Dodge has so far achieved only 80 to 90 percent of the aerodynamic potential of its new Intrepid Winston Cup race car, leading engineers from the company admit.
The team is engaged on a season-long struggle to create a more slippery shape and find more downforce, says Michael Cipponeri, manager of the factorys motorsports laboratories.
"Were really happy with our aerodynamic package. Were where we wanted to be at this stage of the season," he confirmed.
"However, we are only at about 80 to 90 percent of where we want to get to. Were constantly going into the wind tunnel to do some tweaks."
Dodges out-of-the-trailer car was fast enough for Sterling Marlin to win one of Daytonas twin 125-milers in the Intrepids race debut in February. But Winston Cup racing is so competitive that engineers can never rest.
"Were using some of the most advanced tooling," confirms Tim Culbertson, manager of Dodges Winston Cup engineering program. "We use CFD - Computational Fluid Dynamics - which allows us to create a wind tunnel in the computer. It tends to be a more mathematical approach, where the wind tunnel is more cut and try."
The wind tunnels are still invaluable, however, and Dodge uses two: its own 3/8-scale housing in Michigan, and the Lockheed Corporations full-size version in Atlanta, Georgia.
Despite all these facilities, Culbertson admits that aerodynamics is still "more of an art than science".
What complicates matters is the 30-ish NASCAR templates that bodies have to comply with, and the different body variations required for the varying tracks on the Winston Cup calendar. Dodge builds six body styles, says Culbertson: Speedway, Short Track, Long Short Track, Short Long Track, Cement Car (for the Bristol and Dover ovals) and Road Course.
"The body shape changes slightly for each type of track. The changes are so subtle that the average fan cant tell the difference between some of them, and even the engineers cant," he explains.
"At Daytona we want a low-drag body, at Martinsville we want downforce, and at a track like Las Vegas we need a compromise."
When Dodge tallies up its successes at seasons end, Cipponeri and Culbertson will know whether theyve won the battle of art and science.