NASCAR drivers prepping for Daytona 500 with Concord-made simulators

Sports

DAYTONA, FL. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The Ford Performance Technical Center in Concord holds two simulators with a lifelike cockpit in front of a wrap-around screen, powered by computers to provide a realistic racing experience.

“It’s far more realistic than even just an iRacing or video game, I mean you guys saw the motion and all that,” NASCAR program engineer of Ford Performance, Richard Johns said. “There’s a tremendous amount of work that has to go into moving all that and making it feel realistic right down to the feel of when they get on the break, the belts pull tight to give the driver the feeling that the car is decelerating,”

The simulators have been around since 2014, but are more important than ever in 2021, with little to no practice for the drivers at the track this season.

“There’s a lot of new tracks,” driver Joey Logano’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe says. “We look at the road course races. Those are areas where not only is it a good gain for the team side working on cars setups, and things like that but there’s where it’s really helpful for Joey. Just to learn all the corners on a road course where there’s so much different than anywhere we go where there’s so much breaking and shifting.

At first glance, you’d really think you are on board with Team Penske driver Logano hugging the corners on the Daytona road course.

“As you see, you have a screen that’s moving around, a car that’s shaking around, it is the ultimate video game, they don’t like it when I call it that!” Logano said. “But if you’re looking for fun in the simulation world this is pretty cool.

To help with the unpredictability of the tracks, you can adjust the conditions on the fly.

“You can change the weather, you can change a tire, you can add a ghost car, you can do things like that to try and mimic what it’s going to be like when you’re at the track,” Logano says.

All Ford drivers have access to the simulators, which are booked up from sun up to sundown.

“We’ll stay late, we’ll come in early, we’ll run overnight,” Johns said. “We do all that stuff because at the end of the day, we all just want to win races.”

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