Monday, January 14, 2008
News Flash - Hendrick Cars Fast at Daytona Testing!
Ok, that probably isn't really earth shattering news to most of you who follow Nascar at all. But I think it's important to notice a trend that Hendrick Motorsports seems to have nearly perfected over the last year, which is basically dominating a sport that tries very hard to continually level the playing field. I know, it can be said that Chad Knaus cheats, or Steve Letarte cheats, or that Tony Eury Jr. cheats, or that any number of engine builders or fab shop employees cheat. True, they've all been busted for stretching the rules before, but the Car of Tomorrow, now just the car, is supposed to make that harder to do, right?
I'd say right and wrong. Nascar will definitely penalize any team that rolls a car through inspection where all the panels are not completely spec. Nascar is also mandating rear end gears, so a lot of the fun with trying a different gear will be out the window now as well. Chassis setups are more and more stringently policed, but Nascar give the teams a little leeway. Engines? Nascar keeps tightening the limits on those too. So, why does Hendrick seem so tough to beat?
Easy. I think in a manufacturing environment, it's called quality control. Any manufacturing plant, which is basically what a Nascar shop is, constantly tests their materials, their processes, and finally the quality of the end product. In my opinion, nobody does quality control better than Hendrick. Virtually every part that can be made in house is, and that way they're not relying on an outside vendor that might slip them some bad pieces. Taking raw metal and making a race car out of it is no small undertaking. Taking raw metal and making consistently winning race cars is infinitely more difficult.
Another reason for Hendrick's invincibility is the people working for him. From the sheet metal fabricators to the engineers sitting behind their computer screens, Rick Hendrick has managed to assemble an awesome amount of talent. The managers are top notch, and they keep everything organized, and very few mistakes slip through the cracks and makes it out the doors of the shop. Hendrick has constantly tried to recruit the best driving talent in the business, and that makes the conglomerations of raw metal come to life and perform at their best.
Rick Hendrick's folks are constantly testing virtually every aspect of their race cars, and trying to find ways to make them better. Better isn't always faster, in the short term, and longevity sometimes can make up for speed. Finishing first is the goal, obviously, but Hendrick cars and teams have proven time and time again that they can win races without always having the fastest cars on the track.
Testing of course, is just a measuring stick. Fast speeds during testing don't always mean that much. Time and time again we've seen cars that were fast during testing and practice, and even qualifying that didn't have what it took to win or in a lot of cases, finish the race. Many fans will totally discount the results entirely. I don't blame them.
To me the true test of how a team is doing during practice is the expression on the driver's face when he climbs out of the car. I've seen some grins and some grimaces the last week or so. Most the Hendrick guys are smiling though.