NASCAR Media Conference
July 15, 2013
BRETT JEWKES: Good afternoon. Today we're here to talk about what really began in earnest almost 18 months ago as a mandate from our chairman Brian France to reimagine R&D and innovation within NASCAR. That initiative accelerated greatly over the last eight months and has brought us here today. This initiative has been led by a steering committee headed by NASCAR President Mike Helton, the three gentlemen on the stand here today, as well as Steve Phelps, our chief marketing officer.
The steering committee has been working closely with the cross‑functional team from McKinsey & Co, who have great expertise in automotive technology and sports. They drew on resources from all of those disciplines and also former Chevrolet executive Brent Dewar. Those teams, working teams, have been embedded here at NASCAR since the fourth quarter of last year.
The initiative has been under the watchful eye of Steve O'Donnell from the beginning. He's seated here on the stand. Steve is our senior vice president of racing operations. Next to him is Gene Stefanyshyn, our VP of initiative and racing development who joined us in May, and next to him is Robin Pemberton, our VP of competition. With that I will turn it over to Steve.
We will go through the discussion. We ask you to hold your questions until the end. They're going to discuss 11 key initiatives that are all interconnected. Many of the questions you might have in the early going may get answered as we go along. Steve?
STEVE O'DONNELL: As Brett stated, this really started back in May or June of last year with Brian asking NASCAR to really lead in the technology and innovation space, so we started out, a group of us, going out to a number of the leaders in the technology space from a company standpoint. We met with a lot of the leading universities in the U.S., as well, and gathered some data as to what are some of the new emerging technologies, what could we be at NASCAR's research and development center, and from there really applied that to what we have in place today and how we needed to change or evolve to become worldwide leaders in the innovation space.
That led us obviously to the guy on my right with the hiring of Gene Stefanyshyn and initiatives that we're looking at today. We brought Gene on board, and then we looked to Brett's point that he talked about, what's our plan, how can we get position ourselves, so we aligned with McKinsey, who is certainly a worldwide leader and works with a number of professional sports. They've also got some great expertise from a manufacturing standpoint, so it was a natural fit for us, and what we were able to do is really look at where we wanted to be to position ourselves as a leader, and broke that down into four key areas.
So you're going to hear us talk today about those areas which are our governance model, our rules, our officiating and inspection, and finally our deterrent system. And I think as we go through them, those four areas are broken up to 11 initiatives. It's going to be really important to keep in mind that all 11 of those are interconnected, so we don't just look at one and focus in this one area. We look at it as a package, and they each kind of rely one within the other.
When we outline these it's going to require a significant amount of investment from NASCAR, some of which you've already seen when you look at the Air Titan and the Gen‑6, but as we go forward, some of the things we're going to lay out for you are going to require a big spend on our part. We're aware of that. We're ready to do so because I think it'll best position the sport for the future.
And I think right before we jump into it, I think the vision for us as you look at the future is we want to position NASCAR ultimately for the future. The goal for us would be that as cars come off the manufacturing line in the near future, they certainly look like NASCAR from an esthetic standpoint when you look at those on track, but just as importantly the technology that's in those cars mirrors what's on track, as well, and we really become that proving ground from a technology standpoint.
We want to be more nimble in what we do from a technology standpoint, be able to quickly react to the emerging technologies that are out there. And finally I think, and just as importantly, we want to be a proving ground. When you look at NASCAR we feel like no better sport is better positioned to really take technology, showcase it in front of some of the toughest conditions that exist in the world, and we think we're poised to do that.
These initiatives will be outlined and in place by the start of the 2015 season. Some of them you'll see as early as 2014, but the majority you'll see prior to the 2015 season.
With that I'll take you through some of the 11. I'm going to turn it over to Gene and Robin, also, to talk about it, but I think the first of the group fall into the governance category, and when we say governance, the first part you're already seeing when you ask about a timeline of how quickly would we see something or how quickly would we see change, and that's the shift of the rule‑making from competition or officiating over to R&D.
