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NASCAR Media Conference: Reearch & Development

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference: Reearch & Development

Wayne Auton
John Darby
Mike Helton
Gary Smith
January 22, 2004


RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

JIM HUNTER: On Tuesday's visit here at the NASCAR R&D Center we made a major announcement regarding the modification of how we will determine the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion. Today we're going to offer a little different format and although we do not have an official announcement today, we think it should prove extremely informative and create several story ideas or possibilities for you. It's going to be a competition forum or as Gary Nelson calls it, the R&D Chat. It's going to feature the key individuals from our Competition Department in a casual Q&A setting. Our guests today, for those of you who are knew, beginning right here on my left at this end is our President Mike Helton. Next to Mike is Gary Nelson, NASCAR's Managing Director of Research and Development and a former Cup Championship crew chief. Next to him is our NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby. I want you to know that I am being very careful to say NEXTEL Cup because we have a little thing going where we get fined if we use the former sponsor instead of the new sponsor amongst ourselves. I am into that fun pretty strong right now. (LAUGHTER) Next to John is our NASCAR Busch Series Director Brian DeHart. Next to Brian is our NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton. Next to Wayne is NASCAR Director of Event Logistics, Gary Smith. I want to thank all these guys for taking time to be here with us today. Those of you who have a question in the audience, if you will raise your hand, I will try to get to you one of our NASCAR representatives. We have bios of each one of our competition members in the press kits that were delivered today. With that, I will open the floor for questions.

Q. Let us get this thing off on a little light note: Something I have heard for the last couple of weeks Mr. Helton, are we going to have an NFL look this year on pit road, I mean, by that I understand inspectors are going to be required to use hand signals, some form of hand signals, to relate pit road infractions to TV and radio booths?

MIKE HELTON: There will be hand signals. I wouldn't call it an NFL look. I would call it a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup look, a NASCAR Busch Series look and a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series look. But there will be additional hand signals that go into maybe a little bit more detail. John and Bryan, Wayne and David Hoots and Steve O'Donnell, and Joe Garone, and Karen Masencup have been working on these for some time. There's, I think, five of them. If you stop and think about it for just a second, we have used hand signals up and down pit road a lot. Drivers have used hand signals. (LAUGHTER) These are ones that you can show on a race car. And the idea is, in the spirit of officiating the race, to be able to communicate to the crew chief and the crew members on pit road what's going on, as well as the folks in the grandstand are limited on what they can say where they are seated, but the TV audience certainly should be able to pick up on more descriptive information that can be delivered in a timely manner. So there's a group of five specific hand signals in addition to the ones that the guys on pit road are used to using that will be implemented beginning of the year.

JIM HUNTER: You also might want to add what our plans are for the print media. He directed it like it was being done for just TV and radio.

MIKE HELTON: It's really for everybody. A lot of it has to do with us being able to able to communicate with the crew members on pit road because if you see something happen on pit road, you normally -- the TV camera or you look down and see the crew chief and the first thing the crew chief is doing is this: "What the heck is going on?" This hopefully is a way to communicate to them. So this set of hand signals is in an effort to communicate to the entire industry. What we will do during speed weeks at some time when it makes sense is -- Hunter and I were talking about it this morning about bringing our official in or one of our officials; particularly Todd DeBusk who is in charge of training the officials, on this particular element, as well as some of the material that he would use and go through it with the media so that you would understand what we are doing. And get a head start maybe on understanding what they are. But the idea is to utilize the hand signals to convey quicker what is going on on pit road, if we have a violation.

Q. John, tell me how much money from fines went into the points in 2003?

JOHN DARBY: I don't have the number off the top of my head. Obviously it varies so much every year. I know Goodyear would obviously be zero, when we have a year that had some controversy in it, or some infractions involved, there isn't a cap on what it could be. Basically what we do is look at each penalty individually on a case by case basis and assess what we feel, in regards to consistency, the previous penalties, or if there's an effort or an urgency to eliminate an infraction quickly, we may escalate those penalties.

Q. Mike, assuming this morning's news reports are true, why a travelling EMT and not a travelling MD, or as is customary with the other racing organizations, multiple MD's travelling?

