In nearly every form of motorsports, the focus seems to be on speed and horsepower. True, the fastest cars are often the victors, but any driver will tell you that lap times are just as equally affected by the car’s ability to brake as it is the car’s ability to accelerate. Races can be won or lost in the turns and a car that can brake well may just beat the one with more ponies under the hood.
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NASCAR brakes are different, depending on the track and type of race being run.
We contacted several brake manufacturers to learn more about what is involved in designing braking systems and friction formulations, as well as to pick up some tips we could use in the shop. The companies represented are recognized leaders in the industry, both as OE and aftermarket suppliers of braking system products.
Brembo boasts a long and proud racing tradition, starting back in 1975 when Enzo Ferrari assigned the task of outfitting his Formula 1 car with a high-performance braking system. Since then, Brembo-equipped cars have racked up more than 200 world championships, including Formula 1 and NASCAR. In addition, Brembo braking systems have been fitted to the winners of 21 (out of the last 24) 24 Hours of Le Mans events and were the brake system of choice on the 2012 Indy 500 winner. According to one Brembo representative, “The research and development performed for racing allows Brembo to apply the newest technology to street vehicles; technology that has already been tested and validated by the highest levels of racing.”
Brembo F1 calipers start off life as a solid piece of aluminum and are then machined to form the caliper.
Raybestos (an Affinia brand) is known for its involvement in NASCAR, where the stopping challenges vary dramatically. Cars running the long ovals will rarely use the brakes while the same cars competing on the short tracks and road courses will rely heavily on the braking system to give them that competitive edge. Wally Marciniak, director of technical services for Brake Parts, Inc. says, “Product selection changes between different race tracks. We research and supply different formulations to meet the (differing) demands. In many cases, we take race proven designs and incorporate them into products used for everyday.”
Honeywell Friction Materials (the company behind Bendix braking components) has its ties to drag racing, currently sponsoring Clay Millican, driver of the Parts Plus Top Fuel car.
And our last, but certainly not least, source represents a global leader as both an OE supplier and aftermarket brand, Federal-Mogul (parent of the Wagner brand).