So we envision a world where the rules in the future makeup of the car shift over to Gene. We've started that process. Obviously that'll be a close working relationship with Robin and the competition folks. With that transition we'll go from at track specifically, good cooperation and communication at track, but all of that will evolve and move over to Gene.
And I think although it's a bit of a culture change for NASCAR, when you look at the emergence of the Gen‑6 car, we view that as a big success. We view that as the industry coming together, the teams and the OEMs collaborating with NASCAR with a long‑term plan, so this just formalizes that process when you look at a Gen‑7, Gen‑8 and all the other potential technologies out there would come to be formalized under Gene and communicated at track obviously with some emerging trends we see at track.
The second one that would fall under governance surrounds our appeals process, and I think when you look at all 11 of these, where they're intertwined is this is something we've looked at really for over the last year to year and a half, and that's really spelling out how our appeals process works. A number of you combed through our rule book, and I know Dustin or Bob would say where is the appeals process listed out, and where can I see that.
In the future we envision where the appeals process is clearly spelled out, where the people going into an appeal clearly understand what's out there, what's going to be discussed. And I think most importantly, the people that are on that appeals panel are industry experts, and I'd probably use our substance abuse policy as an example of that. If we had a case where we bring in people that are experts in that space to hear an appeal, that should apply today.
I think we've put some people in some somewhat tough positions with the emerging technologies and the science behind all our parts and pieces in the car. We owe it to the industry to have industry experts sit in on that and make proper rulings in conjunction with a lot of the other things you're going to hear today.
I'll turn it over to Gene as we go into kind of the rules, and also you'll see how the picture fully comes together when you look at appeals and how the rules and parts and pieces come together, as well.
GENE STEFANYSHYN: Thank you, Steve. Hello. I have not had an opportunity to meet any of you or work with you. I look forward to doing that as we go forward here. For me it's very exciting to come and join the NASCAR team as we enter this era of rejuvenation and reinvention of the sport in NASCAR. So I'm excited to be here and have got a lot of good work to do.
In the area of rules, there are really three major initiatives. The first one is our objective to attempt to simplify and increase the objectivity of the rules book. The fundamental or foundational element of this will be for us to migrate from a rule book which is largely text‑based to one which will be math‑based. When I say math‑based, I mean they will be computer‑aided design drawings or CAD drawings. I think this is absolutely critical. We know that all the OEMs, all the supply base, most manufacturers do have engineering drawings. Most of these are now in a math‑based world. We need to migrate to that.
I think also we began to tiptoe into that as I understand when we were working the Gen‑6 car, so this is not necessarily new to us. Most of the teams said that was a very, very good initiative.
Also, as we go into the math world, that is the fundamental backbone, if you have math designs, to be able to go into computer‑aided engineering. To be able to refine designs by use of computers is critical, and that's what most people do to be able to run hundreds of iterations and millions of iterations to refine designs.
. The other element that the teams will see, they will see a real‑time rules book, because as we make it electronic, as we make it math‑based, it will be real‑time, and they'll always have the best information. They'll be able to download this information very quickly.
So you imagine the guys in the shop trying to build a vehicle; they'll have the best, the latest information, and this migration to math will enable us to also remove a lot of the gray zones or the interpretation when dealing with written words. I mean, drawings with dimensions plus and minus become very black and white, and people can then spend their energy working on things that will help us to improve the sport as opposed to talking about interpretation of written words.
The second area is a parts approval process. I think for us one of the things we've heard loud and clear from some of the teams is we want more transparency here, so we want to develop a process which is very transparent, structured so all the teams know where they play, how they play, how the decisions will be made, and we want to set up a regular cadence of meetings to be able to do this, and this will also include peer reviews.
We're hoping what this will do, or we're quite confident it will do, it will increase the level of communication, communication for everybody at the right time so they're involved and they can see what's happening. This increased communication will bring a level of everybody feels like they're being treated fairly. It should improve the competition, and it should allow our teams to spend their time on more value‑added things.
