NASCAR Media Conference
Joie Chitwood III
December 16, 2010
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank everybody for joining us today in the media center as well as on the NASCAR teleconference for the Goodyear press conference. We're joined first by 2010 Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray, and Bobby Labonte. We'll get their opening comments first, then open it up for questions from the media center and the teleconference.
Jamie and Bobby, we'll open it up for your comments. What are your thoughts on the new surface and how has the test gone for the first day and a half?
JAMIE McMURRAY: The track is really good. It's going to be a different race than what we've had in the past in Daytona. The cars are going to stay bunched up a lot more. In the past as the tires would wear out, the pack would spread apart a little bit until you cycled through the pit stops, then gather back up. Typically by the end of the race, if the sun went down, you would run in a pack.
With the amount of grip that the track has, the way the tires are not falling off at all, it will be two- or three-wide, really hard on the drivers and spotters for 500 miles.
They did a really good job, not only on the racetrack, but widening pit road. It's really nice to get that little bit of extra room on pit road. Pit road speeds are really fast when you come to plate tracks. Typically we have the smallest brakes on the car that we run all year long, so pit road is also trouble. So the fact they widened that 10 or 12 feet is really nice.
BOBBY L LABONTE: Just to add to what Jamie said. A lot of the things he said I agree with because he's right on. The spotter is going to be real important. Out there in the practice we were going with either 12 or 17 or 18 cars yesterday, today to yesterday, there's still a difference between that and what we're going to do when we come back in February, when you put 25 cars out there for practice, then 43 cars for the race.
So passing is going to be more difficult in a lot of ways because you have to figure out the line. The spotter is probably going to be more important than ever judging for you, helping, because you can't see through the car. I was behind Jamie a while ago. He's on the guy in front of him, but I couldn't see that. I knew it, but I laid there on his bumper. That's going to lend for different racing, like Jamie said.
Pit road is awesome. I always said this is one of the hardest pit roads we would come through at any race because it was too narrow, never any grip with the concrete pad. And then asphalt widening, that's definitely a plus. Obviously, the racetrack has a lot of grip, smooth, has a couple little characters in it, but still Daytona.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Since the tire test, could you address in some of the long runs you had yesterday, were you able to hold it wide open, what was the tire falloff like and what will new tires mean?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Tires, from what we've seen so far are not going to be an issue. It's hard for me to explain the technical side of it to you guys and make it make sense.
The amount of steering wheel input required now versus what we had here six months ago is maybe half. You're not really having to turn the steering wheel because the car has so much grip.
We joked around before getting on the track that the tires were just going to be screaming hot. We made our first 15-lap run. When I saw the tire sheet, I didn't believe the tires were so cool, maybe close to 75 degrees less than what we expected. So I don't think you're going to see tires be an issue.
But every year we've been to Daytona, you come in December, January, you can run wide open most of the run, then you come back in February, it's a little bit hotter, the 24-hour cars have been on the track and it gets slicker. Certainly with the surface, it's got a lot of grip, so I think you're going to be able to run wide open.
It's going to be different than Talladega, though, because the cars, you can't necessarily lock together the way you can at Talladega. You can lock together. It's a little more different with this nose. I don't know, the way the cowl sucks the air in, the cars are stalling out a little bit. But you can still get locked together. I just haven't seen anybody push it and try to shove somebody all the way around the racetrack. Everybody is letting off when they get to the corner.
I think it's good when it comes down to five laps to go, it will be a completely different story. Right now it's different than Talladega, I don't know, it seems just so much shorter around here and the track is so much narrower. At Talladega when you get locked together and you have a huge run, when the guys in front of you see that, they pull up to defend or to block, there's room to go, right? So you either go high or low. Here the track is so much narrower, when that happens, you have to let off. It's going to be different.
Honestly, from my first 15-lap run in the draft, it took a while to take it all in and understand what was happening because it's different than anything for me than we've done before. But really today when we got out there, I don't know, felt way more comfortable, you kind of learn little tricks and stuff.
BOBBY LABONTE: The only thing I can add to that technically for you, I'm not sure the correct term of the tire, what the little things that stick up, we call them titties, but the little things that stick up, we can run 20 laps and they're still on the tire. When you ask about the tire, try to explain to you what the tire wear is, it's cool yet at the same time they're not wearing. Tires are not going to be an issue like Jamie said.
