NASCAR Media Conference
Topics: NASCAR, Sprint All-Star Race
February 26, 2013
STEVE BYRNES: Big news and some major surprises. Joining me here to help things get kicked off at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton. Fresh off a Daytona 500 win on Sunday, Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No.48.
Robin, get us started and talk about the All‑Star Race that will be May 18th. What is new this year?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, we're changing the format a little bit. We're going to put a little more emphasis on all the laps and your finishes there. So what we're going to do is the four segments that you have, we're going to take those four segments, average your finish, then that's what repositions you for that last mandatory pit stop when you come down pit road for the last 10‑lap shootout.
The crew is involved. It will make you hustle during the four segments leading up to that. And we feel like it's something that will really put an emphasis on speed for the whole night.
STEVE BYRNES: Chad, I already see the wheels turning. Do you have questions and/or analysis?
CHAD KNAUS: Yes, I do.
STEVE BYRNES: Both.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: So we can talk next week about it then.
CHAD KNAUS: So how are the segments lined up? I know everybody will be curious about that.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We'll have our qualifying, obviously, then we'll have 20 laps, we'll have a break. It will be your optional pit stops in between each one of those breaks. So it will be on your finishes. There will be no inversions or anything like that.
CHAD KNAUS: So if you win the first segment, the way you exit pit road in the break in between will be the way you start the second segment, just like a normal race?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Right.
CHAD KNAUS: Interesting.
STEVE BYRNES: What's your analysis?
CHAD KNAUS: I'm formulating it right now. I'm thinking fuel mileage and everything else. All right, interesting.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: You'll be in good shape. I'm sure he'll come up with something.
CHAD KNAUS: What's the reason for the change in format?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: And we have to continue that conversation, right (laughter)?
Well, you know, it's something we do quite often. I mean, this is an All‑Star event. The fans are always engaged in it. From time to time with the racetrack here at Charlotte Motor Speedway, we like to change things up. We just think this is going to be a really good format for it.
STEVE BYRNES: Robin, what's the process when you guys take a look at it and do you get help from other people outside of NASCAR that say, Hey, we got a big idea?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, we get a lot of help.
CHAD KNAUS: I liked it last year.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I know you liked it last year. When you look at last year and you guys won and you did exactly what you needed to do to pull off that win with the rules that they were given to work with. So that's the way the game's played. We got a new game coming.
STEVE BYRNES: Chad, the other thing about Charlotte Motor Speedway is there's always a surprise. Robin has touched on the format. I'm guessing there's going to be some bigger surprises coming, wouldn't you say?
CHAD KNAUS: I would imagine. I would imagine. If you leave it up to the Smiths, you know there's going to be something exciting going on.
The thing I really enjoy about the All‑Star Race is that it's a big, big deal to be able to even qualify for that event. Once you get in it with all the lights on, the crowds in the stands, the flashbulbs going off, it's major excitement, major excitement for that week in Charlotte.
STEVE BYRNES: The thing that I like is both you guys grew up as short‑track racers. The guys that race in this event say that it makes them think back to those days when they first started.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, that first race that we had here at night, then I worked on a car and we wound up finishing second that night.
But the electricity that's in the air, the lights on, and just that feel about being at a track. You can feel the cars, you smell the tires, all of that action, I mean. That was one hot night back then. And it hasn't changed, it really hasn't.
CHAD KNAUS: Okay. Another question. So the last segment, you line up by your highest average finish. Is that before you come to pit road then?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes. You line up average finish.
CHAD KNAUS: Work with me here.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: And the tiebreaker is the fourth segment finish.
CHAD KNAUS: Okay, okay.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: All right? You're going to have to run all the laps. That's all there is to it.
CHAD KNAUS: I'm just working on it, man. I'm just working on it.
STEVE BYRNES: Chad is thinking, am I going to have to run all the laps up front?
CHAD KNAUS: Just trying to make sure I understand exactly what you guys are doing.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Run up front and run hard.
CHAD KNAUS: And you have to pit in between segment three and four?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah. Four and five. Mandatory.
CHAD KNAUS: Sorry, four and five.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes.
CHAD KNAUS: All‑Star Race, I get confused sometimes.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It will be fun.
STEVE BYRNES: The All‑Star event here at the Charlotte Motor Speedway started in 1985, as you said. And it has grown into such a spectacle. Joining me now, Marcus Smith, president of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
We kind of heard the nuts and bolts, if you will, from a couple of former mechanics, and one current, Chad Knaus and Robin Pemberton.
MARCUS SMITH: Right.
STEVE BYRNES: Everything that you guys have done at Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been about the fans.
MARCUS SMITH: You got it. We love putting on a show. You know, my boss and my dad, Bruton Smith, loves to take it over the top every time. Really when we put on an event, I like to say it's like putting on the biggest backyard party you can imagine, you invited all your friends over.
I think of all the fans in the room tonight. We've got about 50 fans here. I think about guys like Charlie who have been coming here forever, my buddy Alex in Philly who better be coming down here for the May races. I think he's going to have a great time.
We really try to put on that event so when we see everybody the next week and the weeks after that, they're going to say, That was the coolest event I've ever been to.
STEVE BYRNES: I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I've seen law enforcement, I've seen guys with automatic weapons here.
MARCUS SMITH: You're curiosity is piqued.
STEVE BYRNES: There must be a unique story about this one. Let's take a look at that, Marcus.
MARCUS SMITH: Okay, you brought it up, Steve. We've got a special car over here to our right. Can you see we've got a bank vault over here in back of us? There is a certain amount of curiosity in the air.
