LEBANON, Tennessee – Kyle Larson On Sunday, he’ll carry six extra pounds in his No. 5 Chevy, but it’s worth every ounce of cool comfort from the Nashville Superspeedway heat.
Temperatures hover around 100 degrees this weekend in the second race of the NASCAR Cup Series on the 1.33-mile concrete track. Larson has been surviving the heat in Nashville since convincing crew chief Cliff Daniels last month to let him use a cool new suit he tried out during a brisk test at Roval last year.
“I was in it and it was freezing,” Larson said. “So yeah, I talked (Daniels) into putting him in my car all year. It’s about 6 pounds heavier than what we had before, but crew chiefs are worried about 6 pounds for a 3,500 pound machine. He didn’t want to put it in, but it started to heat up and I couldn’t feel anything from my old system.
“I was able to get him to do it, and it was great.”
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Even without Daniels (who is starting a four-race suspension in Nashville), Larson was in good spirits. about the chances to defend your victory at last year’s first event and appeared to be completely unaffected on Friday by the scorching heat after an hour-long workout.
Many other drivers entered the media center with bright red faces and tangled hair from sitting in the Next Gen vehicle, which had severe airflow problems during testing last fall. NASCAR made changes to the windshield ducting and exhaust systems that at least made it bearable.
“If we didn’t have it, no one would be doing it now.” Joey Logano said.
However, it wasn’t like he’d just turned on the air conditioning in his No. 22 Ford Mustang.
“It’s like standing in front of a hair dryer,” Logano said. “But it’s better than nothing.
Sunday’s Cup race will be 300 laps, about 40 percent longer than Saturday’s 188 lap Xfinity race, which was run in the mid-90s and ended with some riders heading to the fluid service center.
The scene is likely to be similar to Cup Sunday, although many riders are battling the heat. with “cool suits” in which cold water circulates through a series of hoses.
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Logano wore one of the jerseys for the first time at Sonoma Raceway and “Now I’m spoiled and never want to give it up. This is amazing”.
Denny Hamlin, who will start from pole after a rain-shortened qualifying session on Saturdaysaid he’ll be wearing a cool suit for the first time this season in Nashville because “why not take advantage of the luxury if you have it,” but racer Joe Gibbs isn’t planning any extra training beyond his usual hydration routines.
“Usually I don’t fight the heat as much as the other guys,” he said. “I do not know why. Maybe because I’ve been doing this for ten years longer than most of them, but I don’t fight the heat that much. … But for some it will be a factor (Sunday) for sure.”
Logano said he is focused on training outdoors on the tarmac, but also believes most Cup drivers are in good shape with three hours of training in racing conditions virtually every week (Nashville will start a stretch of 20 consecutive race weekends to finish season 2022).
“The biggest thing that the heat does is that I feel like it really limits your reaction time, your ability to think quickly, and then mistakes happen,” he said. “After all, you have to be the best.”
Chase Elliott also uses cool costumes, but also relies on the power of positive thinking
“Just embrace the heat, be warm, and tell yourself, ‘It’s cold,’” Elliott said. “That’s all you can do. There are a lot of options, but I think accepting it and telling yourself it’s not cool is the best thing you can do.”
“I don’t think anyone is immune from this. I think we should all remember this. And we’re getting into it in these hot months with this car for the first time. If you see that the temperature is much higher than we have for the last three or four years, I think we should solve this problem.”
Larson joked several times that he should “get a cut of the sales” for evangelizing the new Chillout system he’s using. It connects to his badass suit just like the previous system, but is more efficient with Next Gen.
“It’s just a different brand of what I had last year, but it’s very good,” Larson said. “What we used last year worked very well then, but these machines are much hotter, so I needed the internal temperature more. I would turn it on and feel nothing. So we’ve switched to this new system and it’s really good. I highly recommend him to all teams.
“The heat may be a factor (Sunday) for some drivers who may not have the cooling that I have. I don’t worry about it. I feel like we did a really good job with our cars to please me. I know Cliff doesn’t like it because it’s a heavier system, but I feel great in the car.”
Larson also has the advantage of extra fitness through extra-curricular off-road racing. Next week, he’ll be racing sprint cars every night in Pennsylvania ahead of the July 3 race at Road America.
“I will do my best to stay hydrated and it has never bitten me, but being in the sun and racing as often as I do helps me condition,” he said. “I’m young and that helps too. And I’m skinny.”