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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE


March 28, 2014


Mike Lynch

Steve O'Donnell

Gene Stefanyshyn


DAVID HIGDON:  Good morning, everyone.  Welcome to Martinsville Speedway for our race weekend here.  We've got a special announcement and a great group of folks to kick off our weekend.  In the middle is Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations.  To his right is Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president, innovation and racing development.  And on the left is Dr.Michael Lynch, NASCAR vice president, green innovation.  Before we open it up with these guys, we're going to open with a short video that you can see on the TVs around the media center.
 (Video shown.)
Steve, why don't we start with you.  Give us an overview of the Air Titan project overall and what we'll be looking at somewhere down the road.
STEVE O'DONNELL:  Sure.  Good morning, everyone, and I'll preface this by saying I'd much rather hear the trucks out on the track right now, and hopefully today you see the Air Titan behind the scenes, but we don't see it ever again for the entire season.  Not something we like talking about because obviously that involves a delay, but something we are certainly very proud of.
As you heard in the video, this was a vision of Brian France, our chairman, really challenging us, particularly the R & D Center, to come up and embrace technology and innovation and reduce track‑drying time.¬† We met with everyone back in 2013 and talked about the Air Titan, talked about this being a prototype and the first version of it, and we're really proud today to talk about that next evolution of the Air Titan with the 2.0.¬† And it really showcases our ability through our R & D Center to innovate and to embrace technology.¬† We're proud of the work that everyone has done, and specifically we're really happy about the ability and the flexibility it gives the tracks to get races in on time or on the same day.
If you look at the success we had last year in Talladega, you can look to examples this year with both Daytona and Bristol, with fans and broadcast partners being able to bring a race to the fans on the scheduled day of an event, which we think is the ultimate goal for us.  So we know it provides the best flexibility, not something, again, we want to be talking about on a week by week basis, but really proud today to say we've made some terrific improvements and enhancements based on Brian's vision, and you'll hear more about that from both Gene and Dr.Lynch, so I want to turn it over to Gene Stefanyshyn who heads up our R & D Center to talk about the specifics of the Air Titan 2.
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  Thank you very much, Steve.  This was a pretty quick and compressed project, and I'd like to publicly thank a few of the people that were very critical on this project.  Don Krueger, Don is back there.  He was really in the shop with Mike Horton and John Sutton, and they really worked to get this thing together.  There was a young engineer, Chris Popiela, who did a lot of the CAD work, I want to thank him, also.  Then of course there's Jerry Kaproth.  Jerry is the guy who brings this stuff to the track and kind of makes it run once the guys have built it.  And finally Austin Tate.  He helped to do a lot of the coordination of the design work and the appearance of it, so thanks to that team.
So the Air Titan 2, a lot of the experience in learning from Air Titan 1 was applied to this generation.¬† Essentially it's a quick drying process that has two steps:¬† The first thing we endeavor to do is remove as much water off the track as we can so it's a rapid water removal, then it's followed by an accelerated evaporation process of the remaining water film.¬† The Air Titan 2 is a self‑contained unit, it's a low pressure unit, and it's capable of team deployment and independent tactical deployment, so we'll be able to pick these units individually and send them to the areas on the track where they need to be sent.¬† We have a 20‑unit fleet and a number of units deployed will be dependent on the track size.¬† The system is contained in a specially‑equipped Toyota Tundra.¬† Thanks to Toyota for their support on the project.¬† Much appreciated.¬† Also supported by the Elgin vacuum sweeper.
