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Good Ol Boys Struggle When Computers Go Bad

Ray Evernham has given some interesting insight into why his teams have been so bad this year. A year ago they were one of the teams leading the way, with the most poles and wins for any tea, but this year they are nowhere. Kasey Khane and Elliot Sadler have struggled through the year, with them both in danger of falling out of the top 35 earlier on, while Scott Riggs has had a dismal season, being out of the top 35 for most of it.

“We were basing a lot of our decisions off information that was not correct,” said Evenrham.

At the heart of the problem is the simulation software that the team uses to test various things, including aerodynamics, without having to build models  and put the in the wind tunnel. Apparently the team used a pre-season test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the baseline for calibrating the software, and it has been found out recently that the data from that test was wrong, leading to the situation where the cars being built did not match the simulations on the track, in fact nowhere near it.

Evernham also admits that until very recently the cause of the problems was unknown by the team, and with Ray moving across to look after the business side of the team more and more, the results and performances of the team have just dropped through the floor.

“We basically have spent half a year trying to a build a foundation that didn’t exist. The information we had was nonexistent. We had to go back to doing things the normal way and throw cars in the wind tunnel to find out that there was a huge difference, and we didn’t have what we thought we had,” Evernham said.

“It’s got us far behind. Everything we did this year basically with the ’07 cars is useless.”

As a stop gap measure Evernham has acted quickly as soon as the cause was known. He has  put technical director Eric Warren on leave, and Evernham himself has stepped back into the engineering team in order to get things back on track. He has decided to just drop everything they have done this year, pull the plug on the computers for the time being, and go back to exactly what they were doing lat year, including wheeling out the setups and other things they used in last years successful campaign.

“In the end, when you have people who are responsible for performance, and the performance is way off, you have to make changes with those people,” Evernham said. “We had to face some difficult changes. Sometimes those things don’t go the way people want them to. But ultimately, aerodynamically and simulation-wise were the responsibility of the engineering department, and that was led by Eric Warren. If you’re a football coach or a college coach and the team is losing, ultimately you have to make changes in the areas of responsibility.”

“Quite honestly, the bottom line is we said that I was going to stand back a little bit and get involved in more business and concentrate on that,” Evernham said. “I handed the competition off a little bit, and we basically got off of our philosophy. We didn’t implement our checks and balances as we had been.”

It’s almost unthinkable that this could happen to a top team like this, but as we have seen the tools and technology used by the teams continue to develop it can and does happen. Sometimes the teams will rely on new technology a little too much, dropping all their past checks and balances. We should see an immediate upswing in the fortunes of the 9, 10 and 19 cars, however if we don’t I wonder where Evernham will look next.

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