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The Journal Gazette

Friday, October 04, 2013 10:17 am

NASCAR using Air Titan drying system to clean up


The surface of Kansas Speedway got quite the facial earlier this week.

NASCAR has been experimenting with the Air Titan track drying system as a way to deep clean the pores of the asphalt prior to race weekends. Kansas received the treatment on Wednesday, a day before the Sprint Cup teams went through a tire test for Goodyear.

The fourth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is Sunday.

"It does a good job of getting the sand and the silt out of it, the oil that's saturated and baked in there," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "We did Chicago. We did Richmond. And those tracks it appeared better when we opened up opening day."

NASCAR chairman Brian France last year asked his engineers to develop a faster system for drying tracks, and the result was the Air Titan. It uses compressed air to push water off the track and down to the apron, where vacuum trucks remove the rest of the moisture. Jet dryers follow.

It was tested at Daytona in February and has been used a few times throughout the season, including after a brief thunderstorm that delayed Thursday's tire test at Kansas.

Turns out that it does a nice job of cleaning up a racing surface, too.

"We did it at Phoenix also two months ago when we were testing, and it's incredible," Pemberton said. "You can only imagine when you go to a place like Phoenix over the years, the first 30 minutes of practice was basically useless to a team, because the track surface, no matter how hard they blow it, you couldn't get into the pores.

"We used the Air Titan to prep the track before the tire test and a few of the drivers who were out there came to us after the test and said the race track was 2 1/2 seconds faster early on than it was any other tire test they were running. They were up to speed sooner."

Pemberton said it's possible that the Air Titan system will be used elsewhere to help remove some of the debris - the dirt, rubber and oil that seeps into a track - that can harm performance.

"You'd be surprised at the amount of stuff that naturally comes out of the track," Pemberton said. "We're experimenting with some things and it's just another advantage of having that piece of equipment available to us, and we'll see what happens."