NASA engineer and supermodified driver Mike McVetta took his homebuilt car to Aerodyn Wind Tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina. Despite winning the 2023 ISMA/MSS championship, he wanted to find ways to go even faster.
“Bringing my car to a wind tunnel is something I have never done but have always wanted to do to understand what aero does to the car,” McVetta, of Medina, Ohio, said. “Being an engineer, I love data — the more data the better.”
Data can help with understanding. He questioned why a “ratty old” wing did so well at higher speed tracks such as New York’s Oswego Speedway and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
“I had no idea why that wing worked better than my newer wings,” said McVetta. “The tests gave us a baseline to see what that wing did compared to my other wings. We wanted to know how they were different. The results will tell us what we can do to the other wings to make them similar and even better than that ratty old wing was.”
McVetta took three of his wings with him to the wind tunnel.
“We ran 15 different configurations — messing with angles — and gathering information on how much downforce was created, how much drag there was, and what was the optimal point for the wing angle,” McVetta said. “This data will absolutely relate to what we do next season.”
The previous year, Mike McVetta put his car on a chassis dyno. He applied those learnings to the power plant in his supermodified. It seemed to work well, resulting in a championship. Time will tell about his wind tunnel experience.
“I’d love to give you the true things I learned, but I can’t,” McVetta said. “I’ll say I came away very happy with the data. What we learned will have to be tested. We’ll have answers in June at Oswego Speedway.”
For those who may be wondering, what does actually transfer from NASA to a supermodified? The answer may be more about methodology than actual technology.
“The wind tunnels at NASA are supersonic, very fast compared to race cars — not much comparison,” said McVetta, who manages the NASA test facilities in Cleveland, Ohio, which includes space simulation and wind tunnels. “What is applicable is having a solid test plan, knowing what we were going to change and how we were going to change it. At the North Carolina wind tunnel, we had a minute or less to make changes — sometimes changing an entire wing and setting it up. Having a solid test plan comes from working at NASA. The better the test plan, the more efficient the testing.”
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.