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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Daytona 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500

Robin Braig
Ramsey Poston
February 14, 2010


KERRY THARP: We brought in Robin Braig and Ramsey Poston to talk about some challenges they had tonight. Certainly worked through them and put on a great race and a super finish.
Robin, I know you wanted to talk to the folks down here.
ROBIN BRAIG: First of all, I want to start by thanking our great race fans, television partners and viewers for sticking with us. That's the type of race fans we have here in NASCAR. They stayed. We thought a 1:00 start was a great idea and we were going to get out a little earlier. So we were glad they stuck with us.
I'll read a statement, then Ramsey and I will take some questions.
As we do for every event, we inspected this track this morning and there were no concerns. We are always prepared for these types of issues. We had the proper materials and worked diligently to repair it.
The delay in the repairs was caused by the unusually cold ambient temperature. After this event, we will evaluate these effects from the weather and will make the necessary adjustments.
RAMSEY POSTON: From NASCAR's point of view, I want to thank the track for everything they did to repair the track and make it raceable. At the end of the day, we had more than the advertised distance, we had more than 200 laps for our fans. Obviously red flags were unfortunate.
At the end of the day, we had some great racing out there. I spent a lot of the red flags talking to probably a couple dozen drivers, a number of crew chiefs. I think most of them said to me that if you're in racing long enough, this kind of thing is going to happen from time to time.
But I just want to congratulate the track services out there for everything they did so we could have a great finish and a great race.
KERRY THARP: We'll take a few questions.

Q. Robin, can you go through everything that you all did? What did you try? What didn't work? What ended up working?
ROBIN BRAIG: Well, we stage inside outside of turn two. The good news is we were close by with our materials. As you come out of turn two, you'll see our equipment out there.
The first hole in the track was about 9 by 15 by 2 inches. It wasn't very big, as you all were staring at it on television. By the way, I think you could tell from these high-def televisions, you know this track well enough, it was in a dip in the track surface. We have many dips throughout this surface. So it couldn't have been in a worse spot. We're not sure whether we had pavement failure or perhaps a car dug into it and lifted the pavement out. We have to study that, evaluate that.
Our first batch of repair material didn't hold. That was a mistake on our part. We used the wrong type of material. It didn't hold it at all. This is within the first delay, I'm talking about. So we pulled that one out and tried a second batch of material. I won't get into it specifics, because I'm not an engineer, but we had several engineers down there. And we thought that that was pretty good. We heated it.
If you guys were out there, that was the only spot that wasn't getting sun. The difference in the temperature was 58 degrees on the outside and 44 degrees in the shade there. Any other turn, the temperature of the track was much warmer. Hence, you saw what we were doing. We were backing our jet dryers up to dry the track, using torches.
So we went racing. That patch actually, as they bottomed out, they dug it deeper. By the time we got out there for the second delay, the hole was twice the size. We used Bondo. Guess what, car racing, we found Bondo, and sometimes that works, and it did. We mixed up many batches of Bondo. We had plenty of it. The engineers were out there. We were all mixing.
Let me speak to our engineers. We own 12 racetracks. We understand pavement. We have North American Testing Corporation, which was formed by Bill Jr. Bill Jr. would never tolerate this type of a situation. We have pavement and pavement specialists. They were on the track. He was the guy with the ball cap, Bill Braniff.
The second one held. We felt good about it, apologized for the lengthy delay. We take full responsibility. We got to get better at doing our patchwork. If we have to do it again, we have to figure out the compounds. We really got to understand the temperature and the heat of the pavement. We just couldn't get it to bond.

Q. Do you think the incident with the pothole does anything to the reputation of the Speedway?
ROBIN BRAIG: Well, sure. We're the World Center of Racing. This is the Daytona 500. This is not supposed to happen. And I take full responsibility. I represent 300 full-time staff members. I represent a hundred operation people. I don't represent the NASCAR safety workers and the input that NASCAR helps us when that track rolls up. We take full responsibility.
But we can come back from this. We know how to fix it. Like I say, we own 12 racetracks. We had some other racetrack people out there from Homestead. We know how to do it right. I apologize for it. This is hallowed ground. We understand that. We accept the responsibility.

Q. Robin, does this accelerate your thinking about repaving soon or is that not a factor?
ROBIN BRAIG: You know, we've got to look and see whether it was the gouge from the cars in that dip there and we'll evaluate that. Y'all have already mentioned that 2012 or 2013 or 2014, was when we were thinking of repaving. It may not need repaving. We've been told by the drivers, crew chiefs, NASCAR, Goodyear, that the uniqueness of this track is special. We saw the many lead changes. How many lead changes? One of the most.
RAMSEY POSTON: I think we set a record today with 21 different leaders, which is a record. I think we had over 52 lead changes. Certainly had great racing out there today.
ROBIN BRAIG: We don't want to repave -- paint the whole house when all we have to do is a little touch-up.

Q. We passed the hour mark in the first red flag. You could see people in the stands leaving. I had a chance to go down there and talk to people. They were not happy. I talked to people who came from California, spent thousands of dollars to come here, rained out Friday, two delays today. What do you tell these people who spend so much money to come here and see something like that?
ROBIN BRAIG: Well, we're the best at guest services. I'll put our guest services department against anybody in sports. We will be reaching out to them before they can reach out to us. We have all kinds of ways of doing that. We know whether we reach them on the Internet or through our call centers. We'll be reaching out to them first and listening to some of their concerns.
But they did see 500 miles of racing. They did see some unbelievable finishes. We thank NASCAR for our 'green-white-checkered' rule change. We'll reach out to them and speak to them individually. I speak to many of 'em. We'll hear their concerns and make sure they understand we will fix the problem.