MIKE HELTON: Well, NASCAR used an EMT in the role that we're going to use him is not to have a trained medical personnel to attend to a driver or a crew member. Our use of an EMT is to supervise, if you will, monitor, and help us with the requirements and the standards that we ask the tracks to provide. We still believe our way in the NASCAR form of motor sport, of using medical providers, care providers is the right way for us to do it and that's for the track to provide the best qualified local physicians, specialists and paramedics that are on the racetrack and pit road. An addition of an EMT to our staff is to help NASCAR provide direction and supervision over the standards and the requirements that we ask for. Also, though, it provides a familiar face, if you will, in addition to other familiar faces that we'll use in chase vehicles or pace cars or in different situations so that for the competitors to see and to feel that they have someone that they recognize that they can communicate to, but our utilization of an EMT is not for them to be hands-on as an EMT. It's their experience that we hired as an EMT, to be an official, and to be someone on our behalf, to monitor and to help us keep the standard where we want it to be.

Q. Real quick follow-up, an MD, for example, in Formula 1, with Sid Wadkins who actually travels on the truck, looks at the driver on-site. He's right there, but he doesn't lay a hand on them. The local doctor wherever they might be. Again, why not an MD in this role to make sure you have got the best possible expertise rather than someone who is way on down the list as far as levels of medical training? EMT is pretty low. Why not an MD there?

MIKE HELTON: I tell you, if you have an accident on the interstate, you are going to be lucky for a doctor to pull up, but the first thing that's going to happen is there is going to be an ambulance come up with a trauma medically trained person; whether you call him an EMT, paramedic, or what have you. That is the care providing services that's used to going into an accident environment and react. Those are the individuals that have the experience of reacting to an accident scene. So I don't necessarily agree with your comment that they are the lowest rung of the ladder. I don't buy that. I think they are a very significant role in that chain of custody of an injured person. The other thing, though, is that in addition for some time now we have physicians in the vehicles that are stationed on the racetrack, in addition to paramedics. So there's a wide range of coverage. I think it's even wider than Formula 1 or other open-wheel series or stock car series may have, that's being provided at the racetrack. It's just instead of us bringing them in, and they being a NASCAR official and employee, they are being provided by the race tracks which works in our industry as we have said in the past.

Q. John, speak specifically what you guys are trying to do in the NEXTEL Cup Series with the move to the softer tire from Goodyear and lowering the spoiler a little bit?

JOHN DARBY: First I would ask you to be careful with the term "Softer tire." What we want to do or the whole goal in the process through this is to start or trade between aerodynamic dependency and put it back into more of a mechanical functional grip-type dependency that the teams use. We all know that aerodynamics has a huge benefit, but when it applies to what we do on Sunday afternoons, it's not consistent. It will benefit one competitor more than the next. And in providing the best races we can on Sundays we are more comfortable with consistent mechanical devices that the crew chiefs and the teams and the drivers have much more control over. So the 2004 season is just the start of this. We have entered into the specifications of three-quarter inch reduction in the rear spoiler. The first cut - whether it be the first cut is the deepest (inaudible) - but it's the first cut of probably multiple cuts to come. We want to approach it in a slow manner so that all the teams and the drivers and NASCAR has a chance to look at what is going on and continually monitor and evolve from this first cut. That's the aerodynamics side of it. The other side of it is in replacing that grip, we're working very closely with our tire supplier to help us manage what we reduce over here to help us put back over here. The tires for 2004 will be new across the board, but in a lot of cases, it will be very, very minor changes to the tire. And in a lot of cases, it may be some new tire technology in regards to construction materials and the formulation of the tire. And in a few cases, there will probably be a little milder compound still not to the degree that I would call soft. The tire will evolve with the aero reduction program that we're starting for 2004.

Q. Mike, could you address Toyota's entering into the sport? There's some concern among some of the other teams about what they might or might not do down the road and the Toyota people tell us that in talking with you guys that you all have expressed the idea that by want you to do well, but not really well, really fast. That sort of thing. Can you talk about the discussions you have had with them?

