Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

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Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Sun Oct 05, 2008 5:47 pm

Someone spun Harvick with about 25 to go and, by staying in the throttle, he did a real nice job of avoiding a more serious accident.

I've had an interesting question bugging me for a few days now: say you're driving in a 700hp car at 150+ on a track and you get turned around. Do you keep the car in gear as it's sliding backwards for a while, sideways for a while, circles for a while? Or do you put the car in neutral until the car decides or the driver helps it decide which direction it wants to travel?

I'm wondering if the stress applied to the car's drive train, as the road somewhat forces the wheels to spin in an unnatural direction while in gear, would be enough to damage things it spins in circles or skids sideways/backwards.

Although Harvick's "save" is unrelated to the post, it was intersting to see, and ultimately prompted the aforementioned question. I think it was almost as interesting as when Tony Stewart got knocked into the infield on the last lap of Daytona and drove right through it up onto the track and into victory lane. I couldn't believe the car held!

I'd like to apologize to my fellow Nascar fans for my lack of familiarity with golden nascar moments prior to the last few years.

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:36 pm

I noticed that certain driver's wheels are spinning "backwards" when they were careening across the infield, while others weren't.

I also noticed a previous post from Prodigal Son, who is a good contribution this forum, explaining that being in neutral allows all available traction to be dedicated to steering rather than forcing a comprimise between streeting and acceleration. But he also keenly mentioned that advanced use of the throttle will offer traction in places it wouldn't otherwise exist.

Therefore, it would seem to me that there's no definitive answer to this question, other than a circumstancial basis. However, with regard to component damage, is it at all possible to damage the drivetrain skidding backwards while in a "forwards gear"? I know the skidding force applied to the car from the road is probably nominal but a force still exists and so I wonder if this force, which is being applied to the drivetrain in the wrong direction, is enough to cause damage?

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by Nychold » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:44 pm

I was watching a road race a long while back, and heard an interesting little rhyme:

When in doubt, both feet out. (in other words, coast)
When in a spin, both feet in. (clutch and brakes, I'm assuming)

Not sure how true that is, but I can't imagine that continuing a spin would cause fewer accidents. NASCAR drivers don't have 360* vision, especially when their helmets practically bolted into position. There's not much chance for them to anticipate 42 other cars while in a spinning, tire-smoking car. He may have just been lucky.
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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:53 pm

Nychold wrote:NASCAR drivers don't have 360* vision, especially when their helmets practically bolted into position. There's not much chance for them to anticipate 42 other cars while in a spinning, tire-smoking car. He may have just been lucky.
Great point. Well taken.

However, his car dove to the bottom of the track, facing a direction perpendicular to the normal direction of travel, and it was on the verge of rolling/skiding backwards up into the wave of traffic. Harvick, to prevent the accident, stayed on the throttle and barely managed to drive down into the infield portion, thereby avoiding a catastrophy. In the end, it was one of the few circumstances where a driver had enough input to make a well informed decision about how he/she would avoid a larger accident.

As far as damage goes, and that's my main concern in the post, can spinning in gear (say backwards) cause damage to the car because the road wants to spin everything in a direction it was never intended to spin?
Last edited by gizmo on Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by Prodigal Son » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:54 pm

gizmo wrote:IBut he also keenly mentioned that advanced use of the throttle will offer traction in places it wouldn't otherwise exist.
Not quite. You can't create traction out of nothing. You can only make use of the available traction. You can increase the traction between the wheel and road by increasing the weight on that wheel. Accelerating transfers weight to the back of the car, thus giving the back wheels more traction and the front wheels less. This is why you can sometimes control a tail skid with more gas--it moves more weight to the back. The reverse is true under braking -- weight transfers to the front, which is why you can sometimes control under steer with the brakes.

Of course, this type of weight transfer only works if the drive wheels have enough grip to actually accelerate the car enough to transfer the weight. If a wheels is already not gripping, feeding power to it is not going to create acceleration and therefore is not going to create weight transfer. It is just going to make it even less likely that the tire will find enough grip to regain directional control. What works best on the track in summer and what works best on the street in winter, therefore, may be significantly different.

With racing slicks on a dry racetrack, there is an enormous amount of grip available for use by throttle manipulations. On a snow street, there is very little grip available, and the scope for powering out of skids is greatly reduced, and the danger of over-correcting is very high. Going to neutral is generally a safer and more reliable technique under those conditions.
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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by jomotopia » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:55 pm

i didn't see this spin, but generally in NASCAR they stay in the throttle when they spin not so much to stop or correct the spin, but to try and keep the car from going back up across the track in front of all the other cars.
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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:01 pm

I thank you for "correcting me".

But just to set the record straight: I chose the wording I did in a feeble attempt to avoid a prolix explanation and not because I thought traction can be manufactured. But I'm glad I stand corrected: I'd hate for someone to misinterpret that and start trying to throttle their way out of a black ice spin.

I'm still trying to derive a physical explanation/equation that would explain why staying on the throttle through an enbankment keeps the car in its intended line of travel, as opposed to laying off the throttle and creeping up the track.