JAMIE McMURRAY: It honestly seems like the threshold of the tire could run 25 miles an hour faster and we'd be comfortable in the car running that much faster. It wouldn't put a better race on but it doesn't feel like we're having to push the tires to the limit.
Q. (No microphone.)
JAMIE McMURRAY: Right now probably not. My guess, talking to other drivers, and it will be different when we come back here in February, you'll see fuel only. You'll see two tires, four tires, and you might see somebody do fuel only.
Q. This track has had so much history with the bumps in the track, the grooves. Past years talking to more senior drivers, they thought they had an advantage over the younger guys because they knew where the bumps in the track were. Do you think the paving will take that away and bring power up more to where the younger guys will be able to compete a little quicker? Jamie, your dad missed the finish to the 500 last year. Have you and your dad had a chance to sit down and watch the race together?
BOBBY LABONTE: I think the first part of your question, the technology of the race team and the cars, I don't know that you have to be here 20 years to say you know all the bumps because they change all the time. The technology of the race teams when you unload, you're pretty much what you got.
As far as the paving goes, whether it's going to bring parity up, of course it's going to bring parity up. Everybody has more grip. There's less you can do to the racecars and there's less that the bumps will affect a car that's got all the tools to work with at their shop. It's going to affect them less than a guy that comes out here by the seat of the pants that says we have to change this and this. The parity will be better just because of that.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think the advantage of being around for a while isn't necessarily learning the bumps in the track but developing the relationships with the other drivers. Everybody has certain guys they work better with. Sometimes that happens throughout the course of a race. It might be somebody you haven't necessarily drafted with but you work well together. There's always cars that draft better together. For some reason, for me, I might get behind Bobby, my car really sucks up to his car, so you work with that guy all day long. There's other cars, even though the cars are very similar, sometimes your car doesn't suck up as well. I think for the most part being around for a while is just kind of developing those relationships.
And I have not watched the race with my dad. I've learned that my dad is a 'Monday crew chief' and that he typically tells me everything that we did wrong. So, no, I did not watch it with him.
Q. Jamie, following up on how much of a facsimile of Talladega Daytona might become, you're saying it's not exactly like it. In your comments, you were saying you couldn't necessarily do the two-car breakaways as much. Will we see two abreast, 20 deep as opposed to three abreast?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I really believe that early on in the race it will be for sure two-wide. Three-wide is not going to be a huge issue.
When we unloaded, I felt like the car seemed really wide and the track seemed narrow. After running 15, 20 laps, we ran three-wide this morning, and it was not -- it wasn't that I don't want to say scary, but it wasn't that big of a deal.
I mean, it's going to be a lot tighter packs than since I've been around Daytona than I've ever seen. So it's going to be more Talladega-type, really close restrictor plate racing.
BOBBY LABONTE: I agree again, that's what it's going to be like, more like that, maybe less of the two-car breakaway like the last race when there's two, two and two for the checkered flag. Be a lot of tight drafts, two-, three-wide. Before here at the tri-oval, if you run the inside, two cars on the outside, it would take your breath away because it would feel like you were about ready to spin out. Now there's now issues in a lot of things like the track had before.
Q. Have you noticed any difference with the different plate on the car?
JAMIE McMURRAY: We didn't know there was a different plate. Honestly, the difference in that is only six or ten horsepower. It's really hard to feel that. If they were to change it run to run, you would know because rpm's would be a little bit different with all the differences in the racetrack. When the racetrack gets real smooth, has a lot of grip, it doesn't feel like you're going real fast. It honestly feels like everything slows down.
I think like what Bobby said about before where it would take your breath away in the tri-oval, that's when you feel like you're going fast, when you feel you don't have control. The cars are so secure right now, no, you can't feel any difference in the speed.
Q. Jamie, with the new year right around the corner, you had such a phenomenal year in 2010, how do you even begin to think about topping that?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, gosh, we just had our little boy three weeks ago today I guess. It has been a very exciting year. Racing aside, just getting to experience the birth of a child, it's something that everyone has explained to me over and over, but until you get to go through that yourself, you don't get it. It's been a really good year. We had a really good year on the racetrack.
