NASCAR Preseason Thunder Testing
January 9, 2014
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We have a very exciting six days ahead of us and some news to announce today. We have with us the president of NASCAR, Mike Helton, and joining him will be our vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton.
I think we'll start with Robin, who will outline some of our goals and objectives over the next six days in our three national series, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Thanks, David. It's just a little reminder and I'll hit the high spots here on the tests and some of the changes for our three series over the next few days.
As far as the Cup Series goes, we've increased the rear spoiler a half‑inch across the back for here and Talladega. That's basically the only change as we see right now. But as you know, as we test at a lot of these places over the wintertime, we could make some other changes, but we don't foresee that happening in the Cup.
Nationwide cars, when they hit the track Saturday, they will have the new cooling system, which will be the same system that we have been utilizing in the Cup Series over the past few years. It's served us well. We have cut the spoiler on the Nationwide cars and dropped the ears down on the side of the spoilers, so it'll be straight across the back. There's a small spring change in the back. It'll be a little bit softer, try to get some handling back in the cars.
And as we move on to the Truck Series for Monday and Tuesday, the Truck Series will also use the cooling system that is the same as in the Nationwide and the Cup Series for 2014. Both series will have a recommended spec radiator that they can use if they'd like to moving forward as we get into trying to help the teams manage some of their costs moving on.
That's basically it from the mechanical standpoint, and as everybody, hopefully everybody, knows, we've got a new truck this year. The teams have been working hard on building new trucks. Manufacturers have gone to bat again and they've really knocked it out of the park with their Camping World Truck Series trucks this year, and we're looking forward to that.
Those trucks will be utilized above a mile and a quarter, and we will allow the teams to use a mix of the 2013 and older trucks with the new trucks on the mile and a quarter and under to help them with their vehicle inventory. So that's where we stand on the competition department right now.
MIKE HELTON: Happy new year, everyone. It's fun to get the new season started, and I think that's one of the things that makes Daytona so special. The IMSA guys were down here a few days ago, a lot of energy around that, and hopefully Mother Nature gives us an opportunity to pick up where they left off and get the NASCAR side of things going.
One thing we do want to announce today and throughout the month of January, we'll have several moments to where we can talk about competition topics, particularly as they apply, if you'll recall the conversations we had through '13 about the recreation and the new generation of competition that NASCAR was building on through '13 through the conversation and what was on paper is now a reality. A lot of those elements began in '14, so there will be a lot for us to talk about throughout the month of January, but the one thing that we wanted to go ahead and put out today for the timing of it is to announce that Richard Buck will be our Cup Series managing director, our Sprint Cup Series managing director, beginning this season.
Richard, as some of you know, and you'll get brought up to speed fairly quickly, his background is very broad in motorsports, from winning Indy 500s on pit road as crew chief there to the last several years with us managing and building our touring and weekly program, and for the last several months, because of his broad motorsports background, we brought him in on the GRAND‑AM side to help prepare for the merger between GRAND‑AM and ALMS and the converging of those two cultures to kick off IMSA in 2014, which he, along with the ALMS group, have got so much accomplished so far that we saw evidence of around the test down here recently, The Roar.
Richard will maintain his role at IMSA through the 24‑hour race, and then will immediately get with John Darby and be under John's wing to get him up and winning as our new Sprint Cup Series managing director.
John will stay with us and keep his managing director of competition title, will be working on the integration of a lot of the new inspection and rule making and part approval process with Robin Pemberton and Gene Stefanyshyn, so over time John may end up being or will end up being less at the racetrack, more back at home at the R & D Center as we move a lot of our competition elements based out of there as opposed to being some of the traditional ways of doing it at the racetrack.
This is another step in that evolution, and like I said, throughout the month of January, we'll have more announcements and more in‑depth attachments to what all that means. But we did want to have the opportunity to introduce you to Richard Buck, and he's going to be busy in the sports car world for a couple more weeks and then he'll come over to the NASCAR side of the fence and get up and running pretty quickly.
We're really anxious to get a lot of the efforts that we've talked about, some publicly but more importantly internally, been working for the last several months on recreating NASCAR's approach to competition to service the industry better, and as January unfolds and certainly around Speedweeks and Phoenix and Vegas and Bristol as we get the season up and running, there will be more and more evidence of that, and we're anxious to get going, because it's exciting. It's another one of those moments that's really good to be at NASCAR because we've got a lot of good things going on that I think directly positively impacts every stakeholder in the sport but certainly the product on the racetracks that the fans expect to have.
We wanted to put that out. Richard, as we said, will be focused on his IMSA efforts so there will not be any formal media press conferences with Richard, but he's milling around and you'll see him milling around in the Cup garage, particularly this weekend, so we felt like it was best that we go ahead and announce what our plans were with that.