MIKE HELTON: I would tell you that the discussions with Toyota were practically identical to the conversations we had with Dodge in 1999 and 2000 when Dodge talked about coming back. It's a matter of Dodge being (inaudible) and Toyota now fitting the way NASCAR does things. We're not going to adjust our rules and regulations for them. They have to adjust their thought process to fit in our rules. If we do that right, and we feel like we have, they should fit in with the folks that are in the garage areas now, Chevrolet and Ford and in the case of Toyota now with Dodge. That's our approach with Toyota. We welcomed Dodge when they came into the Cup Series from the Truck. We welcomed Toyota in the Truck Series with the Tundra that's American -- is an American product. It's built and sold in this country. But their involvement in the Craftsman Truck Series is on par with the other manufacturers that are already there. They are not going to get any help. They are not going to get any breaks. They get a set of rules and regulations just like everybody else does and they have to fit into with the same approach with them that's being used that we approach with anybody else in the garage area. We don't want them to come in and not do well but they have to do well under our terms.

Q. Mike, first of all if those hand signals can speed up the process of getting the drivers into the interview room and out of the Winner's Circle, I think the print media would really appreciate that. John, you mentioned the cuts on the spoiler. Is there any chance that when -- a lot of the teams are going to Vegas next week to test these packages, that a change could be coming out of that or is this something that you are going to have to see actually in competition?

JOHN DARBY: We feel pretty comfortable right now that where we're starting out, will be something that will be relatively easy for everybody to adapt to testing next week that you mentioned in Vegas will probably prove that. I also think it's very realistic and we understand very well that although the first cut has been made, if we can anticipate a push - I don't mean an aero push, a tide rather than a push, and just maybe taking the trend line from rocketing to the move to start to turn a corner where it flattens out, then the first cut will do what we expect it to do. It's the multiples of cuts that could potentially come from here on that will actually start to turn the curve back downhill to achieve the goals that we're looking for.

Q. On the topic of speed, we heard that recent rules changes, engine and maybe perhaps the spoilers, are likely to produce higher top-end speeds. What modes are looked at -- are being looked at to reduce top-end velocity and how likely are we to see an engine rule aimed -- or carburetor rule aimed at reducing top-end speeds?

JOHN DARBY: When we talk about speed, if we're talking about an overall lap speed, we're pretty doubtful that those speeds will increase much. What very possibly may happen is the cars will have a little faster speed on the straight part of the race tracks and ultimately have to slow down a little bit more as they travel through the corners which is okay. If the speeds that we see today, if they do increase, typically we're expecting maybe in qualifying on a one- or two-lap type situation, but as part of the tire construction changes, one of the things that we have really asked for some help for is that the tire continues to follow-up off as it runs on the racetrack. So during a racing type environment, the speed should not even rescind a little bit.

Q. Mike, Richard Childress yesterday was chastising NASCAR a bit for saying on the one hand that you want to try to save the team's money, but yet keep making rule changes that force them to spend money and rebuild cars and go test them and whatever. I just wondered your response to that and how you try to balance the needs of the competition versus what it cost the teams to keep up.

MIKE HELTON: First of all, that's part of the reason in developing the R&D Center here is for NASCAR to better understand the ripple effect and ramifications, if you will, of reaction from our side. But in the meantime, as we get smarter on that and we understand that better, I think you can see a track record in NASCAR where we've tried to make major changes ahead of the season and not change anything if we can keep them from doing that, until the end of the season is over with. The challenge, though, in the meantime, is that we can't prevent owners or their bodymen or their engine rooms or what have you, in trying things, if you will, that circumvent the rules. In an effort for NASCAR to police the sport, sometimes it has to make rule decisions that is ultimately more cost effective for the entire garage, but very well could cost more than one team, certainly a single team, but others as well, money to adapt to that. That's where we have to look for that balance or that line to say okay, is it worth it. If we see a particular element going in one direction and it's the wrong direction to go and we draw a line in the sand, whoever is going in that direction has to recover from it, so it keeps everybody else from having to go in that direction on occasion. Then there's moments where we make major changes, whether it's in an engine package, or in the sheet metal package, that we know is something that the entire garage area is affected by, but those are done, hopefully, for the good of the economic package long-term. We still can't, even with the single engine rule, that the guys came up with a couple of seasons ago, which should be saving the team owners money, whatever they saved, they are going to turn around and invest in something else. And that's the challenge that NASCAR has. And Richard has his position on this right now and he shared that with us as well, but we think the changes that we made, that John made, and Brian had made in the Cup and Busch Series, that he has taken issue with us, are warranted for the entire series and not just a single team or a couple of organizations.

