NASA Podcasts

Runway to Racetruck: NASA Hosts NASCAR Team
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NARRATOR: From space shuttles coming back home to astronauts making training and weather reconnaissance flights, the Shuttle Landing Facility normally sees some of the fastest craft on wings.

Recently, it hosted one of the fastest vehicles on wheels as NASCAR's Joe Gibbs Racing team used the stretch to evaluate its car.

Dan Olson, Aerodynamic Engineer,
Joe Gibbs Racing: This is, this is our first time testing at the SLF here at the Kennedy Space Center and it's really been a nice facility so far for us to use.

Matt DiBenedetto
Driver, Joe Gibbs Racing: I never thought I'd get lucky enough to come out and be able to use the Kennedy Space Center runway.You know, a lot of history with the shuttle landing here and all that.

NARRATOR: DiBenedetto drove a car just like the ones raced at superspeedways such as Daytona and Talladega. Capable of speeds above 200 mph, the cars top out at about 230 mph, the same speed as the shuttle when it touches down.

OLSON: Today we're doing coast down testing, so we'll have the driver go out, accelerate to 205 mph, he'll coast down, he'll put it in neutral and coast all the way down to 150 then he'll accelerate again back up to 205, coast down to 150, turn around at the end and repeat that two more times as he comes back. We'll have him do three loops of that so we'll actually get 12 coasts per outing and then we're able to take that data and, from the coast segments, analyze the drag and downforce on the vehicle.

NARRATOR: The three-mile-long runway at Kennedy is one of the longest in the world. It also is flatter than many other testing grounds for high-performance vehicles.

DIBENEDETTO: Obviously with the runway being so long, it opens up to a lot of things we could do for testing.

NARRATOR: The results of the testing could show on the race track in short order.

DIBENEDETTO: If it's something good, it could be transferred as close as next week and as far as next year.

NARRATOR: Although the Joe Gibbs crew is used to being the spotlight, some would also like to see the runway's main star.

OLSON: I'd love to see a shuttle land here, too.

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