Air Titan will be at every '14 Sprint Cup race
October 15, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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NASCAR's Air Titan track drying system, which made its debut this season, will be available for use at every Sprint Cup Series stop in 2014.
The announcement was made today in conjunction with the release of the 2014 Sprint Cup Series schedule.
"Having the Air Titan at each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend allows us to meet a very important goal set by our Chairman and CEO, Brian France," said Steve O'Donnell, senior vice president of racing operations, "to drastically decrease track drying time to the best of our ability and ensure our fans in the stands and those watching on TV get to see each race run on its scheduled day."
The system, which was developed by officials at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., uses compressed air to force water off the racing surface and onto the track apron where it is then removed by vacuum trucks.
The goal is to reduce the time it takes to dry a track by as much as 80 percent, according to officials.
In May at Talladega Superspeedway, use of the system decreased track-drying time by approximately one hour for both NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races.
In April at Martinsville Speedway, the Air Titan shaved enough time off the track drying process to allow Sprint Cup teams to get in a practice session, while it also shortened drying time by 45 minutes at Kansas Speedway recently before an open test leading into that track's Cup weekend.
Officials have also discovered that lessening the time it takes to dry a track surface is not the only benefit of the Air Titan system. It also does a very efficient job of preparing the racing surface for use -- for competition as well as testing.
"It looks like it's got some real value in actually cleaning the race tracks before we get to them," Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, said. "There have been a couple times this year that we had taken Air Titan to a facility and it actually does a really nice job of cleaning the pores of the track -- it gets the sand, the silt, the dirt and the grime that's out of it, the oil that's saturated and baked in there."
The system was used for track preparation at Chicago and Richmond, Pemberton said, noting "those tracks appeared ... better when we opened up. The grip level was. And then there's the opportunity for the track to take on the natural rubber of the tire that's going to be raced."
Although there was some question initially that use of the system could prematurely "age" the track surface by repeated use, officials have found that not to be the case.
"We've analyzed some of the residue that's come off of it," Pemberton said, "and while there might be some small particles that are track surface related, the reality of it is a lot of it is dirt and grime and oil and mold and mildew and things like that."
Goodyear officials said they confirmed as much last month when they traveled to Phoenix International Raceway for a tire test. The Air Titan system was used to prep the track before the tire test got underway.
"We actually measured it before and after (it was cleaned)," said Goodyear's Greg Stucker, and we did not see a huge amount of difference (in surface wear).
"The one thing we have noticed -- at a place like Phoenix, the track gets dirty because of where it is; we were able to get out and start testing almost right away.
"The track came in much quicker than what it would typically. You normally could go out there and run the whole day before you start running constructive laps. It definitely cleans the surface off."
O'Donnell said the goal for the program would be to not only have the Air Titan available at all tracks hosting Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events, "but every All American Series track.
"We suffered more than ever before this year with rain‑outs at our weekly series tracks," he said. "Our goal is to develop this so that it's feasible for a short track to be able to purchase one of these or be given the technology and use that for their tracks as well.