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24-hour drive ahead? Seat fitters save butts

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Godwin Kelly

Published: Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 5:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 3:22 p.m.

 

DAYTONA BEACH -- The busiest man in the garage area Friday during Grand-Am testing at Daytona International Speedway was Matt Ray.

The 36-year-old technician was hustling from car to car with a tub of black goo, a hand-held electric mixer, an electric knife and a large, clear plastic bag.

Ray was manufacturing foam inserts on site for Grand-Am driver seats as Roar Before The Rolex 24 testing took place at DIS.

Business is good, with as many as five drivers sharing the wheel of each of these Daytona Prototypes and GT sedans during the Jan. 29-30 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Team owner Michael Shank said Ray's service is invaluable for the twice-around-the-clock endurance race. The seat of the No. 6 Ford Dallara is sized for Michael McDowell, who is several inches taller than co-drivers AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson.

"AJ drove the car Friday morning and felt miserable," Shank said. "We brought Matt in to make that fix for us.

"I could not get 100 percent out of AJ until we get that seat fixed. Matt is the best, bar none. He does 90 percent of the Cup teams, 50 percent of the IndyCar teams. Plus, he's fast."

Ray, who works for BSCI Inc. out of Mooresville, N.C., can create a custom-designed seat insert in about 30 minutes.

First, he puts the big plastic bag over the seat. Then, he has the driver get in the car and position themselves in a comfortable driving pose.

Ray then mixes up a batch of heated liquid that he pours into the bag until the driver says he's comfortable in the seat. The liquid becomes solid foam within 10 minutes, and the driver must remain perfectly still during the process.

"The heat feels good," driver Terry Borcheller said after a fitting. "It feels like you are getting ready for a massage. It is just warm on my back. For guys who are a little older, with aches and pains, it feels pretty good."

Once the mold is finished, Ray trims off excess material with an electric knive.

"It's like watching somebody carve a turkey," driver Patrick Long said.

This is special duty for Ray. BSCI services every major racing series. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are some of the company's biggest customers, with Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Red Bull Racing among the company's regular customers.

"We manufacture all protective padding materials that go inside NASCAR stock cars," said Ray, who has done seat molding for 14 years. "We distribute door foam that goes between the roll cage and body of the car. We manufacture interior components such as leg braces, interior door pads, head surround and seat inserts."

Since NASCAR drivers have a fleet of stock cars, Ray said BSCI has developed technology to make unlimited inserts from one mold. He said the mold is scanned into a computer, then machined electronically.

"They get the exact same seat from car-to-car-to-car," Ray said.

Removable seat inserts are not cheap. Shank said he spent $2,000 for Ray's expertise Friday.

"But you can't do this kind of racing without those inserts," Shank said. "If my driver can't stay in that car for three hours and his body gives up on him, then we're in trouble."

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