TALLADEGA, Ala. — The three drivers at Richard Childress Racing were told two weeks ago to start preparing for today’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
That meant drinking a lot of water and branding the number 260 in their heads.
The temperature for the race is expected to be at least 90 degrees. Add that with smaller radiators and front grille openings to break up two-car tandems, it’s a recipe that has every engine builder in panic mode.
“It’s all in the hands of the drivers now,” said Danny Lawrence, who builds engines for Childress. “We’ve been pounding in our drivers’ heads for two weeks to watch their gauges. The cars are just like the drivers. They have to have water.”
Their cars will have special flashing lights on the dashboard to alert the drivers when the engine is getting too hot. Lawrence said RCR has established a 260-degree limit on the water temperature, which leaves little room for error since the radiator will boil over at 267 degrees.
The Toyotas at Joe Gibbs Racing have a 240-degree limit, Kyle Busch said, until there are two laps remaining. After that, they’re allowed to push it until it blows up.
The smaller cooling system was NASCAR’s response to two-by-two tandem racing at Talladega and Daytona International Speedway. Those are the two tracks that also use restrictor plates to keep speeds at 200 mph for safety reasons.
Drivers are used to fighting for position in three-wide, 10-deep packs of traffic at Talladega. Now they’ll be fighting to keep their cars in cool, fresh air.