Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Fred Strohl (strohlhf@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Audio Spot: ORNL center aids NASCAR racing team

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., March 4, 2005 — Improving performance of NASCAR circuit race cars is possible through ongoing work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

ORNL scientist Tom Watkins said NASCAR's Richard Childress Racing team, which includes driver Kevin Harvick, received assistance on resolving a valve spring problem prior to last racing season.

"Richard Childress is very interested in cutting-edge materials science because it helps them go faster and race longer," Watkins said. "In the case of these valve springs, they got a set that was very good, and when they got set to reproduce those valve springs, they couldn't even come close."

Watkins said tests at ORNL's materials characterization facilities detected the problem and provided data to the manufacturer used in making necessary corrections.

"In the process of doing that, we removed the surface layer by electropolishing and a colleague of mine suggested we take a look at under the microscope, which we did," Watkins said. "We saw some features that looked a lot like cracks."

Harvick is expected to compete in the Food City 500 April 3 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn.

Harvick's car performance improved during the first half of last season. His engineers credit that improvement to work that was done at Oak Ridge.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.