Just look forward to getting back at it. I don't know how it is for Bobby, but for me you're ready to take a break at Homestead. You literally get that first weekend off and you're ready to get back again. It's really sick how we want to do this every single weekend, but that's the way you feel.
Q. Bobby, obviously it's kind of cold out there. Stands are empty. Can you talk about how important a job testing is, maybe how it benefits everybody from you guys to the teams to the race fans.
BOBBY LABONTE: It's real important. They have a section open for the fans. They can come down here and see us drafting. I'm sure they've got their cameras out showing video to their buddies now on who knows where it's all at. It's the first time we've been to the new facility. That's exciting.
I think there's a lot for everybody here testing. I think it's important for everybody. It's all on different levels, too. Jamie, you've been with those guys once before, then you're back. Like myself, I'm new with the JTG team and Toyota, so I have a lot of different faces, names to learn, a lot of different ways to look at our test.
Fortunately, we've already been testing. This is our third test I've had with these guys already. At least you gain that rapport with them and everything.
Not everybody has the same agenda when they get down here. Everybody gets to come, get their three laps. Mine is communication, more than ever, this and that. It's a little difficult because sometimes you go out there and say, I don't know if they changed anything, but it went three one-hundredths faster. I can't tell you what it was. When we tested before, and this time here, you do have that rapport we get and that's important for me at this point in time.
You take that into this, which I agree with Jamie, the first week afterwards, we are sick, we want to go back racing again. My wife is ready to get rid of me again. It's already Christmas and we're already testing.
It's going to be here before you know it. We're excited we're able to do what we have been able to do, take a few weeks off and get going again in January.
Q. The big one, here, Talladega, everywhere. How does a newly paved track, specifically this one, lessen or increase the odds of mayhem on the track? You talk about cars will be able to run tighter together because of better grip. At the same time I assume there will be less turbulence. Does that sort of balance each other out and the odds will be the same as they always are or does it increase or lessen them?
BOBBY LABONTE: I would say it would increase them for the whole run. Before the first part of the run, it was 15 laps in, everybody starts to spread out a little bit. I'm not sure you're going to see us spread out. Talladega, you see a lot of racing there in the past few years before they repaved there, two packs, guys lay back, you can catch up.
Like we said earlier, it's going to be more like Talladega. Less like Talladega in the two-car breakaway. They might break away for the straightaway, but by the time they get to the corners they're going to have to do a little something different. Going to lend to more pushing, shoving, things like that. It it's going to lend to more things like that that can happen.
Nobody knows that. If you sat here on a Monday and ran a 500-mile race with 43 cars, did it again Wednesday and again on Friday, you'd have three different races probably. It's not a recipe. It kind of folds out the way it folds out. Kind of like my recipe, you don't know if it's going to taste good or not. You don't know, but it definitely lends to that.
JAMIE McMURRAY: My opinion is it will probably increase the chances. I think what fans don't see in the plate races is that we wreck about everybody lap. Something happens every lap that makes you flinch, it makes you think, I need to take a breath. When you run really close together, it increases those chances.
I'm with him. I don't believe you're going to see -- everyone is going to be really close and really tight. You just got to hope that you can make it to the end because the odds are going to be really good, I'd say.
Q. (No microphone.)
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think when you ran the bottom here off of two, off the bump, it would shove you to the outside lane if you pinched it down towards the end. The bumps aren't going to be an issue. It's running close together. It's going to be just not running over the guy. That sounds real easy, but it's really hard to do.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank Jamie and Bobby for coming in to see us.
We'll welcome our next two guests, Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton. We'll open it up to get their comments.
Jeff and Kurt, how has the test been the last day and a half?
JEFF BURTON: I think it's gone really well. Everybody is happy with the surface. The tire combination seems to be really good. It's going to be a Talladega style race for sure versus what we've seen at Daytona. I think it's going to be an exciting Daytona 500. You're going to have to change your mindset a little bit about how to do the Daytona thing. I think it's gone really well.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it's an impressive surface. There's been a lot of hard work done. Lesa and the France family and Brian France, everybody should be proud of what they've accomplished to resurface it, give it a new look.
It's just a new attitude. This is what 2011 will bring to start off our Sprint Cup season. Big, exciting time. I'm proud to be able to say I got a chance to race on the surface when it was redone.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Can you say how fast you're going and have you seen any changes with the new nose?
