posted on Jun, 16 2004 @ 08:30 PM
thought this was an interesting perspective on the big one at dover
The cost of crashing in Nextel Cup racing
By Ron Lemasters, Special to Turner Sports Interactive June 16, 2004
1:18 PM EDT (1718 GMT)
Consider the damage done to the 43-car starting field a couple of weeks ago at Dover International Speedway. In one crash, 18 cars were either totally
or partially damaged in a melee more reminiscent of Talladega or Daytona than the Monster Mile.
Taking into account what that accident meant to those involved in terms of championship point standings, it was a costly crackup. Considering what it
meant to the individual teams in terms of cost of repair or loss, the numbers resemble the GNP of a small country.
According to team sources, estimates range from $3 million to $7 million for the cost of the race cars themselves. There were no injuries, except to
pride and championship aspirations, so the human cost was thankfully nil.
Some assumptions are in order. Depending on the number of cars each team has, the loss of a single racer can represent a significant portion of each
team's annual budget for cars. Of course, factoring in the salvage of pieces and parts unaffected by the crash — chances are a team can save some
— the total hit is not as big as it otherwise could have been.
Also, add in the fact that Dover usually requires a "concrete" car — one specially built to race on concrete tracks like Dover and Bristol. The loss
of one of these cars represents a 50 percent loss of inventory, compared to a crash at say, Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is an intermediate track. The
majority of cars are built to race on tracks of one to two miles in length, so losing one of those is much less costly, percentage-wise.
Biffle's damaged car at Dover
A Nextel Cup stock car has a body formed out of sheet steel panel — sheetmetal. The cost for sheet steel is relatively low, at least compared to the
carbon fiber skins on Indy Cars, so the replacement of body panels is fairly routine. Still, a flurry of crashed race cars not only stresses the fab
shop in terms of human cost; it also stresses the budget.
The chassis typically is the most affected by a crash such as the one at Dover. In cases where just one end of the car is hurt, teams can simply cut
away the damaged "clip," and replace it with another, welding it in place. In the Dover crash, hardly any cars drove away, and those that didn't
likely sustained damage on the front and rear clips as well as the center section, which is the foundation of the chassis. When all three sections are
damaged, it is just as likely that the car will be retired and a new one substituted.
Johnson suffered major damage at Dover
Here lies the biggest cost of crashing. Engines cost a lot, and heavy damage to the front can and does break them. The engine program for each team
— Richard Childress, Hendrick, DEI, Joe Gibbs, Robert Yates/Jack Roush and PPI, among others, build their own, while other teams lease from them or
from other engine houses — consumes a ton of cash, and not just for technology. True, teams do spend a lot on CNC machines to build their own
cylinder heads, etc., and there's a lot of cost in inventory as well. Added to this is human cost. It takes a fairly big crew to man the engine bays,
and they all cost money too.
There are any number of components that can be damaged in a crash, from wheels and suspension pieces to brakes and even the driver's seat. A
relatively new development in terms of safety is a carbon-fiber seat. Damage one of these $10,000 beauties, and it's generally a loss. Add it all up,
and it's some serious money.
If you apply some simple math, the cost of the 18-car crash at Dover was $277,777 per car. That's assuming that the real cost of the crash was $5
million, the midpoint of the estimates. That's also assuming that all 18 cars had to be replaced, which is unlikely.
Mears took his car to the garage for repairs following a wreck at Dover
The actual cost of repairing a crash is fluid, given the fact that all crashes are not the same, there are different technical capabilities among the
teams and that most teams are fairly close-mouthed about costs in the first place.
Now assume that a crash in which a car is totaled costs a team $250,000 in real value, and then count how many cars are crashed heavily, and you'll
have an idea how much it costs to fix a mistake.
Next time you see a car hit the wall or another car and limp back around to the pits, keep in mind that each system damaged has a cost to replace or
repair. The real costly crashes are the ones that don't come back around