Simulating Success

March 1, 2021

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In the quest for speed and performance, simulation has become a key tool in the arsenal. The ability for teams to utilize these complex simulation programs to learn as much as possible and the maximize the amount of actual time on track can make the difference between winning or losing. Team Penske is serious about simulation as engineers from the team’s NASCAR and INDYCAR programs utilize the technology as they continue to strive for success.

Simulation in racing is defined as the process of using computing power to a model race car as it travels around the track to aid in decision making. Each simulated run is usually a single lap around the track, with the exact mechanical setup, tire, aerodynamic, engine, and track surface models used for accurate information gathering.

John Guidone is the Vehicle Dynamics engineer for the No. 12 Ford Mustang and driver Ryan Blaney racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. Guidone joined Team Penske in 2016 shortly after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He immediately began developing the simulation programs used by each of Team Penske’s  NASCAR teams each week. In 2019, Guidone became Vehicle Dynamics engineer for the No. 22 Ford Mustang driven by Joey Logano, working alongside crew chief Todd Gordon and race engineer Miles Stanley. The trio transitioned to working with Blaney on the No. 12 Ford in 2020.

Guidone says on average he spends five to 10 hours each week running the simulation program, which consists of the setup for the current race week as well as future setups up to four weeks in advance. The baseline of these setups starts with the previous race on a given track.

“We will take into account things that are changing for the upcoming race, whether that be a new tire code, aerodynamics rules, engine package, and even the weather forecast,” said Guidone. “We also look back at previous race notes of things to improve on. Then we will run the simulation on each change and analyze the data to make the most efficient decisions.”

In his 11th year with Team Penske in 2021, Brian Campe is the Engineering Coordinator for the organization’s INDYCAR program. Campe manages engineering design, vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, and simulation for the team competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Campe is no stranger to the NASCAR side of the organization. After stints at Dale Earnhardt Inc., Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports (where he advanced from race engineer to crew chief with various drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, and Scott Wimmer), Campe joined Team Penske as an engineer for the No. 12 Cup Series team with driver Brad Keselowski in 2010.

He transitioned with Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe to the No. 2 car in 2011 and scored three victories that season. Campe then moved to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with driver Sam Hornish Jr. in 2012 and 2013, as the team earned two series victories. Campe then made an unconventional transition from stock car to open-wheel racing, joining the team’s winning INDYCAR program. As race engineer, Campe helped lead Juan Pablo Montoya to victory in the 2015 Indianapolis 500 and Josef Newgarden to the INDYCAR SERIES Championship in 2017.

Campe said the two main sources of simulation information used most often in INDYCAR are “driver in and driver out of the loop simulation.” Driver in the loop simulation occurs when the driver is dictating the inputs and the simulation model responses. The driver out of the loop simulation utilizes static inputs that analyze how the model responds.


“On an event weekend we spend about two to three days working on the simulation without the drivers in the loop,” said Campe. “Each driver will get four to eight hours on the simulation with the driver’s race engineer as well.”

Both Guidone and Campe agree that there is no substitute for real world on-track time, but with decreases in testing and practice time, simulation can provide opportunities to make multiple setup changes in a shorter amount of time.

“With simulation we can make five to 10 changes and analyze the results in the time it might take to make just one change at the track, have the driver put in some laps and give feedback,” said Guidone. “Simulation also has the ability to show results that would be nearly impossible to measure with sensors on the actual car.”

While simulation can provide invaluable information, the team knows that it can’t become too reliant on the system and the primary focus is always on real-world conditions.

“The simulations control for these variables so you can evaluate the response of the car that might get drowned out by the variables at the track,” said Campe. “You have to know the short comings of the simulations that you are using in the decision-making process to make sure that you are not being led astray.”

As technology and data analytics continue to evolve, both on and off the track simulation is here to stay. Both Guidone and Campe believe that simulation models will continue to be essential tools as they run faster, analyze data quicker and provide teams and drivers with a greater advantage to reach the checkered flag first on race day.

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