The third element of the rules piece is to attempt to bring more consistency to our three major national series. Over time some of these have diverged a bit. Our expectation here is we want to review those. Again, our objective here is to make the race product better. Everything we're doing is with that superordinate goal in mind. And those rules we think which are having people spend energy in non‑value‑added areas, we'd like to give them that time back to work on other things. So we want to remove the non‑value‑added activities, and we also want to provide assistance to those teams which are in multiple series.
So again, all this is about reinvention and to put money back into the sport to grow the sport and to take it forward. So with that I turn it back to you, Steve.
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, and I would say, again, as you see the picture become clearer, you look at the appeals process, we want to clean that up or make that more transparent. If you look at the parts that will be approved, the rule book that will go to CAD drawings, and so that leads you to a stronger‑‑ what we're calling a stronger deterrence model, and what that is going to be is somewhat more of a reliance on the teams to come to the track, we believe, race ready.
We're still out‑‑ and let me back up a little bit. We have had some initial conversations with some of the teams where we've gotten some terrific feedback. Those are still ongoing. We're out talking to the teams, to the tracks, to our broadcast partners about what they think of some of the initiatives we have laid out, and with that feedback we're able to take a look at some things that we may not have and maybe improve upon. Those discussions are still ongoing, which is important to note.
But as you go into the penalty phases of the rule book and where it's laid out, NASCAR has been criticized sometimes for being somewhat subjective, and when we look at the rule book in the future, we want to categorize penalties so they're listed out in the rule book. So when you look at parts that are approved, when you look at CAD drawings, the next step for us is for the teams to clearly understand what's right, what's wrong, and so you're going to see in the rule book X infraction equals X penalty. Therefore when you look at the part, you look at the CAD drawing, you look at the potential penalty, and then ultimately you look at the appeals process, we think it will be much more clearly defined not only for us and our competitors but for the race fans, as well.
Ultimately all of this that we're looking at is to make it more clear. We still want our teams to innovate. That's not something we're going away from. But we just want to paint a clearer picture.
So the next area that we're going to talk about comes into officiating, and Robin is going to talk about most of this, but one key one I want to hit off on the bat is really the increased use of technology, particularly on pit road. So as we go forward looking at what can the future be on pit road, we see an area where our fans can become much more engaged not only at the racetrack but viewing at home.
You look at the potential for all the data that comes out of those stops, what fans could potentially see at the track as they look at a pit stop with a number of our partners, when you look at HP, 3M, Whelen, you could envision some lights above each pit stall. You can envision some new technology that shows fans that exactly what's happening during each stop. You could envision technology that allows us to communicate immediately real‑time through apps at track or at home that enables fans to really be in the race and know exactly what's happening during each pit stop.
So again, it becomes something we look at where we can showcase technology, we can bring in some emerging technologies, as well, and demonstrate some really cool aspects at the track.
So it's something we are in the process of exploring. We've talked to a number of companies, but we expect that to be fully in place by the start of the 2015 season, as well.
And again, that's something that when you come to the track, we want it to be a place that showcases innovation across the board, and we think pit road is certainly an area we can do that, and ultimately we want to put the fan in the driver's seat, seeing that data, seeing what happens throughout the race.
The other three I want to turn it over to my good pal Robin to take us through the other three areas of officiating.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Thanks, Steve. As we go forward at the racetrack, we're going to try to be more efficient there. We're going to decrease the amount of time that we spend inspecting cars in some of the areas. We're looking at streamlining some of our pre‑practice inspections. We're going to maintain or increase some of our pre‑qualifying inspections and maintain and increase our post‑race inspection, whether it is at track or back here at the R & D Center.
A lot of these changes that we're going to put in play at the racetrack is in an effort to get the teams more practice time as it relates to their race setups, and those and other benefits will be to have more flexible time if we get a rain delay or things like that, we'll be able to get some of our practice time back. It's in an effort to increase a lot of our practice time for the race setups.
We'll also be looking at potential qualifying changes that will enhance that aspect for the fans moving forward.
We're going to create a data system at the racetrack to better keep informed of the trend and do trend analysis of our inspection process. It should lend us to be more efficient moving forward with the teams and with us as far as we get the data and process that.
