NASCAR Builds A 180mph Treadmill
NASCAR teams rely on having the fastest car on the track, which takes long hours of reviewing diagnostics and performance data. So how do you gather data when your target is traveling over 180mph? With a really big treadmill, of course.
It may sound crazy, but it makes perfect sense. To get performance data from cars, you need a bunch of sensors. If you put sensors on the car, you add weight and in some cases, decrease aerodynamic properties. Not to mention imperfections in the road and interference from the surroundings. So whats a performance analyst to do? Enter NACARS's massive treadmill.
The supersized piece of fitness equipment, owned by WindShear Inc, is currently housed in Concord, North Carolina. When in use, a two-story-high 5100 horsepower fan provides 180mph winds to simulate track conditions. Under the car is a 1 millimeter thick steel belt that can accelerate from 0 to 180mph in less than 60 seconds and come back to 0 in less than 10 seconds. The belt is 10.5ft. wide, 29.5ft. long and must be replaced every 5000 operating hours. For safety reasons, the vehicle is driverless and remains strapped in place by heavy duty tethers.
Beneath the steel belt are four sensors, one under each wheel. As the car accelerates or decelerates, they can mesure the individual and overall amount of down-force being applied to the car. This is critical when it comes to making one of the many high speed left hand turns. From the pictures, it looks like may also be able to mimic slightly uneven road surfaces.
And as with all technology, it comes a price. The owner, Gene Haas, charges a rental fee: A mere $4000 per hour.