SBJ/July 22-28, 2013/Idea Innovators
Published July 22, 2013, Page 23
After rain postponed the 2012 Daytona 500, Brian France directed the NASCAR Research and Development Center to develop a system to dry racetracks so the sport’s biggest race would never be delayed from Sunday again. He wanted to reduce the time spent drying a 2.5-mile track by 80 percent, to 30 minutes.
Mike Horton and several colleagues had an idea for it. They wondered if they could develop a compression system that blew rain down the banks of a racetrack and onto the apron, where it wouldn’t be an issue.
“We discovered the more water you can get off the asphalt the quicker it will dry,” Horton said.
Pushing the water off the track, they reasoned, would make jet dryers’ job of drying a track easier. They collaborated with Ring Power, a heavy equipment company that makes air compressors, and developed a system of compressors that could be pulled behind a pickup truck, blowing water to the apron. NASCAR contracted Elgin, a company that makes vacuum sweepers for cities, to provide vacuum trucks that could collect the water on the apron.
NASCAR named the device the Air Titan. Its use during a rain delay in May at Talladega helped reduce dry time by an hour.
Horton said one hour isn’t quite 80 percent, but “we’re still in phase one.”
“Our goal is 80 percent,” he said, “and I feel we can reach it.”