Earlier this week, Michael McDowell spoke of the need to address the heat that NASCAR Cup Series drivers are dealing with inside their race cars. To McDowell, the issue is no longer about fitness levels, but about the danger.
“I think there’s a chance that guys could have serious issues from getting this hot,” said McDowell.
The good news for McDowell and his fellow competitors is that NASCAR has made a change for this weekend’s doubleheader at Dover International Speedway. Officials sent teams a memo about being able to remove a large portion of the right-side window to allow more airflow into the car.
Drivers talking about the heat is not new, and it’s more than just the outside temperature. Combine that with the mandatory right-side window (pictured on McDowell’s Front Row Motorsports Ford, top) and drivers have often spoken about overheating and feeling like they are boiling in their seats.
Last weekend at the Daytona road course, Martin Truex Jr. said when he climbed out of his car after the race, it felt like returning to air conditioning. Truex thought that the lightning delay in the third stage helped drivers refresh, or else some might not have made it to the finish.
“It was crazy hot,” said Truex. “It’s so hot in these things.”
JJ Yeley did exit his car before the checkered flag. Yeley posted on Twitter that he was overheated because his air conditioning unit failed.
Multiple drivers in all three series needed treatment after the races in Daytona.
Chris Buescher said the heat in the cars could climb to 140 to 150 degrees F. Buescher said he felt OK at Daytona, but had the race been longer, there could have been worries for drivers.
“I would say two of the three hottest races I’ve ever been a part of have been this year, with this Daytona race being one of them and Martinsville being another,” said Buescher. “The thing that has changed has been a right-side window, so there’s pretty clear indication to me of what’s creating this heat that so many drivers are starting to be a little bit more vocal about because it’s almost excessive.
“We’re using the hoses and the openings that we have to try and cool now. We have a hose going to the floorboard, a hose trying to go to the driver. You’ve got your A/C units that condition the air 10-12 degrees at best — so not really looking at nice, cold air by any means — and on top of that coming through a three-quarter-inch hose isn’t a whole lot of volume either, so the heat is something that’s been pretty brutal here lately.
“Daytona was not that hot. When you look at low 90s or mid-90s, we’ve had races that are a lot hotter than that. Road courses can be a little bit more physical at times, but, usually, with the road courses the fact that the splitter is up in the air, you’re getting a lot of movement up under the car, which is actually cooling a lot more than places like Indy or Michigan, where you’re sealed off the entire time. A lot of that heat will build up and can be just as hot or hotter, but for what it’s worth, yeah, it’s been hot lately.”
The change to the right-side window is just for Dover, and NASCAR will evaluate its impact before deciding if it becomes permanent.