I just want to be clear, when we do some of these things, we are not going to inspect cars less; we are going to maintain a level playing field at all times. I think the teams have expected us to do that. Through the years we feel like it's been fair and that teams expect us to keep law and order in the garage area.
We're going to also catch some efficiencies by creating some scheduling as it relates to the racetrack around our qualifying times. The team's model, it's changed a lot over the last few years, and we need to update that and upgrade it and give us an opportunity to make it more fair for the race teams, and we have to manage that correctly.
We have to enhance the inspections through data collection and our trend analysis. Brian France has promised us increased commitment from him and from NASCAR to give us the resources. We need live real‑time data going back and forth from the racetrack to the R & D Center. He's made significant investments in this, and he continues to encourage us to be a leader and to invest in the cutting‑edge technology.
And last but not least, we're going to create a unified officiating model across all three of our national series. Simply put, the officials will be NASCAR officials. They will be no longer a Sprint Cup official, a Camping World Truck series official or a Nationwide official. We previously noted that we have similarities across all of our series, but they do have variables, and we think with the new technologies that are in place here at the R & D Center, the new technology that we will have in play at the racetracks, we will be able to move forward and inspect our cars properly with a common officiating staff. It will be more efficient not just for ourselves but also for the race teams as we move forward.
So with that, we're entering a new time, a new era. It's exciting for us, all of us. We love the opportunity to bring in all of our new technology moving forward, so with that I'll turn it back over to Brett.
STEVE O'DONNELL: The last point on Robin's stuff, too, when you look at one of the things that's been asked when we go out to the teams and they've gotten this right away, is really where we're headed from a rule‑making versus officiating standpoint, no different than the race teams today, so when you look at how teams are set up, obviously their at‑track crew but work does not stop at the shop. They're preparing six months out for races. They're preparing for the future cars, and that's the model we envision, as well. Obviously we've got to do our job at the racetrack, but when you're looking at the R & D Center that work can't stop, and we need to be working on 2013, '14, '15, '16, and be aligned and be ready to go and be focused and be aligned with the manufacturers, the race teams, and really lay that plan out for them, which ultimately at the end of the day for all of us just makes the product on the racetrack better, and that's the end goal of what we're trying to achieve here today.
BRETT JEWKES: We'll take some questions from here at the R & D Center and then we'll kick it to the teleconference.
Q. Steve, you talked about wanting the pit road and the garage area to be a showcase place for innovation, and I just want to make sure I understand, it sounds like the rule is now very specific, little gray area. So what will be the motivation for teams to be innovative with so much transparency and so little room to move, and are we talking about team innovation or NASCAR innovation?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think you're talking about both. I think the key here for us is NASCAR innovation. We want to be innovative as a sport and we think no other sport is better positioned to do that. When you look at all the data we can potentially get out to race fans, there's no other sport that's got that available to them.
But when you talk about race teams and being able to innovate, I want to be clear here, and I think Gene and Robin would agree with this: We are not trying to put teams in such a box that they can't innovate. One of the things that we are doing as we go out and talk to the teams is getting that message very clearly to them, that we still want teams‑‑ that's what our sport was founded on, was innovation, being able to work and find that advantage.
So we need our rules to be very clear so when they do innovate it's okay, and it's not, hey, we've got you. It's something that they've come up with and it's very clear to us in the rule book that this is an area in the future years we need to take a look at, but teams are able to innovate.
What I will tell you space may be clearly defined is where we want you to innovate, and that'll come through with Gene's outline, his outlining parts and getting together and talking about that; where are the areas where we want to innovate as a sport and let the experts for the teams go out and do that because they're the best in the world.
Q. Is the rule book going to be online for anybody, the public, to see, and if so, why the change in philosophy of making a rule book public?
GENE STEFANYSHYN: I believe the rule book, and correct me if I'm wrong, Steve, I think it's made available today to most people. The teams have it. I think some of the media have it.