Q. Gary, we all know about the multiple safety initiatives that have happened in the last couple of seasons. What else is on the horizon and what may be the next thing we're going to see?

GARY SMITH: It's pretty exciting for me to talk about it, but the Car of Tomorrow is the title we're giving it. It's kind of all of the best ideas put together. Some of the things that turns out to be parts of the Car of Tomorrow will turn out to fit on the Car of Today also, like the alternate exit and the fresh air study that we did and the fire extinguisher bottles, a lot of those things that are Car of Tomorrow projects, if they'll adapt to today's car, that's great. But as we move down the road we're also faced with is this the right wheel? Is this the right engine? Is this the right transmission? As we start examining all those things with the cost to the car owner in mind, we understand that the more of those things that are on the track today that we can save, the better off we are going to be. So don't think of it as throwing away the old car and having to buy a new car. Think of it as anything that we can use that the owners have already invested in, we want to use. If it's doing a good job, let's keep it. If there's something we can do better, let's add it on and ultimately we end up with a Car of Tomorrow really one piece at a time. That's what excites me every day and gets me going is the progress we're making there.

Q. Mike, when you were talking about the EMT and that role that kind of sounded very similar to the role of the medical liaison. I wanted to clarify if they are two different positions or did you replace one position or what the difference is on that. My other question was to Gary is just: Where do these stand in regard to the safer barrier for this season? Did you like what you saw out of Homestead? And will there likely be tracks this year where they will have the barriers up before the series gets there?

MIKE HELTON: The EMT role is an extension of the medical liaison program that comes under Gary Smith. But it's not a medical liaison function. The medical liaisons are there to understand the medical history of the participants; to manage that program, the collection of that data; and the utilization of that data as it integrates into the medical care providers that the facilities provide. The addition of an EMT, after we began using a chase vehicle, if you will, was the idea of, okay, if the chase vehicle makes sense - and we feel like it does - then let's take an EMT and their experience and make them the official that drive that chase vehicle, or whatever it may be, so that he also functions as an official, but he also has the experience and as he watches everything unfold out there, he can help us manage the programs that we have in place; that the medical liaisons do around the table and in advance of the advance to establish the standard that we ask tracks to live up to. He is actually a function of the EMT would be, more an official function as the event unfolds on the racetrack, supervising it or understanding it as it unfolds out on the racetrack at the scene.

GARY SMITH: Your question on the safer barrier, I think most of you know that five tracks have installed the safer barrier that are on the NASCAR schedule now. And the University of Nebraska experts that designed the barrier, the last race at Homestead, they were there -- actually they came to every race where the barrier was used and continue to monitor the progress of it and as they watch it to see how it fits on the flatter track at Richmond and New Hampshire and then at Indianapolis, Homestead was the first bank track, they had some adjustments that they made. They have now gone onto is surveying all of the tracks over the last few weeks and into the next few weeks and months to get a hands-on understanding of the way the current wall works and how it will fit each particular track. So as they move along, and talk to the different tracks, and make the recommendations for the tracks, you will hear more from the track operators as they start putting it into their schedule. From our standpoint, we are certainly monitoring everything that's going on, but the experts that invented the wall and designed the wall working with the track operators who have the asphalt, banking the wall, concrete wall that is in place now, and bringing all that together, that the decisions and the announcements on what is next will come from the race tracks.

Q. Has there been any change in Shane Hmiel's status for the season?

GARY SMITH: Shane has been going through a program that we had an independent agency set up for him. To be honest with you Shane up to this time has been doing very well. He's progressing through it, so yeah, I would venture to say that there's a distinct possibility for him to possibly be reinstated this year all depending on following the program.

Q. John, what would the racing look like on the racetrack for you to say we have accomplished what we want to accomplish in terms of the competition? In other words, at what point would you think would say okay, we don't need to mess up with the rules anymore, we have got it like we want it?

