Hendrick Motorsports

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Kurt Romberg explains what the new nose will mean for aero at Daytona

When it comes to a race car, the slightest body modification can have a huge effect on its aerodynamic properties on the racetrack. Just take a look at the new nose NASCAR has given all competitors for the 2011 season. We have prepared our cars for Daytona with that change in mind.

Aerodynamically, the biggest change is on the outer edges of the nose; right in front of where the tire is – that’s what we call the wheel opening. Previously, the nose had an indentation, but NASCAR filled that in and removed the splitter stays, which were the braces that were attached to the splitter. The splitter is still on the car, but the majority is under the car where it can’t be seen. NASCAR also softened the area right in front of the wheels. All of this is aerodynamically significant because that nose area is what sets up the flow field for the entire body of the car.

In aerodynamics, the flow field starts at the front of the car and it develops as air flows down the sides. Changing the front of the car affects how the air travels down the car. In 2010, the nose would kick the air off the side of the car significantly, so the air would never actually re-attach at the back of the car. Because NASCAR has softened the area in front of the wheels, the air is no longer kicked off the car so much; the air actually comes back and re-attaches around the rear tire.  

The result is a more narrow flow field, which can make for a faster race car at a superspeedway like Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. By keeping the flow closer to the car, you don’t take as much energy out and you have less drag. Of course, we anticipate the new nose will impact downforce when we get to tracks like Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. We’ll just have to prepare ourselves for that with wind tunnel testing.

With regard to Daytona, I’m excited. The way the last couple of restrictor-plate races have played out, it appears to be a two-man game instead of a single man game. Two cars hooking up are now significantly faster than one or even a train of four or five cars. I believe there will be some changes in the way those drivers are handling the last laps. It’s been important to have a friend in the past, but you have to have a friend who can push you now. Then take into account that Daytona has been repaved over the winter, so it’s very smooth and very fast now. I would imagine with the new pavement and the new nose that the last the last 50 miles will be very, very exciting.