We will, as we move into this, determine, since it will be an electronic format, who has access and who has access to what piece. But I don't think our objective at the moment is to exclude anybody, but as we get into that we'll determine what is the best way to do that.
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, I think particularly asking from a fan standpoint, I think we're still taking a look at that. Not ruling it out by any means, but I think still as those discussions take place with the teams and the tracks figuring out what's the best way to do that.
Q. Can you explain a little more the appeal process, what you're going to look to change there, the people you've used in the past be different because they didn't have expertise in areas that are now coming into play? And at‑the‑track decisions, you said you want more technology to come back to the R & D Center. Will Gene be making calls from here that normally Robin and Mike would have made from the track?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Let me start with your first question about the appeals. First let me say when you look at our appeals process and we did a thorough review of it, I would say we've got the most independent process in all of sports, so we were proud of the fact that that was in place. We thought it was a very fair process, but as with anything, you can always improve upon it. One of the things we looked at is we probably put people in some tough positions. And when you look at track promoters who maybe need to work with a race team or a race owner or a team owner, I'm sorry, in future weeks and you're asking them to come in and make a rule on a carburetor or EFI or something new that they have never heard about, and they're not experts in that, it puts them in a tough position, especially when you look at how our process is in place now, which would be walk into the appeal and make a decision.
They haven't had the preparation or they're not fully versed in that piece. We felt like as we looked at that, that's tough, and that's tough to put someone in. If we can make that a better process with industry experts, still to be determined how we do that, that's why we're going out and talking to folks, but I think that's one area we really felt like we could bring in people who have a better understanding of the emerging technology that's in the race cars.
As far as calls at track, Robin is our vice president of competition and makes the calls at track. I think what you're referring to would be the rules aren't the rules for a race. The rules are where do you go in the future, what's the car made up of, but as far as officiating a race, that doesn't change.
Q. Robin, you talked about potential qualifying changes to enhance that aspect for the fans. What could that potentially mean?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, as you know, we've experienced with some things over the years with road race qualifying and things like that. But we understand that for the fan experience, there's probably some opportunity out there to take a look at some format change for that. We're in the process of evaluating that.
Q. Steve, when you talk about standardizing this infraction equals this penalty, how do you begin to decide what equals what, and could that entail maybe a relook at what kind of point penalties we've been seeing lately, and could that change?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's a fair question. We're still working on it, but when you look at it, I think our initial thoughts are to break it down into categories, maybe one through five, one through six have certain levels, some obviously that you see that are day‑to‑day. If you go back and look at our history, there's some pretty standard ones that people expect, so that's just really formalizing that. Others that you've seen, you mess with engines, you mess with tires, those are the big ones, and so we're going to lay that out more specifically to the race teams so they know.
So we'll list those out in the rule book so everyone can see if you do X, here's the penalty or here's the fine or potentially the points. Still working through that, and that's what we're going to the teams with. They like the transparency, it's just how we categorize those, and that's what we're working through right now.
Q. Steve, in regards to the appeal process, I think some people may wonder about if this is much done because of some of the defeats that have taken place, and while you have certain penalties, you've had some of those things rescinded in the last year and particularly this year. Does that fortify that or are you trying to fortify that by just trying to explain what the penalty should be by listing it in the rule book? Does this help you win your appeal process more often than you have lately?
STEVE O'DONNELL: The short answer to that is no, it's not to do that. I go back to what I stated at the beginning that all 11 of these are intertwined, so this goes back to May of last year. Have we learned things from every appeal? Of course. But we looked at our appeals process as part of all 11 in order to change how you do the rules, the approval process, the rule book, CAD drawings, okay, what falls into that. Part of that process is obviously your appeals.
So we took a look at the appeals process and said what, if anything, could we do better, and I think that was the one area when we looked at who's on the appeal commission, I would say the opposite probably; if you wanted NASCAR to win all the appeals, we could certainly look at having some people who weren't at all industry experts. I think by doing that you want to be even more transparent. By letting out the penalties you want to be more transparent. So it's in an effort to make it even clearer to not only the garage but the race fans and the media, as well.