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:07 pm

Right now, to answer my own question, I believe that in addition to transferring weight to the back wheels (thus allowing acceleration) I believe that acceleration pushes the car into the track, which because of its enbankment, has the capability of pushing back thereby offering traction to the front tires in a manner that flat road ordinarily wouldn't. How much so I cannot say until I create a simplistic physical model (neglecting the dynamics of the car). But I can tell you, with great zeal, that it is a ton of fun taking a turn on an enbankment because there's such a fine line between being out the blue and in the red, hitting your line or misplacing the car, keeping the car in shape or getting out of shape. And, obviously if done correctly, one can make great speed through a very sharp turn, if the turn is enbanked.

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by ra64t » Wed Oct 15, 2008 2:09 am

jomo is absolutely right in terms of spins on a speedway oval track. The reason braking or letting off the gas will send you into the outside wall is pretty simple to me, as you spin you aren't steering left anymore, your going streight, while the track is still turning!

if you spin on the street or on a road course it depends. You might want to lock up and hope you stop in a run off before you hit anything.
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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:13 pm

Somehow my question got lost: can spinning backwards in gear harm a car?

The rest of the original post was mainly noting my observation that drivers only seem to stay in gear when they're hoping to keep their car from skidding in a certain direction, while others seem to skid in neutral when it's clear their car's not going to hit anything.

I was wondering if drivers skid in neutral to avoid damaging the drivetrain. And if not for that reason then why?

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by 94Corolla5Speed » Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:20 pm

I think it can only hurt the tires; think of it this way: If a car is moving backwards, but the tires are spinning forwards, the clutch, drivetrain, and everything else is already connected since the tires are spinning and the drivetrain is not fighting the ground. Probably a weird choice of words, but I think you get the point. Basically it's just an amplified burnout.

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by Dirtracr95 » Sat Jan 17, 2009 7:12 am

From my experience racing stockcars you stay on the gas to keep the tires from flat spoting. If you let them flat spot your in the pits no matter what. If you keep them spinning they may wear down more but you can still run on them if you need to. If you find yourself sideways you dont hit the brakes. If your sideways in a RWD vehicle letting off a little might help depending on how bad the rear tires are spinning in relation to how fast your moving. If your going to recover its mostly going to be done with countersteering. When countersteering you get your front tires pointed in the right direction and make only very small adjustments based on how the car is reacting. If your sideways in a FWD vehicle then its much easier to recover from being sideways. You once again have to countersteer and make small adjustments based on how the car is reacting, but then instead of letting off the gas slightly you floor it and the front tires will help pull you straight.

If you are spinning you pretty much have to do the same thing but its much more difficult to time your countersteering and throttle to get out of it. While your spinning your using your countersteering and throttle to slow down your rotation. It takes alot of skill to time everything so that when you stop spinning your still going the direction you want to.

Practice makes you better. I am not going to tell you where to practice, but I'm sure you can find a place to learn how to countersteer and control your throttle inputs. You can be going sideways or spinning and be in control of your vehicle it just takes time to learn that control.

Hope this helps.

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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by theholycow » Sat Jan 17, 2009 8:09 am

Old bump, eh...
gizmo wrote:Somehow my question got lost: can spinning backwards in gear harm a car?
I think the question is the combination of:
Can spinning the engine backwards hurt it? (I suspect it would survive.)
Does all the torque involved in causing that break anything? (Probably would if you did it often.)

However, here's a more important issue to consider: Keeping the engine running. If you spin out, there are a few forces working to stall the engine. One is any backwards torque pushed through the drivetrain. Another is the sheer violence of being thrown around with G-forces in directions in which it wasn't designed to stay running.

I've done more than my share of spinning and stalling (mainly on purpose in controlled conditions, but a few times on the road). I know I've stalled engines while spinning out due to the former, and I think I've done it a couple times due to the latter.

You need the engine running so you can get out of danger if you've spun in a race or on the road. Don't put it in neutral, because you'll need a gear too. Stomp the clutch or the gas; if you stomp the clutch it's obvious why the road won't be able to stall the engine (and you may want to rev it up a little to help keep it running). If you stomp the gas (sans clutch) you'll keep the tires spinning forward (assuming you've got enough power) and that keeps the engine running...but with RWD that will make most spins much worse.
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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by comingbackdown » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:42 pm

It'd be nice to have Gary's input on this one.
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Re: Proper Technique: Spin Recovery? (Talledega Prompted)

Post by gizmo » Sat May 16, 2009 1:17 am

Darlington '09, Nextel Cup, Mike Waltrip's engine's bottom end explodes. Commentators wonder if, during an earlier spin, he had stalled the motor causing the engine to turn backwards while it was shut off. Mike had confirmed that he had not stalled the engine, nor had he overrevved it during the race, and therefore the bottom end just gave way like parts sometimes do.

So it's good to know that no matter what happens during a spin, keeping the engine running is paramount to surviving a survivable spin without additional worry of engine failure.

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