Last year’s Daytona 500 debacle that saw a dangerous and bizarre equipment crash coupled with too lengthy a delay might be a thing of the past. According to officials at NASCAR, a diesel powered air pressure system will blow off water up to five times as fast as the current jet powered track dryers. In other words, a two-and-half hour delay watching jet dryers slowly dry up a wet track will now take no more than 30 minutes (source – ESPN).
According to Steve O’Donnell, who is NASCAR Senior Vice President for Race Operations, the extensive system will be used when no cars are on the track:
“The good news with this new innovation is it will really improve safety. There won't be any cars on the track during the track-drying process, so we can avoid what happened in the past.”
The new Air Titan equipment will be used at Daytona International Speedway but beyond that, it is a question as whether or when it will be used again. Tracks not owned by NASCAR and the France family will have to purchase these new innovative machines. Also, testing has been limited so there are still unknowns on how efficient the Air Titans will be.
The debut at Daytona will be a welcome site after last year's premier event was delayed for the first time from Sunday into the wee hours of Tuesday morning. The explosion from Juan Montoya's car hitting the jet dryer is a site no one wants to see again.
There's no time-frame as to when the new equipment will roll out to other tracks. The goal is to replace the jet dryers completely. It’s expected that NASCAR, who owns the patent, would like to see how the machines work before committing to rolling out the rest of the new innovative Air Titan system. In other words, many tweaks remain before the ground-breaking track drying machines are ready for regular duty. Also, due to the size of the equipment, logistics need to be worked out as to how to move these apparatus' from track to track.
It’s been argued that the system will be more environmentally sound because the Air Titan burns nearly one-tenth of the fuel that the jet dryer burns. However, the Air Titan uses dirtier diesel fuel (debatably a low-grade gasoline) rather than the cleaner jet fuel. Arguments can be made on both sides but regardless, convenience and safety wise, certainly not having as much fuel to burn will reduce concerns like they had after last year’s fire.
They only started on the project early last summer but NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. is effectively responsible for designing the new system and having it ready by the Daytona 500.