Q. Does anything else change with the appeals process? There will still be a panel and a fellow officer or are you changing that dynamic?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We're looking at that dynamic, as well.
Q. Steve, guys in the garage seem to understand the nuance between gray area, unapproved, illegal, but there seems to be a lot of confusion with fans, particularly in the area of social media and instant communication. Was a lot of this motivated by some of the feedback that you guys have gotten from fans in the last year or so over some of these appeals in cases?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we certainly look at fan data all the time, and social media allows for us to get instant feedback. We all know that. But I think more importantly, this was something that was set out upon really to be a leader in innovation, and to do that, in looking at all 11, this was an area we felt like we could improve upon. We still felt good about the independence of the system and where we were, but I think ultimately it felt like something that if we could improve upon it, this was a good time to do that, and it really aligned well with what Gene has talked about in his area, so the timing felt right for that, as well.
Q. I'm not sure who wants to take this, but going back to what Steve O'Donnell was saying about wanting to be a proving ground and reacting with the emerging technologies in the auto industry, that no sport is better positioned to take the technology and showcase it in tough conditions, I just wonder how do you reconcile that with the fact that ultimately you guys are still running a V‑8 push rod engine which obviously doesn't have a lot in common with what's found on the road? Are there possible changes ahead there to bring you guys more in line with street models and passenger cars and stuff like that so the technology can transfer a little bit more easily between the racetrack and the street?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, I will turn it over to Gene in a second, but that's ultimately why Gene was brought on board. He's got over 30 years of experience in this area, designs cars from soup to nuts, and so that's why he's here is to take us and better position us. I'll let Gene talk about that.
GENE STEFANYSHYN: Yeah, I think our objective is to have a plan that spans many years from short‑ to long‑term and develop technologies that we think are going to be relevant to our fans. To that extent, I think the car on the track needs to have some commonality with the cars people drive. We need to move in a direction that the rest of the world is moving. To that extent, if we don't, we essentially will disenfranchise ourselves with our next generation of fans. So yes, we need to migrate in that direction. The speed at which we move will be important.
I think we do still have V‑8 engines out there in vehicles. I recall as a young engineer when I was still wearing bellbottom jeans, they told me that in 1985 the last V‑8 engine would roll off an assembly line, and here we are, many, many years later, and we still have V‑8s. This just speaks to the creativity of technology and what technology can do. We've got new Corvettes coming out that are going to get 30 miles per gallon and are going to do 0‑60 in under four seconds.
So the creativity and the things available are significant. We just need to make sure our selections in technology stay relevant but at the same time we don't jump too fast and not do the best thing for the fan experience.
Q. You were talking about transparency on pit road. Is it possible that we're actually going to see what the exact pit road speeds and times are for the competitors?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we're looking at all aspects of the experience on pit road, so we're out now meeting with a number of different technology partners. To narrow it down to that answer I think would be premature. I think we're looking at everything that happens on pit road and what could you provide not only to the race teams and the fans that make it a better experience but ultimately make it a better race, and so anything and everything that happens on pit road now is really included in our kind of white sheet of paper of how can we improve upon that and add to the fan experience.
GENE STEFANYSHYN: Just to follow on there, I think a lot of sports when you watch it, you see what happens with the officiating right on the field. Somebody shows a red card or you understand the infraction. A lot of ours happen in pit road somewhat behind the curtain as it were. I think part of our objective here is how do we take some of the mystery out of this, and how do we explain this to our fans, how do we engage the fans because the more you understand something the more you enjoy it.
That's one of our objectives is how do you provide this information to some of our younger fans so they understand this race experience and they can really engage in it and really appreciate it.
STEVE O'DONNELL: And I think to Gene's point, I think if you looked at pit road speeding violations, it used to be stopwatches, then it went to NASCAR with the timing loops and it's on the computer, to where a team would still question us, to where if you go to a race now, you'd have Jeff Burton telling his team over the radio, well, NASCAR must be right on this; we've got to adjust our speeds. So the teams have bought in, and the technology that we bring in has to have that assumption from the teams that we'll get it right, and once we do, which we will get it right, is ultimately then make the fan experience even better.