KURT BUSCH: The speeds are comparable to where we were before. We're not sliding around. It's very controllable. It's very similar to Talladega, when that track had its repave. Again, it's Daytona. It's only three lanes of traffic, where Talladega is six lanes of traffic. That's the biggest mindset and biggest difference between the two tracks.
There's going to be small things that you learn each and every practice session when you go back out on the track.
JEFF BURTON: We're, what, 196, 197, in that range? Pretty consistent. But we're doing it with a smaller restrictor plate than we had here. So it's just going to be doing the same speed, but you're doing it in a completely different way. You don't even think about having to lift unless you're trying to keep from wrecking. In the past it was quite a bit of throttle control to keep your car going around the racetrack. Same speed, but basically it's governed by the restrictor plate.
Q. I know it's been a relatively short amount of time on the track, but can you talk about the type of racing, the show we're going to see in February?
JEFF BURTON: I think it's going to be a helluva race. We've had some great Daytona 500 finishes the last several years. The end of the race has been great. We've seen separation of cars because of the handling issues during the race. You're not going to see that this time. There's going to be a constant pack. I don't know how you could get separated. Bad pit stop, something like that, a guy get out of gas, the field leaves you. Short of those things, you're not going to lose the draft.
It's going to be a big pack all the time. You're still going to have that exciting finish. I think all the way up to the finish is going to be more exciting than what you've seen because everybody is going to be in one big pack.
As Kurt alluded to, three-wide here is work. Four-wide is a wreck. Because the mentality at superspeedway racing, there's going to be effort to go four-wide because of trying to pick up positions. When that starts happening, it's going to get hairy.
KURT BUSCH: I think each race will have its own identity, like it always has. With the Shootout, you have the best drivers, the ones taking the biggest risks, because there's no points involved. Then you settle into the practice zones, you get into the 150s where guys have to race their way into the show. We're still going to see big packs, big action. The asphalt is the great equalizer. When you have a car that wasn't handling well in the past, you could work by them after 15 or 20 laps. You won't have that option anymore. Everybody is going to be fast down to when there's the last drop of gas in the tank.
Q. I'm sure you will agree it will be different racing. Guys said it still had some character to it that carried over with the new track. Would you say, is there still some Daytona character to the track?
JEFF BURTON: I think they did a lot like what happened at Darlington. When they redid Darlington, they kept Darlington. They kept it wide, didn't change the transitions. They kept the character of the racetrack. I think the same thing happened here. It's much smoother, has a tremendous amount more grip, but it's still Daytona. They didn't try to change the banking from the bottom to the top, do all that stuff. They just kept Daytona and put pavement on it. I'm glad that's what they did.
Daytona is a track, it has its own history, its own heritage. It's entrenched in what our sport is all about. So keeping Daytona Daytona was a hundred percent the right thing to do. But it has a whole lot more grip.
The thing about the new asphalt is it's going to keep that grip for a long time. Think about Darlington. The first time they paved Darlington, I think the second time we went back there, it was about a second slower. It's not like that anymore. Darlington is going to stay fast. This place will stay with a lot of grip for a long time.
You're going to see the kind of race you see in February, you'll see that for several years.
KURT BUSCH: The thing I was going to add was just how much time and effort NASCAR and (indiscernible) has put into their venues to get them not necessarily up to date but just to continue to put the best face forwards with repaves at Talladega, here at Daytona, Phoenix is in the works, and you hear things about other tracks. They're doing a tremendous amount of work for our race fans to enjoy when they come to the track. It's exciting to listen to them talk and be part of this time.
Q. Can you talk about the new pit road and how it looks coming off of four. Is it going to make life a lot easier for you guys, it being wider and the concrete pad there?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, absolutely. This pit road was the most treacherous of all the pit roads we race on. The old surface, the oil from all the sports cars, the pit boxes for a superspeedway car didn't seem to be the right size. It looks like Green Acres out there. It's really a safer place on pit road. The environment for the crew guys will be much better. You won't have to necessarily worry as much about getting the fender dings, wrecks on pit road with the amount of area that's out there paved. So I'm excited about it.
JEFF BURTON: It's a big change. I don't know if it's the widest pit road on our circuit or not, but it has to be in the top 10. It's exceptionally wide. That's a great thing for safety.