Now, as far as a few of the details, the air coming out of the blower is about 550 miles an hour.  The system features 3.3 times as much blade capacity as our prior system, and it delivered about 2.6 times the air volume.  We raised the temperature approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit over the ambient or surrounding air, and we're reducing the drying time somewhere between 25 to 50 percent depending on the ambient temperatures that we face.
It consumes 78 percent less fuel per hour, and when you combine that with the reduced drying time, we actually are reducing fuel consumption on a drying cycle by about 91 percent.  We're emitting 80 percent less CO2, and when you combine that the shortened drying cycle, we're reducing CO2 by about 92 percent per drying cycle.
The system also reduces our logistics set up and operating cost by about 75 percent, and we do have the ability to tune the pressure by varying the rpm and the blade gap to dial the thing in.¬† We'll be doing that as we learn.¬† We travel the system at about two‑and‑a‑half to five mph, depending on the conditions, but we do have the ability to quickly deploy the trucks up to 20 mph to get to certain areas on the track to target zones.
And finally, they operate for about four‑and‑a‑half to five hours on a full load of fuel.¬† Those are some of the specs and some of the details on the system.¬† We're very excited, and our ideal world they would never see the track, but unfortunately we have to get them out there once in a while, and we'll see how it goes.¬† Now I'm going to turn it over to Dr.Mike Lynch.
DR. MICHAEL LYNCH:  Thanks, Gene.  Just to start, I can't congratulate Gene Stefanyshyn and the R&D team that worked on this, imagine being asked by the chairman of your company to go to battle with mother nature, win that battle, and continuously improve over time in a way that they've done, and do it greener and in a way that integrates partners that's completely along the lines of the history of how we've built the NASCAR Green platform.
The integration led by Gene and the team of Toyota technology, of Elgin Sweeper Company, now the newest member of the 20‑plus NASCAR Green partner family, and also Sunoco Green E‑15, which is part of the green steps forward here.¬† When Gene talks about numbers that are 25 percent to 50 percent faster, 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, these are the kind of numbers and targets that major companies like these partners aspire to in their operations like when Toyota has‑‑ they built those Tundra engines at a zero‑landfill plant, so green goes all the way back through the supply chain for us in a situation like this.
But what they've accomplished in terms of consuming now per hour, about 5 gallons of Sunoco Green E‑15 to dry the track per hour versus 50 gallons of diesel previously per hour, that's a major step forward from green standpoint and involving our partners the way it has, built on the innovation and the design of Gene and his team, is just something that's remarkable.¬† Welcome to Elgin, and we're looking forward to a very productive partnership with you in our 20‑plus family of NASCAR Green partners, and I just thank everyone for all of the attention on green around this as well, and we'll talk a little bit more about that at a separate event.
DAVID HIGDON:  Thank you, guys.  I did want to acknowledge a couple guys from Elgin who joined us, James Crockett and Jeff Miles, also we have Paul Doleshal from Toyota.  Good to see you, Paul.  Appreciate the help and support.  Gene, if you could just answer a quick question about how the Elgin sweepers work.  I saw it on the video, but explain a little bit about how that actual system works.
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  Yeah, the Elgin sweepers, our plan is to deploy them around as we push the water down to the middle of the track, they'll be going around the inside circumference of the track, they'll be sucking up the water and we'll be disposing of the water so it's really a way to get the water off the track in that area as we get into the flats.
DAVID HIGDON:  You mentioned differences between tracks.  What do you have here this weekend?
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  This weekend for equipment we have eight Air Titan 2s.  We have four jet dryers, and we have the Elgin sweeper, and that's the equipment we'll have on the track.  The eight Air Titan 2s will be two gangs of four, is what we're thinking, and we'll have them 180 degrees apart from each other, so as they do one rotation of the track, they will have essentially covered it twice, so in half a track length we've got the track done once.  So that's kind of our operating mode as we go into this.

