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Cryogenic Metal Tempering
(or get more power from an engine by freezing your nuts)

Sub-zero power
By Godwin Kelly
NASCAR Winston Cup Scene


Remember the last time you looked in your freezer? What did you find? Mummified hamburger? A chicken from the 1960s? Ice cream with enough frost to ski through your kitchen?

In an effort to increase durability,
NASCAR teams are beginning to
give parts the cold shoulder.

When Steve Klingbiel goes digging into his freezer at work, he usually finds engine blocks, brake rotors and aluminum softball bats, rather than Push Ups, pizza and pork.
As you may have guessed, Klingbiel doesn't have your normal deep-freeze package at the office. The typical freezer maintains a temperature in the 25- to 30-degree range. Klingbiel's beast takes the temperature down to 300 degrees below zero.
Sounds a bit strange, to be sure. But there's a method to the madness. This process is designed to scramble and realign the molecules in metal objects to make them better.
"The distance between the molecules is more equidistant, thus making them stronger and taking the stress out of them," Klingbiel says. "This process gives them more durability. If the parts are put together in the right manner, they last longer."
As you may have guessed, Klingbiel doesn't manufacture ice cream cakes. His employer is One Cryo, which has three deep-freeze treatment centers scattered around the country. Klingbiel, the vice president dent of marketing, is stationed in Orlando, Fla.
The other primary players are Shell Ewing, the president of this two-year-old company, who works in Wasilla, Alaska; and Mike Carlman, vice president of operations, who's based in Seattle.
Forty percent of One Cryo's business is motorsports related, and the company boasts clients from all forms of the sport, including the Winston Cup Series. Cale Yarborough Motorsports carries the One Cryo banner into battle on the big-league stock car series.
"We do brake rotors, engine blocks, transmission gears, cranks, cams, pretty much the whole motor, anywhere where there's a metal-to-metal friction surface," Klingbiel says. "We can give the part a smooth surface, a longer lasting surface, and overall improved stress relief for more ductility."
Klingbiel says one treatment takes three days. The concept is exciting, but the process isn't. Klingbiel says it's right up there with watching grass grow and paint dry.
"Once we determine what the parts are, and what the process will be, we've got a giant, industrial-strength deep freeze, and we pack the parts in and press the button on the computer, which runs the profile," Klingbiel says. "We come back three days later and the parts are treated.
"You start out at room temperature, go through about a nine-hour descent to 300 below, once they get there, stay there 24 hours, then come back to room temperature very slowly again. This gives the m metal more dimensional stability, and on the steel parts, it actually brings more carbide out to the wear surface. This gives parts much greater stability, wearability, reduced hot spots, increased heat transfer, better and easier machinability, and overall l more consistency."
If you think every Winston Cup team is waiting outside Klingbiel's door carrying valves, gears and blocks, think again. One Cryo has found NASCAR teams to be a rather hard sell.
Only Cale Yarborough Motorsports crew chief Tony Furr - who will handle those duties in '98 for Ricky Craven's Hendrick Motorsports team - has used the company, and only for brake rotors in competition. When Klingbiel started making the rounds at Winston Cup race shops, crew chiefs looked at him as though he was selling snake oil.
"We started out two years ago and we talked to whoever would listen to us," Klingbiel says. "These guys understand this or they don't. There's no really selling it to them. It's starting to make its way through the whole chain. We've got some Indy Lights teams doing some stuff, and the NHRA market has really taken off for us. We really want the Winston Cup guys because of the amount of publicity they get."
Klingbiel credits Furr for taking a chance on the innovative process.
"Somebody's got to go first," says Klingbiel, whose office services the Southeast racing market. "Everybody's looking for an edge in racing. If you're running up front all the time, say like Jeff Gordon, why would he talk to anybody? We're just a little, start-up company. Somebody that hasn't won a race until this year, hey, they need a little help. They're more willing to talk to anybody who thinks they have e something.
"A lot of these guys are skeptical, but this process is not new, that's the amazing thing. We're working with people who race dirt bikes and Late Models. We do a bunch of work with the drag-race crow d. The NHRA guys were real quick to pick up on it. The Winston Cup crowd has been a little slow."
Furr says, "One of the salesmen come around here, wanting us to try it. Yeah, I was sort of skeptical about it, but he kept on and kept on. So we tried their rotors at Martinsville, and it worked pre pretty good. I said, 'Shoot, maybe these guys have got something here.' It's helped our brake wear on the heavy braking tracks. It has added life to rotors and the pads, and they can do it on other things."
This cryo-freezing process isn't some sort of ultra-new technology. The roots of this technique stretch back to the early 1920s. It made a comeback in the 1960s and '70s, and now has been refined into o a science. Still, it's a tough sell to stock car's elite teams. Even Furr hasn't used it in competition with engine or transmission parts just yet.
Furr, who's always looking for some kind of edge, is testing various cryoed parts and says he "hasn't seen any negative results yet."
"I reckon it's just me," Furr says of using One Cryo's services. "I want to be an innovator and not a follower. People tell me, 'Man, you can't run stuff like that.' I don't think much about it. I raced  on dirt, and I never sat on anything. I'm always trying to go faster."
Most of One Cryo's NASCAR business has come from the Busch Series and Busch North divisions, where a handful of extra horsepower is treated like a bar of gold.
"Brad and Dale Quarterly (from the Busch North Series) and I got hooked up last year," Klingbiel says. "We did a bunch of motor parts for them. One block, heads, valves, stuff like that. Brad put this thing on the dyno before they sent it to us, and it produced about 500 horsepower.
"After we cryoed it, he put it back together, and now it's producing five and a quarter (525 horsepower). Not bad. That's about a three-percent increase. He put about a thousand laps on that engine. When they took it apart, it showed no signs of wear.
"These guys are finding out about it. It's a slow process. Now that we've got some guys to do it, and they're hearing about it, and seeing the results, now they're looking for me at the track. They say, 'Oh, you're the cryo guy. Tell me again what this does.'"
Furr says Winston Cup teams are sometimes slow to respond to new technology, embracing the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it motto. But Furr says every team will be using cryo-treated parts by the year 2000.
"It's been like that with other products, too," Furr says. "In two or three years, when they see that this stuff works, everybody will have it. Winston Cup people are just plain slow to change. Me, I look for every advantage you can find."
Klingbiel says the company is starting to get feelers from other race teams.
"These Winston Cup teams just don't have any time this time of year," Klingbiel says. "It's been going a little slow, but it's going very well."
One Cryo expects such a demand for its services down the road that the company is putting together a franchise package, where teams may purchase their own freezing unit and turn pistons into Popsicles right in the race shop.
One Cryo isn't the only company that does this sort of treatment. Klingbiel says there are five other small companies that specialize in this sort of work.
"We're just leading the pack for everybody," he says. "Somebody has to be the original for the Xerox machine. Somebody has to do it first, and do it better than anybody else."
And One Cryo really does freeze aluminum bats.
"Makes 'em more springy," Klingbiel says.

Copyright 1997 NASCAR and/or Starwave Corporation
and ESPN Inc. All rights reserved.
With permission of One Cryo

 

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