The fans and the media and us included, we kind of take for granted those guys jumping over the wall, you go jump in front of a 3500-pound vehicle, it's pretty hairy. This will make it better for them and safer for them. That's always a good thing.
Q. Will there be a fatigue factor with all this grip? Do you think you're going to be more fatigued at the end of a race with so much more grip?
JEFF BURTON: I'd venture to say that's a non-issue. If anything, you would have less fatigue. I think the old surface was a lot of work. You were up on the wheel from start to finish. It really required a tremendous amount of work.
This is more of a chess game. This is going to be, when do I get aggressive, when do I not get aggressive. A lot of times on the old surface your car dictated when you could and when you couldn't. What's going to dictate that this time is how many laps are left. I think the workload is actually going to be less.
I'm not sure fatigue is going to be any issue whatsoever. I think your brain will be tired, but I don't think anything else will be tired.
Q. Jeff, with the speeds where they are, with the grip as it is, with the teams coming back for three days in January, do you anticipate there will need to be a plate change in February or not?
JEFF BURTON: You know, I don't anticipate one. I think if we get -- if everybody got out there at one time and the pace was greater than what we thought, I guess there's the possibility.
You know, you never say 'never.' But I don't anticipate one just based on the speeds we've seen today. If there is one, it will be minimal. I have a hard time believing there will be a plate change.
Q. Kurt, you raced sports cars on that track. Do you think there will be any effect on the 24 this year with the new surface?
KURT BUSCH: I thought about that when I first went out on the grip level out on the banking. With the way you set up a sports car, you're setting it up for the least amount of drag that you can for the straightaways and the long oval section.
With the resurface done to the infield last year, that's when we saw quite a bit of speed gained for those guys. That's when we saw track record-type speed. The oval won't have much to do with the sports car side of it. The braking zone probably getting down into turn one when you're on the tri-oval surface, there will be more grip for those cars.
It does nothing but add to the excitement of the oval side, the road racing side, and the look. Again, I get back to how fresh the place looks. Looks like it got a great facelift.
One note that I've noticed, that drivers notice, there's only one seam on the racing surface from the bottom of the racetrack to the top. A lot of racetracks you see four to five seams where you have chances for cracks and for water buildup. They definitely went out of their way to find a unique paving process to make sure this was top quality and make it right.
You look at it and you smile going, Hey, they did the best job they could, we got the best product out there, now let's go and race.
Q. To expand on what Bobby and Jamie were talking about, the odds, how this increases or lessens the odds of a mass situation out there on the track, the big one.
JEFF BURTON: It's increased. I don't know the percentages, but there's no question that the more cars that are in one bunch, the more cars that are trying to position themselves to be where they need to be, the better chance for an accident.
What's interesting about Daytona and Talladega is a lot of the wrecks happen on the straights. Everywhere else we go, the wrecks happen in the corners. A lot of our wrecks here happen on the straightaways. The reason for that is people are just trying to position themselves. They think they're clear, they're not, they make a move. The more people that are bunched up, the more there's a chance that's going to happen.
I kind of forgot about it, but Kurt mentioned it. The Shootout is going to be crazy. It's going to be nuts. It's going to be wide open every lap, every time. When you decide to go, what hole you decide to go into. Yeah, I'm not going to say you'll have more wrecks because you never know, but the possibility to have more big wrecks is certainly looming.
KURT BUSCH: It definitely is increased. Like what someone asked about the physical side or the mental side. Mentally you're going to have to be that much sharper, that much more precise. If you think you have a hole, you definitely need to be in it. Somebody is going to take it that much quicker. Reaction time is going to be that much quicker. There's going to be bigger consequences when things are chosen in the wrong fashion.
Q. With what you've seen with this tire, assess the performance and what you think it will do for late-race strategy as far as the tires go.
KURT BUSCH: Anytime we see a fresh repave at tracks, we have to be smart with the tires we choose to put on, A, a good show, B, to be safe, of course, and C, to be on Goodyear tires that moms and pops want to buy. They want to see the performance of them. With that we're going to be on the conservative side. That's just what happens with fresh repaves and it will change the strategy at the end of the race, whether it's a two-tire call or fuel only. I think you'll see a lot of that play out as Speedweeks develop. We'll see what trends are but it will definitely change the outcome of how the race is going to be. You're not going to come in and put two tires on as you have in the past.