Q.  Two quick questions:  Are other sports entities getting interested in this?  And secondly, what does it do to the racetrack?  Have you done any research on whether it sucks the racetrack up?

STEVE O'DONNELL:  I'll let Gene take the second one, but on the first one, we're concentrating right now on where we run our national series races, and what I can tell you is as other sports, particularly other motorsports, have seen this deployed and now see the Air Titan 2, there has been a lot of interest candidly from other forms of sports, particularly motorsports, but right now we're concentrating on making sure we get it right, which we will, throughout all of our national series tracks, but down the road certainly there's going to be an option with the folks at our R & D Center to deploy this to other forms of motorsport particularly and then beyond that there's certainly a number of applications we're looking at.
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, the Air Titan 1 was a high pressure, this is low pressure.  We've gone from approximately 85 psi down to this system running 5 to 10 psi.  We have no concerns about the track.  We actually tested Air Titan 1 at the higher pressure and we had no issue, so definitely this is far below that pressure, so we're okay there we believe.

Q.  Curious as far as the water that is being picked up on the inside of the track.  When you say it's disposed of, are you putting it in some kind of reclamation project to be used for irrigation or something or is it being dumped into the storm system?
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  Okay, so the water will be taken and dumped, but it'll be filtered for any larger debris and disposed of that way.

Q.  Right now how much quicker do you expect track drying to be compared to before Air Titan came out, and what is your estimated time for track drying this weekend?
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  Yeah, from Air Titan 1 to Air Titan 2, we're forecasting somewhere between a 25 to 50 percent improvement, and of course a lot of this depends on the atmospheric conditions.  If we get a situation where it rains and we get a lot of sun and the air gets pretty dry, it all comes down to the dew point in the air.  It'll happen fairly quickly.  If we end up fairly cloudy with a very, very damp air it's going to take longer.  It'll depend on the conditions, and that's why we're kind of saying 25 to 50.  But if we have good conditions we'll get it done in half the time.  If conditions are a bit difficult maybe we get a 25 percent reduction, so that's what we're kind of looking at in time.

Q.¬† For Gene, to kind of follow up on what you said about the dew point, how much does actual air temperature affect the drying?¬† Last year I believe the Air Titan on Friday morning the temperatures were close to freezing and they kind of struggled.¬† And for Steve, do you see down the road on the oval tracks, maybe the grass‑roots level, maybe something like this being introduced?
GENE STEFANYSHYN:¬† As far as we can talk about what the Air Titan 2 does, but then we can talk about the atmospheric conditions we live in.¬† Obviously dew point, the lower the better.¬† That means we have dry air over the track which can suck up the water molecules from the track surface.¬† Ambient temperature, higher is better, also, and wind, the more wind there is, that's better.¬† So if we get in a situation where we have a very low dew point, high temperatures with a lot of wind, nature is helping us a lot.¬† If we get in a situation where all those things are going against us, we don't have as much help from nature.¬† So that's kind of‑‑ but yes, temperature, higher is better.¬† We are with the Air Titan 2 raising the temperature, the ambient temperature by about 70 degrees Fahrenheit from the air we're taking into the system and sending out.¬† So that will be a bit of a benefit for us, also.
STEVE O'DONNELL:¬† On the short track, that's a great question, and one of the things when we rolled out the Air Titan 1, one of the push‑backs, a fair one because we said that was the first version, was the expense of it, particularly the expense to power it up, the generators that were required.¬† As you look to the Air Titan 2 version being self‑contained, still some work to do, this is by no means our final finished product out there, but you'll be able to see even with one unit out there it gives is that flexibility now that if you're at Langley Speedway, you now have that option.¬† Once we get this to where it's easy to put out and make available to the tracks where a Langley could very easily have one themselves, could share it between some local short tracks, and as we all know in the short track industry, same at Cup, devastating for a rain‑out, so anything that gives them the ability with the price point that they feel like makes sense, which we really believe this is a game changer, we're going to certainly chase that quickly for them.

Q.  Steve, could you clarify at a track this short the difference between the Air Titan 2 and 1.0 and how you're able to manage that from deploying these trucks and the size of the trucks and how much easier it is?
STEVE O'DONNELL:  Yeah, that's particularly what I was talking about with the generators.  You saw the hoses and generators going around.  If Langley Speedway called up I think it's a pretty quick answer, this isn't going to work even logistically, and if you look at particularly Martinsville is a great example.  These tracks having the flexibility of the trucks being able to maneuver around, as Gene mentioned before you can deploy one to pit road, you can have four up on the track.  Smaller tracks it gives you a lot of flexibility, drag racing down the road; there's a lot of different options you can look at with this.

