NASCAR announces evolution of Air Titan system
March 28, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- When NASCAR unleashed its first edition of the Air Titan track-drying system ahead of the 2013 season, the development inspired comparisons to superheroes and related feats of strength with its assault on damp racing pavement.
Now the evolution of the process will add improved mobility, speed and efficiency to the brute force.
NASCAR's next-generation Air Titan 2.0 track-drying apparatus debuted Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway, replacing the bulkier multi-truck system with a self-contained version. The announcement was made at the 0.526-mile track by Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations; Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president, innovation and racing development; and Dr. Michael Lynch, NASCAR vice president, green innovation.
The more compact, efficient drying system is a self-contained unit that houses the drying mechanism in beds of specially equipped Toyota Tundra trucks, eight of which are here this weekend for duty at Martinsville. The units were previously located on a separate tractor-trailer, which moved in concert with the drying trucks.
The next development allows Air Titan 2.0 more room to operate, especially at tracks such as close-quarters Martinsville, where no track apron exists. It will also work in conjunction with Elgin sweepers, which will vacuum up excess water pushed down from the racing surface.
Stefanyshyn said the increased mobility will allow flexibility for either collaborative drying efforts by a team of trucks or "independent tactical deployment" to areas of greater need. He also anticipated a 25 to 50 percent improvement in track-drying time, depending on weather conditions such as temperature, cloud cover and dew point.
"Developed by our engineers at the NASCAR R&D Center, Air Titan 2.0 will help us more quickly return to racing, which serves our most important mission -- the enjoyment of our fans," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "It's faster, more agile and eco-friendly. The new Air Titan creates the ultimate win-win-win for our sport, our fans and our environment."
The earth-friendly aspect of the next-generation Air Titan goes further than the initial version, which replaced jet-fueled dryers as the primary track-drying tool ahead of the 2013 season. The new version more than triples the blade capacity of the first edition, consumes 78 percent less fuel per hour and emits 80 percent less CO2 per hour, thanks to a lower air compression rate.
The Air Titan 2.0's debut and environmental impact dovetails with Friday's kickoff to NASCAR's second annual Race to Green initiative, a month-long awareness campaign for the overarching NASCAR Green program.
"Imagine being asked by the chairman of your company to go to battle with Mother Nature, win that battle, and continuously improve over time in a way that they've done," Lynch said, "and do it greener and in a way that integrates partners that's completely along the lines of the history of how we've built the NASCAR Green platform."
Air Titan was mandated for all tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events in 2014. The new version was put through its paces in four of five tests, Stefanyshyn said, including one as informal as drying the parking lot of the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, N.C. The final test came at nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the Air Titan 2.0 units ran for six hours before getting the stamp of approval.
With NASCAR's premier series getting the new treatment going forward, O'Donnell said the Air Titan's development could be used in other forms of motorsports, including drag racing. The 2.0 version's reduction in costs for equipment, operation and upkeep also opens the opportunity for weekly speedways in the NASCAR Home Tracks program to acquire their own Air Titan units.
"There's still a lot more work to do," O'Donnell said. "We're by no means at the finished product, but I think we feel confident, and when we look at the research from fans about their purchase intent for a ticket, knowing that the Air Titan was there, there was upwards of 50 percent, and I'm going to go. That was a big deal for us to look at and keep pushing and keep driving."