Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2000   by CARS Magazine

Historical Snapshot of Stock Car Racing Technology

By: STS Press, Warrendale, Pa, USA$US 14.99 Members/ $US 19.99 Non-MembersOrdering: STS, 724/776-4970 www.sts.sae.orgNASCAR's Winston Cup series is the fastest growing form of motorsports on the conti...

By: STS Press, Warrendale, Pa, USA

$US 14.99 Members/ $US 19.99 Non-Members

Ordering: STS, 724/776-4970

NASCAR’s Winston Cup series is the fastest growing form of motorsports on the continent, but as every technician knows, the “stock” in stock car racing disappeared decades ago. From a technical standpoint, few records trace the development of this most popular form of racing from literally street stock American sedans to the current tube-frame purpose built racing machines. A new publication from the SAE’s Service Technicians Society fills in some of that historical record with a fascinating peek at the state-of-the art as it was from the mid-Fifties to today.

“Historical Snapshot of Stock Car Racing Technology” is compiled from the Society of Automotive Engineer’s huge library of technical papers. The book includes developments in stock car chassis, braking and aerodynamics, from the difficulties in racing purely stock automobiles in the mid ‘Fifties to the design and construction of the carbon-fibre deployable roof flaps commonly seen on modern Winston Cup cars. The book also includes papers written by some of the sport’s most important personalities, such as Gary Nelson, Jack Roush, and Indy winner Mauri Rose.

For the hard-core tech fan, however, the best stuff comes from the names not commonly associated with racing, at least not to the average fan. An example is a fascinating report from Clemson University engineers Lonny Thompson, Srikanth Raju and E. Harry Law describing the optimization of a standard Hopkins Winston Cup chassis for minimum torsional stiffness. Using computer-derived finite element analysis, the trio developed a modification to the chassis that tripled torsional stiffness with only 40 pounds of added weight.

The high-tech computer simulations of that 1998 study are in stark contrast to a 1976 report by the then-Chrysler Corporation’s J.W. Douglas on braking systems. The almost desperate experimentation with drum brake cooling and materials to dissipate the heat generated from stopping the two-ton racers of the era vividly illustrates the cut-and-try methodology of the pre-laptop era. You can almost feel the frustration as brakes disintegrate in test after test. Disc brakes, however, showed great promise for the future.

On the now hot topic of racing aerodynamics, a report from 1970 by Chrysler’s Marcell and Romberg are an interesting comparison with a 1994 study by G.M. researchers Laisse and Bayless. Compared to braking technology, the use of wind tunnel testing and extensive instrumentation during the development of the 1970 Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird seem surprisingly modern when compared to the 1994 report. The results of those early tests were 200 MPH lap speeds and the beginning of strict regulation of racing aerodynamics.

Readers should note that little in this book will help a racer tune his or her Street Stock for Saturday night competition, but for readers with a strong engineering background, or avid historians of the sport, there is rare information in the 101 pages. And the 1956 plea to manufacturers to improve quality and durability by Mauri Rose puts the level of today’s automotive technology firmly in perspective.

Is this a perfect book? No, this is a compendium of SAE technical papers, and is printed and bound much like an engineering report, so don’t expect dramatic photography, a stunning cover, or museum-quality reproduction. As an authentic record of hard-to-find source technical information from an engineering perspective, however, “Historical Snapshot of Stock Car Racing Technology” should be a fascinating read for racing engineers, hard-core technicians, and historians of the sport.