Q. Whoever would like to take this, how fluid is this group that's going to put these rules together right now in the sense that we don't know where technology may take us, if you're thinking two, three years beyond? Will this be an ongoing process from now on at NASCAR?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, I think it's a change in how we do business moving forward. I think some of it is more formalized, but by bringing Gene in, by having Robin, the three of us working together, I think now you've got a team in place that works directly for Mike to look at emerging technologies, to obviously officiate the sport in the best manner that we can, but then to be working ahead and to be working together to really get ahead of things year in and year out and map out those plans with the OEMs, with partners, and ultimately have that fan experience that we're looking for that gets them in the driver's seat and delivers the ultimate experience I think in sports where we can really deliver all that data and technology to our fans.
Q. This would be for Robin: Robin, can you explain the rule on teams and telemetry during a race now and what you foresee it could be under these new guidelines that you're looking at?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think we are looking into that, but we have to balance between‑‑ for the race teams to keep a fair, level playing field. But there are things that we will be able to go in and mine that data from the ECUs and actually create more data that we can get across through the broadcast partners, and a lot of it depends on infrastructure at racetracks and things to enhance the fan at the racetracks.
We envision a lot of this stuff going out where it can be on the tablets and the smartphones and things to be better for the fans, and we have to‑‑ there's some hurdles that come across, to go across, to make sure that it's not taken advantage of by a race team in a negative way. But we are looking at that, and we feel like that's the direction we need to head into sooner than later in order to give a good experience for the fans.
Q. In terms of the spirit of bringing the three series closer together, is the long‑range plan to incorporate EFI in the trucks and Nationwide, as well?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, you know, we do have that ability, and at some point in time to be relevant we will have to go into that area for some of those other series.
As it stands right now, it's on the horizon, but I don't feel that that's something that we will do any time in the next year or two.
Q. Gene, you mentioned this reimagining of the rule book. Will this entail going through this thing line by line and determining what's still relevant and what's not, and what sort of undertaking is this?
GENE STEFANYSHYN: Yeah, that's exactly what it'll take. We'll need to walk to each part of the car. We'll need to translate the written text into drawings. We'll also need to be careful with those. Some of those words have a long history and found their way into the rule book, so we need to make sure the ones that are really relevant and important remain on the drawings. So over the next year we've got a lot of work to do to pour through, and we'll need to go through the car section by section, whether it's safety, chassis, etcetera, and we'll involve and bring all our history and people who really have knowledge to bear as we go through that to make sure we don't miss something along the way. So yeah, it will be a fairly significant undertaking for us to get to the other side.
Having said that, once we get to the other side, as we go on, it'll be much easier to work off of that base, so there is a big chunk of work ahead of us.
Q. Steve, again, about the rule book and making everything as specific as possible with these CAD drawings and whatnot, in the past when there's been an infraction there's always been some remark or comment about the spirit of the rule book as opposed to the letter of the rule book. Do you now expect you're going to clear all of that up and we won't have a need to refer to the spirit of the law anymore because the letter will be as clear as possible?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think that's the goal. I think the gray area that you see out there we want to eliminate, and by doing the things we've laid out with parts approvals, working with the teams so they're in line with us on what parts are in those cars, what's approved, it's clearly laid out through CAD drawings so that when you go into an appeal, the experts know what's in there and it's black and white, the penalties, as well. So I think that's the ultimate goal is really to lay it out, to be as transparent as possible, knowing that we're going to learn something new every day.
We've got the most innovative culture in all of sports, and we get that, but we think there's some room to really grow and improve in this area and then adjust as needed.
One thing I forgot that you brought up when we talked about deterrence and laying out the penalties, we will have something in place, too, obviously that a Cup penalty would not be the same as a Nationwide or Truck, so it will be scaled based upon our series, as well.
