CONCORD, N.C. - “There is no such thing as a typical day for us,” chuckles Kurt Romberg, chief aerodynamicist at Hendrick Motorsports. He sits back in his chair during a rare moment of downtime in his office and thinks. Typical day? No. Fairly predictable week? That’s more likely to be the case.
Recently, Romberg allowed HendrickMotorsports.com an insider’s look into his job during the week. A majority of the time, he’s working with his team to test crew-chief specified cars weeks in advance of tracks scheduled on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. But those sessions can run during the day, evening or in the wee hours of the morning depending on wind tunnel availability. And while a team’s overall mission can be stated simply as “find speed,” Romberg’s focus is on bringing data to the table that supports that charge.
“The most important part of my job function is making sure that the customer (crew chief) is satisfied and feels comfortable with the car,” Romberg said.
He does so in three segments: preparation, execution and reporting.
Preparation: Romberg and his team of three engineers focus nearly half of their week on preparation. First, they determine what aspect of the car could provide the most benefit aerodynamically at a particular track. Once those details are determined, Romberg’s group begins preparing the car for the upcoming test. This preparation includes making sure all the various parts that will be tested fit properly and include any additional parts or changes the crew chief wants done during the test. Attention to detail is key for Romberg and the engineers. The better prepared a car is for the wind tunnel, the more efficient Romberg and his team can be during the test.
Execution: Following preparation is the execution, when the car is actually put into the wind tunnel and tested. This is when the preparation segment is put to its test. Sessions vary, but Romberg and his team can spend anywhere from several hours to half a day collecting data in the tunnel. Once the last test concludes, immediate preliminary data results are available, and Romberg sends these to the appropriate Hendrick Motorsports’ crew chief to review and provide any feedback.
Reporting: After the wind tunnel test is complete, and Romberg returns to the office to begin the final segment—reporting. Romberg, along with the engineers, spend a day in the conference room evaluating the preliminary data from the wind tunnel test, analyzing the results and then entering the numbers into a historical report, which remains on file for all Hendrick Motorsports teams. Once the report is finalized, they evaluate the results to determine what changes they can make for future tests regarding the same track.
Putting in nearly 50 hours a week and sometimes testing in the middle of the night is all worth it to Romberg and his team when they see a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS pull into Victory Lane – something that recently happened in June when Jimmie Johnson won at Pocono Raceway.