What does the catch can person do? I see him listed on the team page, but I'm not familiar with his duties... - Hamilton Quant
The catch can man has many responsibilities. His main role is to catch the gas that overflows after the car is full and he signals to let them know to send the driver away. The most important thing is for him to not let that can leave the pit box when the driver pulls out. He also performs some other duties. He holds the empty first can and assists with the track bar and wedge adjustments during the pit-stops. Basically, he puts the wrenches in the appropriate holes according to whether the changes are track bar or wedge adjustments. This helps whomever is supposed to turn the wrenches.
Following the pit-stop, the overflow gas from the catch can is weighed. This ultimately helps the engineers to configure the gas mileage.
Shane, realizing the 2004 season is only 4 races old, is a top 20 finish in points this year realistically achievable? - Allan Burrows
Yes, without a doubt this early in the season, we are still looking at the Chase for the Championship. All you have to do is put up some top-10's, some top-5's and possibly a win and top-10 in the points is still attainable. We are not that far out. Right now winning it is still achievable.
We gained the most positions of anybody at California with a sixth-place finish. If we put up three or four top-five finishes you will see us in the top-10 in the points. It is real easy. Now 20 races in if you asked this question, that would be a different animal all together.
I loved listening to your team on the scanner at California last weekend (congrats on the 6th place finish by the way). I know that on race day Billy Wilburn is one of Brendan's spotters but how much of a resource is he to you as the 77 crew chief? - Diane McKain
Most every good NEXTEL Cup team has someone around that has "been there done that", whether it is someone who is a great fabricator, or great at the car set-up and sometimes that person is a former crew chief, like Jimmy Makar at Gibbs Racing. Fortunately for me, I have [Bill] Wilburn. He has a great understanding of the flow of the Fab. Shop and he can project when to schedule the next project to make sure the right cars are done when we need them.
It is nice to know I have someone in there who has felt that type of pressure before, from the crew chief side, so I know I don't have to worry about taking a car I had not planned on. I can take the car we built for the specific track and that helps a tremendous amount.
Great Pit Stops yesterday at Bristol! What have you done differently to achieve such improvements in pit stops from earlier this season?
The pit stops have not actually improved from the beginning of the year. The Penske-Jasper Racing pit crew has always had stellar pit stops. Unfortunately, the performance was never their on track to attract attention to the pit work. This team won a huge chunk of money in the first quarter last year for their pit-stops. Not widely publicized, but then again, like I said, the performance was not there to make obvious to the media. Now with that being said, since you recognized the "improvement" it must mean the media has taken notice of the "Team".
Shane, do you think that moving into cup from trucks will present more of a challenge then if you were to go from the busch to cup? - Everett Lintz II
Yes, for sure. When you are in the Busch series you are racing more of the same tracks, for the most part that the Cup series is racing which gives the driver an advantage. The car and the truck are two different animals.
The shorter tracks like Martinsville and Bristol where aero is less magnified, the cars and trucks respond more similar. The information is more transferable which I think has helped us so far this season to run competitively at the short tracks. Now, with the success Brendan and I had at places like Las Vegas and Texas, we were both disappointed with our first showing at those tracks. We are looking forward to hitting some of these tracks the second time around. For one thing, Brendan will have more seat time, obviously, and I will have more notes to work with.
With temperatures hovering around 150 degrees in the car, and Brendan mentioning "burns", two questions came to mind, first what are some of the "tricks" and technology he uses to try and stay cool, and the second part - on average how much weight might a driver loose during a race?
There are several things we do to protect the drivers under extreme heat conditions. Several of them involve NASA. We surround the driver's cockpit with a NASA reflective sheeting made out of spun ceramic and glass materials. It goes above the exhaust, under the seat and under the floor board. The drivers also wear booties made from a similar material that protect their heels in addition to their driving shoes, because the heel is so susceptible to burns. In California, we did not have the NACA ducting under the seat, but we have corrected this. At tracks where aerodynamics are so important, we run the right-side window and try to keep the car as closed up as possible to lessen the drag. With temperatures reaching into the upper 90's on, there is little more we can do. The driver needs to work hard at hydrating himself to keep from overheating in the car.
During this weeks race there was a segment showing the air vents that blow air on the tires to increase/reduce air pressure in the tires by varying the temp. of the tires. Is this effective and are there any other air/cooling features that helped the KODAK car run so well in the CA heat?
The air vents are not to reduce/increase the air pressure of the tires. The purpose of the air vents is to help with the wear of the tire. The camber, or the angle at which the tires surface touches the track, is so steep at California to assist in the banking, we need all the help we can get for the straight-aways. With the long straights, the cars are running on the outside of the tire for so long, due to the camber, it can potentially wear the tire down, or eventually blister the tire causing it to blow. So to circumvent the natural process, we apply air to the tires to help cool them as they turn. The vents are actually using air produced by the engine so you know it is not that cool.
To help you to better understand why it is not reducing or increasing the air pressure in the tires, I will let you in on something. We actually use nitrogen to inflate/adjust the tire pressures. The reason is simple. Nitrogen has no moisture. Moisture in the tires can cause them to become unstable and it would be more difficult for us to maintain tire pressures as the moisture will expand directly affecting the pressures.
There is a thing on the roof of the cars, I think it is new this year - looks like a bubble - what is it?
It is the new camera mount. Just a different style camera the network partners came up with. It has a better view angle. All cars are the same whether they carry the camera or not, so it helps to even the racing field out. Also, with the round shape versus the older oblong version, we get more accurate results from the wind tunnel.
How much does Ryan Newman's team and Rusty Wallace's team help Brendan's team before the race and then during the race?
They are our allies out there, but there is only so much one can do when we are at the track. It is not possible to help too much during the race as we are all battling for our position. With speedway racing there is a little bit we can do for each other. Like when we were in Daytona and Rusty came over our radio to let us know we had a tire rub. Not that any competitor wants to see another competitor wreck, but we are going to listen to Rusty versus push the limits with our car.
When we are at Fontana or a down force track, there is not much we can do. It is the Team Penske engineering department and all the guys behind us that help the most. It is what Roger [Penske] referred to as "Human Capitol" earlier this year. We have resources that contribute to the success of all three teams. It is not just Rusty and Ryan Newman. Now, Rusty or Ryan can help Brendan with what line to run and how deep to drive in to a corner before letting off the gas, just like Larry Carter and Matt Boreland and I can turn to the engineering staff to improve our set-up for the race.