Q. We've heard for years that every situation when it comes to penalties and infractions is different. I'm curious by putting penalties in groups, are you concerned about putting yourself in a box when there could be extenuating circumstances, and are you doing this more for teams' knowledge or do you believe that there's some NASCAR integrity perception issue like maybe you favor some teams more than others and this would avoid those type of situations?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think I'd go back to when we looked at the overall sport and all 11 initiatives, where could we make improvements, and we felt like this was an area when you looked at laying out the penalties, where we could be more up front, more transparent. That's not something that NASCAR is just going to come up with and say here you go. That's why we're out talking to the race teams.
The conversations that we've had so far, the teams really like that. They do believe it eliminates some of the gray areas. It helps them, as well, when they look at potential infractions and candidly even some avenues they may potentially go down where we clearly can lay out this is an area we want to focus on or this may be an area that they can go and innovate.
I think ultimately it's just a better way for us to move forward and be more transparent with the teams. I would also say that it would certainly help with the folks gathered in this room, with the media and the fans as we explain it. That's no secret, but I would hope a result of that would be if you're reporting on a penalty and you can see here's the part, here's the diagram, here was the ruling, I would hope ultimately if we've done our job right, a fan would say, okay, I get that, I can see that. And ultimately the folks if it did go to an appeal would be able to see that, as well.
Q. (From Twitter:) Any reason not to let fans see the rule book?
GENE STEFANYSHYN: I would say I'm not aware of any. I'm not aware of any.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: That's why Gene is new.
GENE STEFANYSHYN: But I'd like one mulligan, so we'll see. We'll see how we go. But yeah, I mean, if we're really trying to engage fans and have fans understand the sport, I mean, it depends on how deep we want to‑‑ maybe some fans will want to go look at all the nuts and bolts. So I don't know, it depends on how we structure it. But we're open‑minded to that, but again, I reserve a mulligan.
Q. A couple things: I know you've talked about these changes by 2015, some by 2014. So in essence we're, what, six, seven months away from the part of the next season, the 2014 season. One is which of these things are we going to see by next year? Is next year's rule book going to have the penalties laid out, or what are the certain technologies that the fans are going to experience next year, not in 2015, and secondly, if Robin can talk about if anything is going to change with the post‑race inspection process at track or the R& D Center through all of this, please.
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think I'd point to the biggest change that's already in place is the rules transformation going over to Gene, and then as you look at the appeals process, we certainly want to have that laid out. But I think the majority of these we're going to put in place at the start of the 2015 season, and the reason I wouldn't want to go any deeper than that is really because we are out talking to the teams and we owe it to the teams and the tracks to really take them through exactly where we want to go, make sure we're not missing anything.
We think we've got a really solid plan, but it would be unfair for us to say we are adamantly putting these in place without having all those conversations at this point.
Q. The rules transformation, what do you mean by that?
STEVE O'DONNELL: The rules moving from the track to R&D under Gene, and that's really why we have Gene on board.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, and you can always see an increase for the need of post‑race inspection. I think as competition continues to improve, and I think it's arguable we're having some of the best years we've ever had, we continue to bring more vehicles home for inspection. You know, obviously everybody knows the Cup, but we do bring Nationwide teams back here to inspect them, not quite on the regular basis that we do for the Cup.
But those types of inspections I can foresee increasing significantly over the next few years, and it always relates to what goes on and the scheduling and the things that we mind up doing at the racetrack as we try to increase some of our efficiencies there, we'll wind up doing a lot more work back here at the R&D during the early part of the week or midweek.
Q. You talked about a change in officials or a more common official. Can you give me a sense of how many officials you have throughout the three series, what that number is likely to go down to because you're not going to need as many, and what happens to that number? Does that number transfer somewhere else or are those just lost positions?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We've got 120, 130 officials, and what we're going to go through is to see how this model works at the racetrack and what it takes to use a common group that travels at one time or another. They won't all travel at the same time. That's some things that we've got on the board right now.
BRETT JEWKES: We want to thank you all for being here and those that joined us on the teleconference. We will have transcripts available as well as a handout fax sheet that lists all 11 of the initiatives. Gene, Steve, Robin, thank you for your time.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|