The establishment of NextGen cars in the NASCAR Cup Series has had a profound impact at Team Penske. As a result of the rules and requirements surrounding those cars, the team went from building all of its own cars on site and manufacturing the majority of the components for those cars to basically purchasing off-the-shelf cars.
While NextGen cars are, for the most part, off-the-shelf in terms of their components, Team Penske and other teams have some leeway when it comes to modification. However, there are now very stringent rules as to what a team can and cannot modify and to what extent those components can be modified.
Allowable modifications now involve extremely tight and precise increments that require higher precision machine tools because now a thousandth of an inch modification can be the difference between winning and losing. It is for this reason that most of Team Penske’s machine tool technology has had to change.
According to Production Manager Matt Gimbel, Team Penske has had to pretty much start over and remake all its build, setup and quality control equipment as well as most of its machine tools. The Team had to also reevaluate how it approached its part manufacturing processes and procedures. For instance, with the old cars, they produced a lot of chassis parts. With the NextGen cars, they are not.
Prior to the NextGen cars, Team Penske had a well-rounded mix of machine tools – milling, turning, 5-axis and some multi-tasking part processing capabilities. Now, the shift is more towards high-precision multi-tasking technology such as that of the Mazak INTEGREX i Series of Multi-Tasking Machines, the main reason being that where and how the Team is allowed to modify dictates a higher level of precision machining.
In addition to precision, another big benefit with a machine like the INTEGREX is its single-setup part-production versatility. This machine configuration features a second turning spindle (S) for DONE IN ONE® machining, minimizing fixtures, tools, handling and non-cut time.
Both the machine’s turning spindles provide equally high performance with same spindle speeds and bore capacities. The main headstock features an integral spindle/motor design that can accommodate a wide range of applications, from heavy-duty cutting at low speed to high-speed cutting of aluminum and other nonferrous materials. The second spindle also features an integral spindle/motor to ensure high efficiency machining for secondary operations.
The machine’s vertically mounted milling spindle provides a rotating B-axis range of -30° to +240°. A 36-tool magazine allows for fast tool changes and provides Team Penske ample tooling for continuous part processing.
While the rules are changing, Team Penske still maintains the same philosophy it always has when it comes to manufacturing deadlines. Regardless of the racing series involved in, the team continues to operate under the strategy of the faster it can get new parts and new ideas into the car and on to the race track, the better its chances of beating out the competition.