Q.  Just to follow up, just curious what you guys are going to do with the Air Titan 1, and what was the first track the Air Titan 2 was tested at?
GENE STEFANYSHYN:  Air Titan 1, we will continue to use that.  We've reserved that capacity to work on track conditioning, and we'll do that through the rest of the year and then we'll assess whether we've improved the racing.  We're trying to get more wider tracks for the drivers and improving the friction of tracks, so that's that.
And then as far as we tested Air Titan 2, we actually were at Charlotte with three units, and we were there for six hours running them.¬† We did other testing, but that was kind of the culmination of all of the final putting it together.¬† We did some testing in our parking lot, and we went to‑‑ there was some early testing where we want to tracks with fairly big banks. ¬†We wanted to make sure we would be able to maneuver that, so yeah, there was probably four or five tests, but the last one was a culmination at Charlotte.

Q.  Steve, considering you may have to use it today, how much sunlight would you need to have for qualifying?  Would you need 30 minutes or would you need an hour?
STEVE O'DONNELL:¬† That's a good question.¬† I think we would look at‑‑ we'd only start it with the notion that we could get the full qualifying session in, very similar to the race.¬† We would not say, hey, we've got 10 minutes, let's go.¬† If that happened obviously and we got the first session in, that would count, but we would only starting knowing that we had the full amount of time.

Q.  Steve, can you go back, I remember when we first heard of Air Titan and there was some skepticism because we never heard that terminology before, but I remember how Brian France was on a mission this was going to happen and he commissioned you guys to get this done.  Where that seed came from and that determination to make this happen and now we're in the second stage of it?
STEVE O'DONNELL:¬† Yeah, I think Brian really pushed this, and there was a lot of skepticism, candidly.¬† Dr.Lynch next to me, it's very similar to our green program.¬† Brian was the visionary on that, as well, and we got a lot of push‑back in terms of NASCAR Green and you can see where that is today, and Mike is going to talk about that more this afternoon.¬† So when you talk about drying the track, obviously we'd rather talk about the racing product.¬† Ultimately that's what fans care about.¬† But when you look at the impact of a rain‑out to the fans, to our broadcast partners, to the tracks, it's devastating.¬† The costs are huge, the story lines, all the media here, Jeff Gordon's win was a great example, the Daytona 500, being able to talk about that.¬† So when you look at all those things and all of our partners and everyone that was affected, it's a big deal.
The skepticism comes when, well, we can have the jet dryers, is it really that big a deal, we can dry it, and it's fair for tracks to have pushed back.  It was costly on our first initiative.  We were learning as we went.  But I think more and more the tracks have bought in.  They've seen the potential here.  They've seen what's happened.
There's still a lot more work to do.  We're by no means at the finished product, but I think we feel confident, and when we look at the research from fans about their purchase intent for a ticket, knowing that the Air Titan was there, there was upwards of 50 percent, and I'm going to go.  That was a big deal for us to look at and keep pushing and keep driving, and when you look at the ability from a ratings standpoint, if you can get a 4.0 rating on a Sunday or a .7 on a Monday, that's big for the sport.  It's big for the sponsors and everybody in the room, for readership, for television.
And so all those things added up to really put us in a position to continue to push this, and then as Gene mentioned, our folks at the R & D Center, unbelievable work about how quickly they were able to deliver this, and then being able to pull it together as a company, bring partners together to embrace this, and it's really been a win‑win.
DAVID HIGDON:  Thank you, everyone, and also just want to welcome Elgin to the family.  Appreciate all the help that you've done and everyone else.  Thank you, Dr.Lynch, Gene and Steve.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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