Ryan Newman Battles the Heat


Grainger Editorial Staff

Posted: 3/13/18


For NASCAR driver Ryan Newman and his team, heat stress is a factor almost every Sunday. “It will be 125-130 degrees inside the car at some point in every race,” Ryan says. “It’s usually intense, no matter what.”

In the late summer, a combination of soaring track temps, intense sunlight, and waste heat from the racecar’s brakes can push temperatures inside to well over 100 degrees. “Sometimes it's a challenge to get your breathing right,” Ryan tells us. “If you’ve ever been super sick, when you get a fever over 104, you get the chills, and your body starts to try to shut down. You don't want to get into that situation when you're trying to compete.”

Battling the Heat

Ryan uses a variety of techniques to beat the heat. “You have to do a lot of different things as a driver,” he says. He uses breathing exercises that “pump air into you to keep your body cooled off. ” Hydration is also key. “I hydrate well before the race and during the race. Sometimes, I'll actually drink a little bit, and then just let it run down out of my chin, and run down across my chest, and try to cool me off a little bit.”

He also takes advantage of technological cooling aids inside the car. A false floorboard provides an air gap that separates Ryan’s feet from the red-hot exhaust manifold, and a ventilation system forces fresh air through his helmet. To keep his feet from burning on the car’s metal floor, Ryan sticks band-aids onto his heels before every race. “That floorboard is probably 140 degrees. It doesn't take long to burn you.”

The crew faces a separate set of challenges on hot weekends. “We’re working in concrete garages that have very slow moving air,” Crew Chief Luke Lambert tells us, “and in the middle of summer, it feels like working inside a pottery kiln. For the crew guys putting in long days, it’s a tough environment.”

During the race, the crew has to bundle up in fire-resistant Nomex, intensifying the heat stress. “Once you get the firesuit on, you get that sweat layer built up,” Luke says. “In the battle of the race, you don't really focus on the fact that you're wearing long sleeve, triple layer suits. It fades into the background, and it’s easy when you're working to lose track of your body's needs for electrolytes and for water.”

Winning the Mind Game

The intense heat can take a toll, sapping the crew’s focus. “The physical stress just adds to your mental fatigue,” Luke says. “When your body is stressed and wearing out from physical demands, that can draw your focus away from what you're trying to do.”

Inside the car, Ryan faces a physical, mental, and sometimes emotional battle with the heat. “When your body starts to physically get hot,” he says, “you start thinking about it, and then emotionally, you can start to break down. You have to be mentally strong, physically strong, and emotionally strong to be able to tackle a hot summer day in a race car.”



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