Q. Robin, Dale Earnhardt was in here a little while ago and suggested that maybe it's time to resurface, repave the track. Given the characteristics of Talladega, do you think it's time to repaint your house?
ROBIN BRAIG: Dale Jr. has not liked our pavement for many years. I think you can look that record up. We listen to our sanctioning body and Goodyear. We take the drivers' and the crew chiefs' concerns. We mix that in with a lot of decision-makers.
But we don't think it's time to repave, unless we find out something different after we evaluate it this week. We've got engineers all over this. You know how many people are waiting in line to get out there and see that in the morning.

Q. Robin, do you have a guesstimate on how many fans you think left during the first break or the second break? Can you blame them, because it seemed as if the earlier starting time thing you were selling was to let people get home earlier?
ROBIN BRAIG: Oh, I absolutely don't blame them. I would suggest to you, as most of us were watching the crowd, when that sun dipped down, we lost about 20 degrees of temperature, that didn't help us not very much either. I don't have any estimates on that.
But I was very pleased with the frontstretch and the superstretch crowd when the checkered flag went.

Q. Robin, some people might say why even go into the most important race of the year with any chance of something like this happening. The track hasn't been repaved since 1978. Isn't that an unusually long time?
ROBIN BRAIG: No, it's not unusually long at all because we're in Florida. We have the best temperature here. We keep such great care of our track. We walk it. We walked it this morning. We walk it before every event. Walk it, all my staff, that's in charge of the track. We know every inch of that. We saw no indications.
We had two races yesterday on that track and we walked it again. We never saw. This is something we couldn't see.
By the way, if it's a gouge, I don't know what film is going to show, you can't prevent that.

Q. Being normally there's good warm weather here most of the year, is there any chance that all of the rain that fell on this place Friday may have had something to do with this, along with 30-degree temperatures last night?
ROBIN BRAIG: That's something the engineers will take into consideration. They have so many gadgets to evaluate temperature, moisture in the track, all that kind of stuff, so I can't address that. I promise you our engineers will be talking to you in the coming days.

Q. Robin, a few minutes ago you tongue-in-cheek thanked Ramsey for the new rules. In all seriousness, as much of a black mark as today was, then it ended under a yellow, which it would have last year, it would have really been 10 times worse. That, coupled with the fact that Junior makes a run, the sport's most popular driver, do you feel you dodged a little bit of a bullet?
ROBIN BRAIG: That was a fabulous finish. You're right. Our fans waited it out. They deserved a 'green-white-checkered'. To see Dale Jr. to come through like that. We're proud of Jamie McMurray. We like him here. He's been a winner here before for us. He's a great spokesperson for Superspeedways. So, yeah, we definitely dodged a bullet with a nice, exciting finish.
RAMSEY POSTON: Well, look, it wasn't just the finish. I mean, we saw great racing today. Quite frankly, we saw great racing all through Speedweeks. You know, from the racing perspective, you couldn't wish to get your season off to a better start.
Obviously the red flags are unfortunate, no one wants to see that. But hopefully what fans will really remember about this race tomorrow and years to come is that dramatic finish, that 88 cutting through the entire field, really having a great finish for the win, and a great win for Earnhardt Ganassi with Jamie McMurray.

Q. Robin, it seems that Greg Biffle and Dale Jr. seemed to think there was a hole on the track at the end of the race. Was there a hole that developed at the end of the race?
ROBIN BRAIG: I don't know. We haven't been out there to take a look at it yet. We're exhaling still. We've been holding our breath for a while there towards the end. I don't know that answer. They would be better to answer that than myself.

Q. Robin, is there any extra inspection or any extra level of observation you do when the temperatures get like they did the last couple weeks, down to freezing sometimes?
ROBIN BRAIG: Extra? No more than what we do when it rains and we go out and check our parking lots triple. So if it's raining, we check on our parking lots. When it's not raining, we don't go out and check on our parking lots.
When it's colder, whether there's moisture on the tracks, it won't dry as fast. It all comes naturally along with the changes in temperatures, you have to elevate your awareness.
But we get a lot of solid direction from NASCAR, who sees racetracks every weekend, the season, the way they want them. They nudge us along with our inspections, let's put it that way.

Q. Ramsey, given that this race is NASCAR's Super Bowl, its marquee event, TV ratings have been declining steadily since 2005, what level of concern do you have, even fans who wanted to see this, were put at a tough position? This was probably pretty hard to sit in front of the TV for seven and a half hours, given the delay. Are you concerned about TV ratings continuing to slide because of the length of this race?
RAMSEY POSTON: Well, I'll say a couple things. One is, obviously, there's been a lot of talk about TV ratings. One thing we continue to be incredibly proud about is that NASCAR continues to be the No. 2 sport on television. That hasn't changed. That's a tribute to both our racing and our fans.
With regard to what happened today, obviously it's not good for the fans. It's not what you would rather have. But anyone who's been a fan of racing very long has sat through rain delays and sat through other things like this. You know, we hope that -- we'll see what the ratings are when the ratings come out this week. Obviously we all hope they're going to be great ratings. Obviously, ratings fluctuate for a lot of different reasons.
What we do know is those fans who did continue to watch throughout the day saw great racing and a great finish.
KERRY THARP: Thank you Robin and Ramsey.

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