JEFF BURTON: The other thing is the new fueling system. That will dictate some of your track position choices on what to do for tires.
You're not going to need tires to win the race. You're going to need track position. So that's going -- to me, that's going to be what matters. You guys have heard me say this before. This past year is Goodyear's best year ever in racing. Goodyear stepped up to the plate and has done an incredible job of building us better tires. You've seen that on the racetrack. They've had a huge impact on the quality of racing from a performance standpoint. The cars drive a lot better than they did and Goodyear deserves a lot of credit for that.
They've really done that with no sacrifice in safety. If anything, they've gotten better on safety. Goodyear just really stepped up and made some major investments to make our sport better. A lot of that you're seeing. They came here with a tire. They told me what tire they were coming with. That didn't make any sense. Right off the bat it worked. They made a big investment in technology and manpower. That's really had a major positive impact on our sport, in my opinion.
THE MODERATOR: Kurt, Jeff, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
We'll now bring up NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, Greg Stucker, director of racing for Goodyear, and the president of Daytona International Speedway, Joie Chitwood.
We'll open it up for comments, starting with Joie first. First time we heard engines around the track was yesterday. Must have been a real nice sound to hear. Talk about your thoughts on this two-day test.
JOIE CHITWOOD: I think the anticipation for the test is what had everybody excited, to get it done in December, then to hear the cars out there on the track, thinking a couple months ago how much work we still had to do to get to this point.
It's nice to hear the drivers get out of their car and validate the process, the effort, the stress that was involved to repaving Daytona, the fact that we did it in five months or really less than five months, so far to the specifications that we needed.
I do want to officially say this is a much nicer press conference to be with my friends at Goodyear and NASCAR. Because last time we did this, it wasn't as enjoyable as it is right now.
THE MODERATOR: Robin, your thoughts?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: So far, so good. I mean, the plan has come together. It's something we've all been working on for not just the paving of five months, but it's been a year of getting our thoughts together. We knew we had some updates to the car coming. We have fuel. We have better horsepower now because of the E15. There's a lot of things that went into it, along with the tires and the paving process and everything.
Good communication all along between the folks here at Daytona, Joie, Goodyear, the race teams, the series directors, everybody that had input. It's nice to know you can show up at one of these things, have so many different things that we faced and challenges over the last year to get ready for this. Looks like the plan came together nicely.
THE MODERATOR: How does Goodyear feel about this two-days test, Greg?
GREG STUCKER: I kind of mirror what Robin said. What we've seen the last two days, we're very happy with. This repave presented a little bit of a different challenge for us. The original projection was that it wasn't going to be completed till the first of the year. Looking at our timetable about how much time it was going to take to produce all the tires we needed for Speedweeks, it was just a little bit late for us.
So we made the decision we were going to do a lot of our legwork at Talladega. The projection was the asphalt, the mix was going to be identical here at Daytona with what was done at Talladega back in 2006. So we actually conducted a tire test at Talladega back in August and did all of our on-track work there, made some projections, and gathered a lot of data.
At the same time, Joie and his group actually did get a test strip done for us here at Daytona. We were able to measure the traction coefficient of that test strip, compared that to what we measured at Talladega. We also had some tools where we could characterize the surface and kind of look at the racetrack at a very microscopic level. We did that and compared the two. We pulled all that data together and made our decisions well ahead of us being able to get on the racetrack.
We're well into production for the 500. In fact, we're just about done. We've come down here and really confirmed that all those decisions we made were the right ones. Very glad to hear that all the guys are comfortable with our setup and really everything we've seen so far has been very good from our perspective, very consistent, a lot of good comments from the drivers.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions at this point.
Q. Robin, can you talk about the reaction, what you thought of the new plate, the new nose and the new fuel?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: So far, so good. Speeds are pretty good. We had 17 or so cars yesterday that ran. Today was about a dozen. Not everybody was on the E15. But from the reports from yesterday and today, all the engine builders are very happy with that.
The nose, anytime you change aerodynamics of the car, there will be some work that has to go in. It's about how the cars pull up in the draft. You work on the nose, and you have to tune the engine to get it to run different in the draft.
