Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, and it’s 55 degrees F, foggy and windy. But this too shall pass. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage is abustle, and the Pit Lane is getting set up. Throughout the garage and Pit Lane fans are being led by tour guides for their inside experiences.

Brett Bodine

Some lucky media got a warm explanatory lap with BRETT BODINE, which was really interesting. Bodine commented throughout, and I learned that Turn Eleven is the slowest in NASCAR. Who woulda thunk it?

Bodine is the NASCAR Director of Competition at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. At races he is the Designated Pace Car driver – except for those which have a promotional or celebrity driver, when he rides shotgun.

Brian Vickers

BRIAN VICKERS has arrived from Road America, where he raced in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America, where he finished sixth after qualifying ninth. He sat in the No.55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota for seat fitting and adjustments – while the car was in the queue for the third of four Tech Inspections.

The teams have their final Scrutineering in the four Tech Stops – two for templates, one for ride heights and other measurements, and the weigh bridge. If a car is, say, three pounds underweight, it pulls off the ramp, adds ballast/lead, and reweighs. It’s all very scientific, with the ramp, four pressure plates-one for each tire – and a computer setup.

Bobby Labonte's Car

There are several Tech Inspections for the Cup cars: Initial, Pre-Qualifying, and Pre-Race for all cars; and two Post inspections, after Qualifying and the Race. The top five from each are checked, as well as random cars after the race.

Goodyear Garage

Team tires

The Goodyear Tires folks are pretty much done until the race, occupying their down time with radio-remote race cars. But, earlier in the weekend they were quite busy.

Goodyear has brought a tire to Sonoma Raceway which is new for this race. It’s the same as the Right Side tire used at Martinsville. The Martinsville oval needed a new tire, so the road courses also got the new tire. The new tire is different in height-travel on the right side. It’s a matter of balance and grip versus fall-off or degradation. So far the new tire has shown a little bit of expected fall-off. On ovals NASCAR runs staggered tires, smaller tires on the left side.

At Sonoma the new tire will be run on all four wheels. And it will be used at all the NASCAR road courses, including Mid-Ohio-new for NNS; Mosport-new for NNS; Road America-NNS; and Watkins Glen-Cup. There will be no Montreal race for NNS this year.

The Goodyear engineer couldn’t offer any insight on the number of pit stops for the 110-lap race. It all depends on pit strategy, tire wear, fuel consumption, cautions, etc.

Besides saving testing dollars for the teams by having the same tire on all road courses, having the same tire for all road courses helps the Crew Chiefs build up their notebooks.

TV coverage for NASCAR Sprint Cup is spread among three carriers: Fox for the first thirteen races, TNT the middle six including Sonoma Raceway, and ESPN has the final 17 races including The Chase events.

All those extra wheels outside the Goodyear Garage during the weekend are extras. After the race, an outside vendor trucking company picks up these extras and all the wheels used by the teams. They are loaded up and driven back to distribute back to the teams. At Texas and Michigan there were 20 trucks in the convoy. It’s estimated that there will be fewer trucks for this race.

This weekend, the ‘Talent’ handling the on-air TV broadcast duties are: ADAM ALEXANDER, WALLY DALLENBACH and KYLE PETTY in the booth. Pit Lane is handled by CHRIS NEVILLE, RALPH SHEHEEN, MARTY SNYDER and MATT YOCUM. In the field will be LARRY McREYNOLDS.

The In-Car cameras will be in #9-MARCOS AMBROSE/Ford; #10-DANICA PATRICK/Chevrolet; #14-TONY STEWART/Chevrolet; #15-CLINT BOWYER/Toyota; #22-JOEY LOGANO/Toyota; and #42-JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/Chevrolet.

Larry McReynolds
Larry McReynolds
Ralph Sheheen
Ralph Sheheen

I asked both Sheheen and McReynolds how difficult was it to focus and keep up with all the input. They wear headphones, with each ear having audio from a different source, plus what is going on with their own audio. Each has an aide-de camp who handles the references and scanners. Sheheen has ten Cup pits, so he monitors those ten scanners, plus he’s hearing from TV producers and directors in the TV compound. There is no way to train for this. “It’s Baptism By Fire.” McReynolds said that up in the booth there is one dedicated person who monitors all the scanners.

Sonoma Raceway is celebrating its twenty-fifth NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend. Sheheen was there for the first broadcast, his first ever on national TV, so he also is celebrating a silver anniversary.

Sonoma is colorful indeed this weekend. It is Silver for its 25th NASCAR Cup Anniversary, and it is Green as eco-friendly. How many racetracks can boast of ‘wooly weeders’ – sheep on the hillside eating down the brown hillside for fire prevention, solar panels … and a vineyard. Recycling Receptacles are all throughout the track and fan areas.

The track added a NASCAR Express Train from Sacramento straight to the track. The tracks run through The Fifty Acre Field – where campers are based. The 500-passenger train sold out fairly quickly and there already is talk of adding more for next year. The Express includes a Food car and a Drink car. It makes two stops going in each direction.

Jamie McMurray's Hauler

McLaren Trailer

Martin Truex's Hauler, with OTW Crew luggage

The NASCAR haulers are as much a work of art as are the race cars. Most are made by Freightliner, Peterbilt and Wrangler. McLaren has a Volvo.

McLaren you say. Like in Formula One? Yes, as McLaren Engineering makes all the ECU chips for the Cup cars, as well as for many other series – not just F1.

The Over-The-Wall Crews have arrived overnight. They are specialists who fly in and out just for the race.

Six Historic Stock Cars did a Parade Lap as part of the Pre-Race Ceremonies.

Historic Stock Cars

Last Modified on June 23, 2013
This entry was posted in NASCAR
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