JOHN DARBY: I think our feeling right now is that the racing is pretty good. But we also understand that some of the inherent problems that come from too much of one thing - the trends in competition on the racetrack that are undesirable. Obviously, we work really hard to promote side-by-side racing and at least to provide the opportunity and abilities for a faster car to pass a slower one in front of him. That's the goal of everything we do is surrounding the Competition Department. The changes will be small enough and slow enough that we won't see a drastic difference on the racetrack. Obviously with the first adjustment and probably not the second, but as we continue down the path in the evolution of this trade-off between aero dependency versus mechanical dependency, what we'll start to realize is buzz words will start going away like aero-push and aero-loose and all that, and it will be, hopefully, back to the days of the driver that maybe abuses his right front tire and now has a push because he ran the right front tire off the car instead of the lack of air holding the right front tire together. So it going to be a slow process and understand that when we met to make all these moves in this movement, and continue to race 38 times a year, so that's part of the reason the process has to be slow is because we don't want to see a drastic change on the racetrack. The merits behind it are more to address some problems that we see coming at us that could potentially distract from what we are doing on Sunday today.

MIKE HELTON: One of the challenges that NASCAR has that other professional sports does not, is the mechanical aspect of our business. And one of the reasons we have had this R&D Center now is understanding that for 50 years the complexities of all that because whenever there is a rule made - and our rule book is not very thick - but whenever there is a rule, when it particularly relates to the car which is only half the rule book - the teams, the competitors, the participants go to work on how to live within that rule, but to expand or tweak or take a benefit from it that someone hasn't found out yet. That's the nature of our sport. You do that with the complexities of the equipment added to it; the advent of understanding aerodynamics; the advent of technologies, creating materials that we have never seen or heard of yet; the advent of the safety mechanics becoming now into engineers with the street smarts and common sense of a safety mechanic, but the technical ability of someone to use a computer that we can't even pronounce. Those are challenges for us to police the sport. So every time we think we have got -- we have got this box built, we find out that it's a balloon full of water and we can't find the cork. That's a challenge for us. That's going to be a challenge for us. That's why we invested, in part, in addition to the safety, the competition and the economics of this sport is important to us. And answers that seem simple to us come out not to be. So the answers are more complicated and complex in order to find them. That's why we have got this building, this group sitting up here. We have got three national series, an R&D Center, and safety things represented functions that we never managed before. We have got people David Hoots and Steve O'Donnell, Karen Masencup, Joe Garone, Steve Peterson, Bill Erskine, Carl Wolf, we have got people in this building whose functions are to stay ahead of the game. Those are challenges. It makes our sport, I think, a lot more complicated than any other professional sport. And certainly offers a great more opportunity for debate, if you will, with this. They haven't changed, with the exception of maybe going from wood to aluminum and in some cases, cork baseball bats. They haven't changed dimensions of the diamond. They haven't changed the dimensions of the basketball or the court or the height of the goal or the football field. But our world changes with our elements that we play our sport out with constantly; sometimes ten times a day. That is a challenge for us. And it is hard for us to keep our hands around that.

Q. Could you address the aerodynamic and tire package for Daytona? Are you dead set on those parameters? Gary, any movement toward looking for a formula, that would be across the board, that would allow for the removal of restrictor plates such as maybe a smaller carburetor.

JOHN DARBY: Traditionally, as we approach speed weeks in a brand new season, we like to approach it with a package, as you mentioned, that we have at least had the opportunity to use in competition and feel pretty comfortable with. The package for the NEXTEL Cup Series going to Daytona, in just a couple of weeks, is identical to what we used in Talladega in October of 2003. What that does; not just from NASCAR's side, but the competitors can approach a new season with a package that there's already a little bit of a comfort zone in it in the fact they have already used it; they have seen it, they have been shown that it works. And are actually pretty excited after spending the two weeks at testing that we had in Daytona in anticipation of the different characteristics that there are at Daytona versus Talladega, I am pretty excited; I am looking forward to the Daytona 500. It is going to be a heck of a race.

Q. Wayne, you have been rather quiet. This is the first year that the trucks body on the four models have been all matched up. Briefly take us through the process of getting to where you are at and then you have had pretty aggressively off-season of testing, are you satisfied thus far in the way things have meshed up with the trucks?