Q. Can you expound a bit on like what John will do back at the R & D Center and how this helps NASCAR to have something you announced a couple years ago sort of being implemented?
MIKE HELTON: Thanks for reminding me that we've been saying this for the last three years, that we were going to replace Darby as the Cup Series director, which has been part of our game plan. Once we started that effort, what became apparent to us was the need for recreating the NASCAR competition group, and so we didn't look as hard as we probably should have for a long time, knowing that there was a lot of internal work that was going to come that would complement the steps that we'll talk about more throughout the month of January, including this one.
The conversations that we've had through '13 as we've introduced pieces of the new way of NASCAR approaching competition is all designed to broaden the responsibility, understanding that this is 2014, this isn't 1948 anymore, it's not 1978. This is 2014, and the ability to use innovation and technology, where in the past we may have tempered that, for the last several years, Brian France has led NASCAR in a direction that embraces that. Not only embraces it but uses it to advance the sport itself, the product on the racetrack, but more importantly, the structure inside NASCAR that is responsible to the entire industry to grow and to build the industry.
So as all of this comes together and all these pieces start getting more apparent and getting more plugged in, it will become more clearly between now and Speedweeks, and along the way, this takes the shuffling of personnel. We introduced Gene Stefanyshyn to everyone back in the summer. We've talked about the responsibility that Robin Pemberton and Gene Stefanyshyn and Steve O'Donnell will have on the competition side of NASCAR. The series managing directors and John will answer to Robin and to this panel, so to speak, and John, short‑term, as I mentioned earlier, will be responsible to lead the convergence of what we may have traditionally done at the racetrack into the new model, as well as help and work with Gene Stefanyshyn back at the R & D Center on the new approach of rule making, parts approval and using the R & D Center more to complement the inspection and the officiating of the hardware side of our sport so that we get to the racetrack and basically what we do at the racetrack is simply run our sporting event.
Some of you that have been around a while, 20 years ago, 85 percent of what we did around rules and different things would be done in the hauler at the racetrack. Bill France would come in and we'd sit there and owners and crew chiefs would come in, whether it was Gary Nelson or John Darby, and talk about where we were headed. And that worked then.
What we've seen over the past few years, though, is there needs to be a better process. The industry deserved a better process, the teams, the OEMs, the stakeholders deserved a better process, and that better process is going to create and give us the ability to make a better product on the racetrack that the fans expect to see.
So John will still be a big part of all of that. Richard will be more visible and be the face of the Sprint Cup Series sporting part of NASCAR, as Wayne will be in the Nationwide Series, and Chad will continue to be in the Camping World Truck Series, and John will be off helping Robin with some of the things that happen at the racetrack but more importantly helping Gene Stefanyshyn take NASCAR using technology and innovation and the engineering group at the R&D Center to plan for the future of our racing product.
Q. Robin, the extra spoiler that the guys are getting at Daytona this year, presumably that'll help make the cars more stable in the draft. Is that going to be enough to maybe tempt some people to return to the two‑car pushes, or are the grille rules still going to preclude that probably?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, I think the cooling system, that will curb some of that, but we do believe that a little bit bigger spoiler, a little bit bigger wake, the guys have asked that there's not enough suck‑up into the draft, and this should help some of that. Talladega kind of got a little spread out. We were a little surprised at that, and guys couldn't make a run, and they couldn't get organized.
But we had been talking to the teams since even mid‑last year on things that we're thinking about, and the spoiler was one that come to us through the teams, and we were prepared to make that change. It was well received.
Q. Robin, this is more kind of a scheduling update. If weather cuts into a lot of practice time today and tomorrow, does the schedule get altered at all?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We'll have to adjust accordingly and see. The good news is there's not a lot of changes to the cars, and so it should be pretty straightforward. But we're followed right up here Saturday and Sunday with Nationwide and Monday and Tuesday trucks, so we're pretty much committed on what we have right now.
Q. Robin, the addition on the spoiler, do you know speed‑wise what that's going to do to the cars?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: One of the things that we've learned over the developing of the Gen‑6 car but over the past few years, what you may give up in some single‑car runs you may pick up in the drafting. So it makes the drafting just a little bit better. And when you look‑‑ it's a small change. The spoiler is still one of the narrowest ones we've had in quite some time.
I think it'll all but be unnoticed when it comes to qualifying day.
Q. Mike, Brian talked some this week about possible or maybe probable format points changes, so forth. Can you talk some about what might be on the table there, and are you looking at some of that for '14 or are we looking at '15 for that?
MIKE HELTON: That's why I said earlier, January is going to be full of announcements, so we'll wait. But we are looking at different models and a lot of things that's been on the table for some time and we've not implemented or we've implemented part of that. But stay tuned.
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