As you said earlier, we have always had something special, something bigger in mind when it comes to the All‑Star Race. So to start it off, I want to ask, open up the vault door. I've got a special guest that's going to help us. Let's see what's behind of vault.
Hey, all right. That's our NASCAR champ. Welcome, Brad.
STEVE BYRNES: What do you say, champ?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Doing well, thank you.
MARCUS SMITH: I'm glad to have you here today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: There's armed guards here today. Must be the Twitter police.
STEVE BYRNES: I'm a little nervous about the heat personally.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, they're bringing real heat, too. I looked at those rifles. And those are real bullets.
MARCUS SMITH: This isn't 'Call of Duty'. This is the real deal.
These guys are here for a reason. And you are the perfect guy to help me unveil the reason these guys are here. Can you help me?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm ready. Let's do it.
MARCUS SMITH: Now, there is the new Gen‑6 car that NASCAR's introduced this year. You're familiar with it, right?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I am. I am.
MARCUS SMITH: This is a new kind of car. This is the kind of car I think you'll really like. I think it's the kind of car that every driver on the track is going to want one of these babies. And the only way you can get one is if you win every segment of this year's All‑Star Race.
You might think for the Sprint All‑Star Race, if somebody wins every segment that it didn't work. But I'm telling you what, guys are going to be going for this race because this car is the coolest car you've ever seen.
Can you help me show it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I love cool cars. Let's do it.
MARCUS SMITH: Here we go. Pull it back. What do you think, Brad?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: This is my favorite kind of car. How did you know?
MARCUS SMITH: This is Bruton's Big Bonus. An extra million dollars.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Can I touch it?
MARCUS SMITH: You can touch it.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's taped down, too.
MARCUS SMITH: This is an actual $1 million all packed up and ready to go. This only happens if you win the All‑Star Race. Already if you win the All‑Star Race, you win a million bucks. If you win every segment, you win a second million.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That's a lot of money.
MARCUS SMITH: That's a huge deal.
STEVE BYRNES: So if you lead every segment, you're walking out of here with $2 million?
MARCUS SMITH: You got it. You got it.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: And it will come in singles.
STEVE BYRNES: Apparently you know racers very well.
MARCUS SMITH: It's kind of like a trophy in itself.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: This is great. I love it, Marcus. I want to go out there and win it.
MARCUS SMITH: I don't know how this will change Chad's strategy that he and Jimmie are thinking about. I know it doesn't change your strategy.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: He's getting married, so he can't do it in singles, it's hundreds now. It's hundreds. But change of strategy, that's a good question. I don't know, I don't have a strategy but to win. I let the crew chiefs figure that stuff out.
I'm just going to go out there and race as hard as I can, lead every lap, win every segment. Looks like now I've got good reason to do so.
STEVE BYRNES: Brad, let me ask you something. Is it doable?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yes. You're going to have to have a really, really great team, a great car to do it. I think what's real tricky, what will be the real question is how the cars perform, the G6 car, the Gen‑6 car, will they have a lot of pace falloff or no pace falloff. If there's a lot of pace falloff in the cars, I think it's definitely doable.
STEVE BYRNES: Is he allowed to have three rolls of duct tape on the nose of his car like he did at the Daytona 500?
MARCUS SMITH: If I was Brad and three rolls of duct tape help you, go ahead.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm going to do whatever it takes to go fast. I'll put four on if it goes faster.
MARCUS SMITH: That's right.
STEVE BYRNES: Brad, you know what, with a million bucks sitting here, Bruton's Big Bonus, we always like to do it bigger. The fans love the All‑Star Race because of the way you guys drive. It's uninhibited. You don't have to worry about next week. You don't have any points to worry about. Sprint brings an amazing show to open it up with the great driver introductions that happen at the All‑Star Race. Every year it's one of the most fantastic, fan‑friendly shows out there.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Absolutely. You know, we love it so much, and this is race is about our fans, that with the help of Miller, we actually came up with a special paint scheme for your race that have our fans' faces on the car. We have the same commitment. We're going to go out there and do something great, crazy, unique. We're with the right guys here. Thank you, Marcus. Thank you, Bruton.
STEVE BYRNES: You said it's Bruton's Big Bonus. That's the official name?
MARCUS SMITH: Absolutely. Just like the drivers have their name on the windshield.
STEVE BYRNES: Well, Bruton Smith is here. Bruton, are you prepared to part with an extra million dollars?
BRUTON SMITH: It appears so (laughter). Marcus, he's my son, I love him, but I did notice that my household account is dry. And, Brad, I was planning to go to the grocery store as soon as this is over, but I don't have any money. So maybe you or Marcus can help me out a little bit, because Mr. Harris and Mr. Teeter is going to meet me there.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'll tell you what, I'll write you an IOU, then you can give me an IOU for this and we'll have a deal.
BRUTON SMITH: If you would autograph this, I could sell this and get enough money to go grocery shopping.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Put it on eBay. There's a lot of stuff on there.
BRUTON SMITH: Can I tweet you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You can definitely tweet me. I'll be on there. It helps if you write about girls. I answer those a lot.
BRUTON SMITH: Very good.
STEVE BYRNES: No kidding.
BRUTON SMITH: I'll become Delta Dawn or somebody.
MARCUS SMITH: That's his handle.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: He's good.
STEVE BYRNES: Bruton Smith, Marcus Smith, Brad Keselowski, thank you so much. We look forward to May 18th here on SPEED. Also thanks to Chad Knaus and Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for NASCAR.
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