BRISTOL, Tenn.—- Is sharing always a good thing?
Not necessarily, say NASCAR drivers, particularly when it comes to sharing computer data gathered by the electronic fuel injection systems that are new to the Sprint Cup Series this year.
Drivers wouldn’t mind seeing data from other teams, but they’re also worried that an open-book policy with EFI might reveal some of their trade secrets.
“I’d rather not have that,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, when asked about sharing the EFI data. “It would benefit to be able to see that, but I think it’s a slippery slope. With the fuel injection, it brings in the ability this year to be able to see data that we’ve never been able to see before.
“I think we should ease into how we use that data and how NASCAR allows us to use that data kind of slowly — not to upset the culture of the sport, or how things work in the past. I think if we take this new door that has been opened to us and abuse it, it might not be good for the sport. I think it’s better for competition for everybody to have a few secrets.”
There are two opposing traditions at play. NASCAR crew chiefs and their teams work hard to find anything that might give them a slight edge over the competition and are loath to share that information with others.
On the other hand, NASCAR has always maintained an open garage. Opposing teams work side-by-side in close quarters in garage stalls that are anything but private. After a race, NASCAR officials will lay out springs and shocks from various teams in public view, so that others can see what combinations their competitors have been using.
Sprint Cup Series director John Darby has said that there will be sharing of EFI data this season, but NASCAR hasn’t determined how detailed the information will be. Tony Stewart, for one, wouldn’t want other drivers to see the combination of technique and equipment that allowed the reigning champion to beat them so badly on restarts last Sunday at Las Vegas.
Carl Edwards, on the other hand, would love to see Stewart’s data but not at the price of revealing his own.
“So they want to see throttle position?” Edwards asked Friday during a tongue-in-cheek response Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I’d like to see that, too. We should get to see his, but they shouldn’t see ours.
“As long as I’m looking at somebody else’s, I’m in favor of it. I haven’t looked at the EFI data, but any time you can look at someone’s throttle position, it’s good, I think. You can gather a lot from it.”
Greg Biffle, Edwards’ teammate, thinks there’s a workable middle ground.
“I would embrace the idea of some of the data,” said Cup points leader, who won the pole for Sunday’s Food City 500. “Maybe they let us see the throttle trace and the braking or something like that. As far as letting all the teams have an open notebook on all the engine data, that’s probably going a little too far, in my opinion.
“These guys spend hours and hours and lots and lots of time and effort —- and that’s part of competition —- to get their mousetrap better than everybody else’s. When you make all that public, then that work is in vain… Maybe we could learn a little bit from that, but going into all the engine data, I don’t know that that is the right thing to do for our sport.”