As these guys have experimented with the larger packs to try to get the cars to hook up, some of them have some work to do and others have hit the home run right off the bat. That thing has gone fairly well.
The restrictor plate, right now where the same as at Talladega. We will further evaluate. We're not sure if we may need to come down a little bit off of that, which would be like a 64th of an inch or something. But we'll have to get back and talk to the teams and look at the speeds from the last two days of testing. I think we have some high watermarks at 197 and a half, which depending on where they pulled up in the draft, it may be a little quick, but it's hard to say.
We'll get our group together and discuss that and prepare for our late January test. But so far all indications are that everything hit its marks.
Q. Joie and Robin, last year obviously the pothole problem put a damper on what really was otherwise a pretty good Daytona 500. A lot of work and study has gone into repairing that. Just from the perspective of the track, how important is it to get off to a good start in February without any problems? Do you have to then look at more than just the things that happened last year? Do you end up spending more time kind of double-checking things that didn't go wrong last year?
JOIE CHITWOOD: Well, I think last year was a big wake-up call. I don't know if people remember the 122 laps we ran before the first caution for the pothole. I think we set a record for lead changes over those 122 laps. It had been that good.
But you're right. This is a property that's been around for 50 plus years. It does cause you to go back and make sure you have everything appropriate not just for competitors but for your spectators and everything else. It does cause us to look back.
I think Daytona is always going to set the barometer for the NASCAR season as it relates to the kickoff, the biggest event. For us, we want to make sure fans know when they come back to Daytona, they're going to get an event that lives up to their expectations. Candidly, we did not give them that this last year with the two red flags and the pothole.
Money was not an object right now. When you think about Daytona, what we have to provide for a safe and competitive event, asphalt is probably the number one thing. We spared no expense in giving them a surface we think it's going to last for a number of years and hopefully provide some great and competitive racing.
But I will tell you that was the effort we put in. As Daytona is the flagship brand for (indiscernible), we were going to make sure we did it right. When our fans come back for Speedweeks, this event lives up to the expectations they have for a Daytona 500.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: You never see the same thing twice, as many races we run, as years we've been around, whether it's a pothole, a lens falling out of a caution light, a pace car pulling out in front of traffic, all of those things add to a long laundry list of checks and balances you go through with advanced teams, safety teams and training. All of those things we do on a regular basis throughout the season, we train and we look at things in the off-season for those groups that go out, our advance team.
We'll be doing our due diligence here at Daytona because the track was totally disassembled, reassembled with new paving, SAFER barriers reinstalled, light fixtures, light poles, all those things that go in there. Loops that we freeze the field with are all new. Fiber will have to be pulled around the racetrack, things of that nature.
We're turning laps, but we got a lot of work to do by a lot of people. As time goes on, you learn something new every week. Whether it's how to fix a pothole, the things you didn't expect you were going to be able to use to fix it, we fixed it with, and hopefully we know how to do it, and we'll be long gone. Joie and I will be on the dock fishing by the time we have to fix a pothole like that again, right?
JOIE CHITWOOD: Absolutely.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: But he learned and you move forward. There's a lot of moving parts and pieces to this stuff. We feel our guys do a good job of adjusting and covering the bases when it comes down to it.
Q. Joie, every driver that has come through so far has said the racing is going to be Talladega style I guess for the foreseeable future at Daytona. What does that mean from a track perspective in terms of having to market the race? Is there any concern knowing your fans came to Daytona expecting a certain style of racing, now they might get a brand of racing they can see twice a year in Alabama? Are you going to capitalize it's more like Talladega or put a different spin on that?
JOIE CHITWOOD: It's interesting to hear the drivers talk about whether the track is narrow or wide compared to other properties.
I guess I would say, having been around this business for a long time, I never thought there was that big of a gap and a difference between Daytona and Talladega both as restrictor plates. I guess when you talk to the professionals, they can tell you to such great details how different it feels.
I think from a fan perspective, the drafting elements, the speeds, I think the two properties have been fairly typical the last couple years. I'm not sure we're going to see as great a difference or similarity between the two. I think what you've seen at Daytona the last couple years has been great racing. Yes, they're in a pack. Yes, as the tire would wear off, they'd separate a little bit. The biggest difference we're going to see is probably the fact they're going to be in a pack through the whole duration from pit stop to pit stop.
