Al Unser Jr shares stories of race car development
Al Unser Jr comes from the Indycar side of the NASCAR ladder. He’s a two-time champion of the Verizon Indycar Series. He retired his driving career in 2007.
Unser has a single NASCAR start on his resume. He started the 1993 Daytona 500 with Hendrick Motorsports.
These days, both Indycar and NASCAR have gone in similar directions. They opened the ingenuity gates open. Then, they closed them in the name of parody and a level playing field.
Specially on the NASCAR side of the fence. For 2018, cars have a standard front splitter. The NASCAR rulebook is thicker than ever. Now, as teams search in unique areas to improve the race car, NASCAR is quick to put a stop to it.
Such is the case with the wiper blade installed for added downforce. A second example of that is the black fender pieces that teams recently installed to appear narrower as teams roll through inspection. In both of those situations, NASCAR adjusted to what the teams are doing and added new rules or in the case of the wipers, they have plans to add rules that put a stop to it.
A few years ago, Indycar allowed teams to create their own aerodynamic pieces. As those pieces fell off the cars it created a bit of chaos. Indycar soon put an aerodynamic development freeze in place. The next year, teams were back to spec bodies.
The NASCAR sanction also introduced a optical scanning station. It’s a scanner that has created a host of fines for the teams that push the boundaries. It was put in place to tech inspect the entire body of the race car instead of just select areas or pieces.
“I don’t know, me being 56-years-old, I’m a traditionalist,” Al Unser Jr commented on the direction of both series from the MIS media center.
“I won both my [Indy] 500’s in cars that no one else had. In ’92 with the Galmer and then in ’94 with the Penske.”
In the Penske car, they developed the 209 push rod engine. That engine was actually tested at Michigan International Speedway in the months of January and February 1994.
“I can tell you… Running around here [Michigan] in January is just too cold. Ok, it was freezing out there.”
“I love being able to develop the automobile, develop the race cars. I would love to see more of run what you brung kinda scenarios.”
“But, in today’s economy… I don’t think it really makes sense. I wish it was back in the way that we used to run ’em. That’s honestly why I wanted to go drive for Roger Penske was because he built his own car.”
“When you can be a part of the innovation and the development of the fastest cars in the world… It’s exciting to do.”
“Everything’s different these days. It’s kind of a little over my head honestly.”
In a sport where the playing field is so tight, it would appear impossible that just three cars could hold a bulk of the win counts. But, that’s exactly what has happened. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr are smoking the entire field every week.
Together they have 17 wins of the 23 points races so far in 2018. That’s nearly 75% of the races being dominated by 3 cars across two different organizations.
The level playing field has created scenarios where small fine adjustments make all the difference. Brad Keselowski details the domination of the big three.
“All three of those teams have made some really smart decisions at the highest levels. They’re weeping the benefits. No team or no company is made of one player,” Brad Keselowski details from the Michigan International Speedway media center.
“At the end of the day, there’s almost 500-something employees at Team Penske that are building race cars day in and day out. I can’t drive without them. I can’t race without them.”
“It’s all those people coming together in the right way with the right tools. You have to give create to the guys that have put up the most wins this year. They’ve built some of the best teams.”