Apr 9, 2007
If I bought a new car and the inside of the passenger door started to smolder while I was simply driving it around, I think I'd get pretty upset. So, you can imagine what NASCAR Nextel Cup teams must be thinking right now, since some of their much-hailed Cars of Tomorrow are not just smokin' hot -- they're actually catching fire.
Kevin Harvick is the driver who has had the most recent bout of difficulties with his new racecar. During the race at Martinsville, the protective foam, supplied by Dow Automotive, caught fire and burned a hole on the inside of the car. Several drivers experienced similar, if not quite so profound, maladies during the first use of the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol.
NASCAR says it still has confidence in the Impaxx brand foam that is installed in the newly developed racecars as a safety measure. One wonders if its next safety measure will be the installation of gasoline showers over the drivers' heads to keep them cool during the mid-summer races.
For the smokin' foam the fix seems simple enough. The material is said to ignite at around 570 degrees, so one might guess that efforts to keep the interior of the racecar below 570 degrees are worthwhile first approaches to fixing the problem. NASCAR officials have suggested that its teams undertake proper installations of the safety foam to allow more air to circulate and thus keep it from bursting into flame. That, too, seems like a pretty good idea.
Since fumes from the melting form were said to have caused some of the NASCAR drivers to suffer headaches, there were some questions about the relative toxicity of the fumes. The good news on that front is that when burned, the fumes emitted are said to contain only trace amounts of toxicity. Hmmm. Not sure I want to fool with trace amounts of toxicity, but a Dow Automotive spokesperson tried to quell the fears by likening the fumes from the melting foam to something akin to a fire in your fireplace.
I don't know about you, but I don't think a fire in a fireplace in my car is a prospect that I'd feel very comfortable with. Something about the carbon monoxide concentrated in a confined space that I might find...well, deadly. But you have to hand it to the NASCAR Car of Tomorrow developers. They went the extra mile for their drivers by installing a soothing fireplace in the new vehicle. Now all they need is to pipe in soft music and offer glasses of wine and the drivers can really travel in style.
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