For us we think it's important that our fans know the asphalt we put down is going to provide a great racing surface. I don't know how great the race is going to be. I don't know how it's going to play out with a big one or not. I just hope for the duration of the race we provide them with competition, great passing, all of the right things. But you never know what race you're going to have.
I think when we market Daytona, we market the fact that this is the biggest event we have on the calendar. This is how you make NASCAR stars: you win the Daytona 500. It's going to be a great surface out there for all of them to put on a great show.
I think from my perspective I'm excited because at the end of the day when they drive in packs, it's exciting. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, not just the fans, but the drivers themselves.
I think the mental fatigue question was a great question. I think there's a little bit of that from a fan perspective. You're always on the edge of your seat wanting to know what's going to happen, how close they're driving, is there going to be an incident. From that perspective it's a great event both from our fans who watch on TV but our fans who are in the grandstands because it's going to be that close, it's going to be that tight, it's going to be that competitive.
Q. What tires are these? Is this an off-the-shelf compound or have you done anything differently for this track? Mark Martin said it's possible, in his opinion, to go 500 miles on one set of tires. Is the wear level really so low that we could see hundreds of miles on tires before you have to change them?
GREG STUCKER: It's pretty low. I think there's a little bit of overexaggeration. That was early on. Once people get dialed in, they're going to start stressing tires a little bit more.
Nonetheless, it's what we see typically with a repave. As was alluded to earlier, the new asphalts, the new formulations that have been developed, they're a tighter mix, they stay together a little bit better. We just don't see the tire wear that we typically have seen in the past.
I think that's pretty much what we expect. So tire wear won't be an issue, at least for the first couple of races we have here. One of the things we watch is to make sure tire temperatures are in line with where we want them to be. All that has been the case.
You asked about what compounds these are. These are in the Talladega range. The left side is the Talladega left side tire. The right side is a derivative of that, similar to what we actually run on some of the intermediate speedways like Las Vegas and Charlotte. Some of new pavements we've seen at those racetracks, very similar to what we see here and at Talladega, kind of a hybrid combination of superspeedways and intermediates.
I think Daytona is still Daytona. The corners are a little bit tighter than they are at Talladega. I still think handling is going to be a little bit more of a premium, maybe not this first event, but as the surfaces wear a little bit more, we're kind of leaning towards that handling side with the tire package.
Q. Robin, you said you're using E15 here?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Some are. It was a team option. We're pumping the 260 GTX. But teams have brought some E15 with them.
Q. Are you giving them a little extra attention?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We trust them (laughter).
Q. I mean, as far as getting feedback as how the fuel is running, all that.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's a fuel change. You have to remember, we've been working with the teams now almost a year on this. A lot of work has already been done.
Being that it's 2010 still, we weren't officially starting that fuel till 2011. So it was an option. Some teams had last year's engines that they didn't want to make sure to take them apart, do any up-fit for them in case they needed to for the new E15. Other teams have taken this opportunity to bring their latest and greatest and get some miles on it and see how it looks when they get it home and take it apart.
Q. The drivers we talked to are crazy about the wider pit road which got me thinking, how much input did NASCAR have into the wider pit road, things like that?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, you seldom get an opportunity to remodel on some of these places. We've worked well with Joie and the people at Daytona and different racetracks throughout the years.
But when you have an opportunity to remodel, they'll call and say, Are there things we should look at? What you have to remember is a lot of these racetracks were laid out a long time before we had 43 starting positions, whether we had 42, some of the shorter tracks were less than that.
It was an opportunity to say, Okay, we need to make sure our pit boxes are concrete, need to make sure they're the right length. One of the things that you tend to forget about, we have so many cars finishing on the lead lap nowadays, when you open pit road, all those guys run pit road at the same time. It makes that pit road feel a lot smaller than it really is.
We asked for some width, and they gave it to us. That was just some of the things we talked about, whether it was we changed transitions on some of the SAFER barriers, we've gone off and skid pads are a little bit bigger, things of that nature.
It's been a good process. We've been hand-in-hand on this, the two groups, for quite some time now.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank Joie, Robin and Greg for joining us. We'll now conclude the NASCAR teleconference. Thank you.
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