NASCAR Media Conference
March 7, 2013
KERRY THARP: Robin Pemberton is here. He's vice president of competition for NASCAR. We thought we'd bring him in here to talk about today's test and what they're hoping to get out of it, see out of it. Obviously be back out here on the track tomorrow at Las Vegas.
I know a lot of work has gone into preparation getting ready for this season. Coming out here a day early at Las Vegas, at least what I'm hearing in the garage has been a positive thing. Is that what you're hearing?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes, so far. It's so early to tell. But as everyone knows, we've scheduled a few of these early ins at some racetracks, give the teams an opportunity to get the best information they can to prepare for this weekend's race.
All in all, things are going pretty smoothly. We'll see what comes out of it.
KERRY THARP: We'll take some questions for Robin.
Q. Denny Hamlin was saying he's not planned to pay the fine that he was given for his comments. What would be the procedure and how long does he have to pay?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: He also has the ability to appeal. The fines are supposed to be paid as soon as possible, but we’re not in any of those windows yet where it seems to be a problem.
Q. On the testing side, do you expect to see differences from the Charlotte test on that mile‑and‑a‑half track and what we learned here? I know it's been a few months. Have there been gains from the teams?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's not really for us, it's for the teams. I expect a number of things to change. The weather, for one, wasn't really ideal at Charlotte. But this is a great racetrack. It's got a lot of racing room on it.
When we were at Charlotte, the car inventory was quite limited at the time, so people were a little more tentative as far as being aggressive on their cars. There was really no reason to be that way. They're just trying to learn their way around.
This is quite a bit different test for everyone because it is a racecar, it is an opportunity to get tuned up for this weekend's race.
Q. How would you evaluate this car so far after two races? Is there anything in particular that you've asked the teams to look at today, that you hope they look at today?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The last part of it is we expect the teams to continue to push the limits of their equipment, and that's what's important. I think early on there was concerns over reliability on parts and pieces because we've pushed the envelope out there with cambers and things of that nature, the rear‑end housing, the left front camber maximum was increased. So it's up to the teams to continue to push and make their cars drive the best that they can.
So far, everyone seems to be doing their job. Speeds are right in the range that we expected to see for the first day.
Q. Do you anticipate the speeds increasing pretty significantly tomorrow? Is there sort of a cutoff speed that you start to be concerned as far as a safety standpoint?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, I think we've got a lot of margin built in. I mean, this isn't a place that you're too concerned with the speeds.
They may increase tomorrow. Like I said, today is a test day. I don't think that drivers or teams go for 100%. You may at the end of the day block off, try to put a couple of qualifying laps up there, see exactly what you have. But I think tomorrow will be a better day for that.
Q. Where is the limitation for what drivers can say without facing a fine if they have concerns about the car, whatever?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We give them quite a bit of latitude, but you can't slam your racing, you can't slam your product. That's where it crosses a line.
Q. The melted beads we saw on tires last week at Phoenix, did you get any clarity why that happened? Do you have any concerns about that here?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Heat. It's as simple as that. They have the ability to cool more. It's a compromise. When you try to run the front of the car as closed off as much as you can for downforce, it's a compromise at every different racetrack that we run at. There's certain places you run open, some open more than others. Martinsville and New Hampshire are places that come to mind where you need as much cooling as you can.
It changes. The target changes throughout the year because of the speeds. If we get a speed increase, you get the tire grip change or something, you tend to run harder at some places at certain times over the year.
The teams do have abilities for different types of shielding, cooling, things like that. It's up to them to do what they need to do to get the maximum performance but balance that with the longevity of the tires.
Q. Do you have to guard against people drawing conclusions from what they're going to see here on Sunday, branching that out to intermediate tracks for the rest of the year?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We're so early into it, you're making a mistake if you comment on the worst or the greatest racing ever.
The first part of the season we run in so many different racetracks, and we're so busy, the teams are so busy over the wintertime building all these cars, so when they get to that Easter break, they'll get a chance to settle in and to look at the information they have at hand, then they'll start to make those improvements on the car.
That's just the way our schedule goes. But positive or negative, you cannot read too much into any of this stuff. This is a long‑term deal here, years and years and years for this car. You may have the best race, but the teams will just continue to make it better.
Q. Are we looking at a softer tire going forward? Is that something that Goodyear is working on to get more grip into the racecars?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: They are working on tires that perform better, yes. It comes in many different ways, shapes and forms. It comes in tire sizes, tire widths, heights, staggers. It comes in whether the tire is a softer left and a harder right that may perform better or vice versa.
As many of you know, Goodyear continues to test every year to try to improve tire wear or tire grip. So that is ongoing. They were at Darlington a couple weeks ago at a test. This tire we have here is the same tire that we ran last year that performed fairly well.
I think last week was an all different tire. On the test, that particular test, that tire actually out‑performed the tire that we ran in 2012 by a couple 10ths a lap. When we got back there for the race, for whatever reason, it just showed roughly the same speed. Whether the car changed or some other things that the teams did, we don't know.
But they continue to test and they continue to make things where the teams get more grip and tire performance gets to be better. There's a lot of tests on the schedule for the rest of the year.
Q. If Denny wants to appeal the fine, what would that process entail?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: He has to let us know. He has to write a letter.
Q. He can continue to compete?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes. It's like every other appeal. Over the course of time, you remember mechanics and crew chiefs, whatever, if they appeal, then they can continue to carry on business as usual until the appeal has been heard and ruled on.
Q. Before the season started and you met with drivers, had your competition meeting, laid everything out, were there any warnings given to the drivers before they started the season not to go down this line of commentary?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I don't think so. I think those were some of the conversations we may have had a few years ago. But it's more of a matter of fact that you can't criticize your core product, what you're trying to do. Constructive criticism is one thing, but there's different statements that people made that are damaging. That's where we won't tolerate those types of things.
Q. Just to clarify on that. When he does appeal, does it also go to the National Stockcar Racing Commission and then to the chief appellate officer?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: This isn't any different than an illegal part or piece.
Q. You referenced it being damaging. When you met with the drivers, wasn't there some sort of data you had, like poll data, where you showed them the impact of their comments on the COT? Is that where you believe some of the comments about the racing can affect fan opinion?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: That was so long ago, I can remember part of that vaguely. You have to remember, we meet over the course of the year more than just once. The beginning of the season just happens to get more headlines than others. But we've been meeting with teams on a regular basis for quite a few years now.
I think it's fair to say any type of negative comment doesn't do you any good.
Q. You haven't made any sort of changes to cars or fencing this week because of anything you found out in the Nationwide event?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, no. That study, that's going to take some time. It's going to take a while to get that thing reconstructed. We'll continue to work with the experts. Steve O'Donnell brought you up to speed last week. There's nothing more to report on it right now on it. We just have to continue our work. When there's something to report, we will be more than happy to let everyone in on it.
KERRY THARP: Robin, thanks for coming in.
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