dictate (today Luke filled them to 75 psi) in front of the inspectors. The inspectors then test the pressures, if they pass, they put a yellow tag on them and put them on a cart that they keep locked up. I will be back first thing in the morning when Luke gets the Miller Lite shocks back from the inspectors and gets them back in the car to complete the process. I must say, these inspectors were very cool to let us film this and Luke knows his stuff!
The Cup garage closed at 2p today and the crew was excited to get an entire afternoon free to go have some fun. The pit crew was flying in this afternoon, which they do for races on the West Coast, otherwise they just fly in the morning of the race. Several of the crew were going golfing and one was going sailing on the Bay. Still others were looking forward to a nice dinner and getting some rest for a busy day tomorrow. The hauler drivers, Stump and Cindy for example will be in the garages when it opens at 7am, will work all day (Cindy is also the team’s official scorer), pack the hauler after the race and are planning on driving all night with the hopes of getting to New Mexico for breakfast on Monday. I am exhausted from being in the garages for 2 days, I can’t imagine doing their job every weekend!
Tomorrow will be another hot, busy day at the track. If Kurt wins, I have been told by the crew I will be in there so keep your fingers crossed!!