Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rookie Stripe: Let's Talk Track Bar

Let’s Talk Track Bar
Just what is a track bar?

Prior to 2015 track bar adjustments had to be made during pit stops.
The No. 13 team works on Casey Mears' car during the Atlanta race.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
For me, the idea of sipping a margarita trackside while inhaling the smell of burning rubber is almost more intoxicating than a Caribbean getaway. Steamy temperatures aside, that’s far from the type of track bar you’ll encounter at a NASCAR race.

The topic of track bars intrigued me when I heard about it in the news recently, because NASCAR’s new rules package now allows drivers to adjust rear track bars from within the vehicle itself. Traditionally, pit crews adjust the track bars during pit stops by inserting a wrench through a hole in the rear windshield, and they will still be able to do so. The difference in rules as of 2015 is that drivers can now adjust the track bar of their own free will to try to make a pass.

Relatively speaking, it’s a somewhat simple device from what I can deduce (when it comes to motorsports, anyway), just a long, skinny bar with rod end bearings. Since Rookie Stripe is on a mission to demystify this sometimes tricky sport, I figured the track bar would be a good topic for this post.

“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” C. W. Ceran 

What is a Track Bar?
Just underneath the rear of a stock car you’ll find the track bar, connecting the chassis on one end and the rear end housing on the other end. Raising or lowering the right side of the bar controls the left-to-right offset of the rear axle, meaning it will change the how the rear axle sits in connection with the centerline of the vehicle. Only one side of the track bar can be moved during a race.

Why is the Track Bar Important?
According to BuildingSpeed.com, the up-and-down position of the track bar (which does not move side-to-side) alters the weight distribution of the car and subsequently how it rolls when the car rounds a corner. Raising both ends of the track bar makes the rear roll center higher so the car is looser. Lowering both ends of the track bar lowers the rear roll center and so the car is tighter. More in-depth information can be found here.

Why does it matter in NASCAR?
NASCAR’s new 2015 rules package now permits drivers to adjust the track bar from the cockpit of the car while they are driving in a race. The location of the switch to adjust the vehicle varies from car to car depending on what is most feasible for the driver. Literally putting the power to move the track bar into the hands of the drivers means the drivers themselves will be responsible for any adjustments they make mid-race. NASCAR’s intention for the change, as with the rest of the rules package, is to allow for more passing and overall more intense competition – and a more exciting race for fans.

All in all, the new rules package including track bar adjustments should make for a pretty interesting concoction during race season. My margarita and I will be kicked back, relaxed and ready to enjoy the spectacle. Cheers!

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