WAYNE AUTON: The process that's got us to the point that we're at today we started about three years ago with Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford of trying to get the trucks closer together. The perception out there that one truck was always better than the others so we started about three years ago with it; then with Toyota coming into the fold this year, it seemed to be the right time to do it with the four manufacturers working together, it became a reality and so far we're pretty pleased with what we have seen; went to Talladega in December with ten trucks, two or three at least, makes. Done a good test down there in December with the new Sunoco fuel, then going to Daytona and doing the test also, right now we're pleased with what we have seen with all four makes.

Q. I had a question on restrictor plates that wasn't answered.

GARY SMITH: My answer was the same as it was when I was a crew chief, I don't like them. I didn't like it when I was a crew chief. When I got this job at NASCAR I said I was going to get rid of them. I am still trying. Haven't found anything better. What we have done in recent years is if we're going to use restrictor plates, make sure that we do the best possible job we can do to eliminate any perception that there's one different or something like that. So our folks here take it very seriously. They look at them with microscopes. They flow bench (PHONETIC) every plate. They pack them in sealed containers. They handle them so carefully to just to make sure that restrictor plates are as good as they can possibly be. But that doesn't stop us from trying to figure out ways to accomplish the same thing a different way. And there's been a lot of ideas that we have kicked around and occasionally one will stick around for a year or two, but ultimately we always find that going back to that restrictor plate is pretty simple, pretty easy and is pretty well understood by the competitors.

Q. I know that this is not a Playoff we're going into but in the Chase of the Championship during Playoffs in other sports there's so much attention on the officiating not making the decision in a Championship. For John and/or Mike, what sort of breakout discussions in preparing data and information that you had on how officiating might affect rain, penalties. One competitor said all heck would break loose at Richmond. Of course, there is going to be a lot of intensity not affecting somebody's points going into the Chase for the Championship.

JOHN DARBY: Our main focus throughout that whole process is the fact that we have 36 events in a season that competitors are able to earn points and for us to do our job correctly and accurately in policing the sport, we have to approach race No. 1 with the exact same accuracy, professionalism and consistency as we do race 36. What happens in between those two, it goes on the same as it does from the beginning and the end. Personalities are involved. It's only nuts and bolts and car numbers and inspections.

MIKE HELTON: Let me add to that, John is absolutely right and that's why on Tuesday we said that this is not a Playoff. Expanding on John's answer just a little bit, one of the strongest programs that the R&D Center has been working on for a year now is -- Bill Gerone is our Director of Officiating. (Inaudible) -- was developing a very intense and a very detailed and a very well-organized method to train officials so that; particularly in our national series, but all through NASCAR, that the individuals who are officiating this sport do it the same as each other and do it the same every weekend with every series. That's important. I think that's a responsibility that NASCAR should take and be sincere and very conscious of and we're doing that. That consistency of response by NASCAR in the officiating of the sport is a big issue to us. It begins day one in Daytona and it should be identical every race that we run until we're through in November. It doesn't matter if it is Richmond, New Hampshire; doesn't matter if it is Daytona 500 or Bristol, at every one of these races, by everybody we have, and the title official, will be done the same. Every crew chief that sees a different personality in his pit box should have confidence that his particular team, his driver is going to be policed the same way as they were the last time and next week is the same thing. It doesn't matter if it's the 25th race or the 32nd race. Our job is to do it correctly and do it consistently. So that everybody understands, that that's the way NASCAR does it.

Q. John, situations that have come up; particularly over the last two years, where there is part of a penalty for use of improper parts or rules violation, a driver has lost 25 points in the standings. I am wondering under the new format, as we close in for race 26, if the threat of that penalty doesn't lose some of its sting as the spread develops, normal spread develops among the Top-10 drivers knowing that there points are going to be arbitrarily fixed at a certain number anyway, have you thought through that scenario and any alternatives to that penalty?

