If Speedweeks is delayed by rain, NASCAR is planning that those delays are a fraction of what they were last year. On Tuesday, the sanctioning body introduced its new system to dry tracks called the Air Titan, saying that the system can dry a track in considerably less time than the jet dryers that have been in use.
NASCAR Senior VP of Operations Steve O'Donnell said that the Air Titan eventually can cut drying time up to 80 percent. How? We'll let him explain:
"A quick description of how it works: We'll have basically two sets of identical equipment on opposite sides of the track that will move in the same direction and do one complete pass of the racetrack, and the system basically works by having compressors feed air at a high rate of speed through a hose to the Air Titan modules, and the Air Titan is able to blow air in narrow, highly pressurized sheets over the race surface down onto the apron, and then on the apron we've got a regenerative air vacuum truck, which obviously absorbs the water provided by Elgin, and then we'll have jet dryers behind each cycle, we'll have five of those, that will move at a rate of speed at approximately 3 to 5 miles per hour, important for them to maintain a consistent speed."
With the traditional jet drying system, it takes approximately 2.5 hours to dry Daytona International Speedway. Last year's Daytona 500 was plagued by rain and misty conditions and delayed until Monday evening. However, given the near-constant weather that plagued all of that Sunday and most of Monday, the new Air Titan system likely would not have been able to make an impact if it was in use last year.
Eight dryers will be available for use at Daytona, and they can rest easy that they won't have to worry about Juan Pablo Montoya or any other driver getting in the way while they're on the track, as O'Donnell said that they will not be on the track at the same time cars are. During last year's 500, a part on Montoya's car broke under caution and he crashed into a jet dryer in turn three.
The standard jet dryer sat on the edge of the bed of a truck or on a trailer and blasted hot air via a jet engine onto the track. With the Air Titan, a truck with the compressors will be located on the apron and the air is fed via hoses to a truck on the banking with box-like trailer attachments on the back to spray the sheets of air straight down to the track to force the water to the apron, which will be vacuumed up by a vacuum truck. Don't worry, the jet dryers aren't going anywhere. They will still be in use to help blow debris off the track during cautions.
The Air Titan's rollout for the rest of the season for tracks on the rest of the NASCAR schedule is to be determined.