JOHN DARBY: Again, there's 36 races for the season. The key or the important thing is that after all 36 races are looked at in the same light. To give you more of the answer I think you are looking for, we started using car owner and driver points as part of the penalties because we evolved to a point it was too hard to figure out what was too much money because everybody has such different ranges of it and what $10,000 may mean to one person, doesn't carry that same meaning to the other. But through consistency we know that every point earned pretty much carries the same value across the board through the teams. With that being said, the point will obviously become a little bit more valuable at certain parts of the year. Understanding that NASCAR penalties are a reaction to an infraction, they are not something that we woke up and decided to write. It puts a lot bigger responsibility on each individual team and crew chief to make sure that they have the understanding and apply the NASCAR Rule Book to what they do even more because of the effect that a loss of those points could have, if they were involved in an infraction.

MIKE HELTON: Adding a little bit to that, it seems like NASCAR has got a lot of changes in it, but what does doesn't change is its philosophy in policing the sport. I think history shows that whatever reaction, as John mentioned, we had to an infraction, if that doesn't work, we'll change the reaction. So if 24 races into it, the guy doesn't mind losing 50 points or 25 points, he might mind losing 500 points. We'll react appropriately, not overwhelmingly or not to the point that we don't think we have to, but if, as John mentioned, we found that there was the possibility certainly that a guy wouldn't mind paying a $100,000 fine to win a race that paid a million dollars in today's world. He didn't want to lose points and he didn't want to go -- whether it was his fault or not the only two point systems we have are the drives and the owners. That's where we go to take them from when something happens. But if 25 points is not enough for the 26th race, we may have to adjust it.

Q. Can you tell us when the Car of Tomorrow might actually become the Car of Today and talk a little bit about what you are trying to accomplish and what will be different with it?

GARY SMITH: Certainly elements of it are applied on the Car of today so what I was saying a minute ago is a lot of it shows up instantly, or seems like it. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes, but when we come up with an idea that fits, if it will apply, if it will fit on a car, we go for it right away. The double spindle tethers that we did last summer, happened in a matter of days after the Talladega race, I guess it was in the spring, the hood tether changes, the fire bottle addition, all of those things are called Car of Tomorrow parts. But when you look at the bigger greenhouse or other elements that we're working with -- that don't just apply. You can't just put it on as an option and you can run it if you want or you don't have to, because it upsets the balance of aerodynamics, those are the kind of things that you kind of put on the shelf and say we have done the study we have worked on it, it has this effect, if we want it, it's there; if we want to wait a while, we can wait awhile. So we're flexible enough to continue to do research and as we learn, keep those ideas and those projects that are done on the side and bring out the project that will fit, I think it's pretty neat overall, the timeline, it's pretty hard to say, but we started off as a five-year project about a couple of years ago when we first said let us design a Car of Tomorrow. So we're a couple of years into it and we'll see how it goes.

Q. Any thought given to eliminating private testing and maybe going to a limited number of open tests in an effort to maybe reduce the cost to teams?

JOHN DARBY: We did modify the test policies this year. Hopefully NEXTEL Cup Series and the NASCAR Busch Series. What we found and Mike made light of something earlier that when we were talking about the box of parameters that we were very hopeful we may some day achieve that turns into the water balloon, the competitors approach a test policy or testing restrictions much in the same manner. We restrict the amount of testing that can be done at the facilities that schedule NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series events. And what happens is the teams go outside that box, if you will, and continue to test at will. If the test policy is purely designed with the car owners' budgets and wallets in mind, it seemed this year to make a little bit more sense to expand their opportunities, the facilities that we actually compete at so that No. 1, they receive a real value of the test. No. 2, we may receive a value of having a better race on Sunday. But in trading the cost from a test that would be at a facility that we don't compete at and applying it to the one that we do, just made a little more sense. That's why the change was made.

JIM HUNTER: I want to thank all the people at Lowe's Motor Speedway for including us on the tour. We appreciate it.

VOICE: I want to offer my thanks and I think I speak on behalf of everybody in here, Jim, for you and Mike's leadership in opening this up to the media tour and having us coming in here twice and being so open, and stand there - it's not easy to be sitting in these chairs up there and not knowing how many daggers are going to come into you. We appreciate that very much, and we appreciate your leadership, Mike, on this and owning things up. I do have one final thing to say this stage and these lights, I see where my sanction money is going.



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