Hunter, Pemberton, Darby - NASCAR teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: A lot of times when we talk about NASCAR and their decisions, we don't get privy to all that NASCAR puts into their safety and knowledge of the car. And you were saying earlier that you felt that nothing that ...

Continued from part 1

Q: A lot of times when we talk about NASCAR and their decisions, we don't get privy to all that NASCAR puts into their safety and knowledge of the car. And you were saying earlier that you felt that nothing that happened there was not the safety efforts not working and whatnot. Going over to Roush Fenway, what sort of things did you do leading up to this call and check on that we might not even know about?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: One of the things that any time that there is an accident, we go to the different teams and we look and take pictures and measure the movement of the restraint systems, whether it be the head surrounds and the seats, all of the roll bars and tubing and things like that. We do it on all of our series. And from the modified series all the way up to the Cup, and we do that to help all of our groups, not just the big three, to work with them and their safety

We have a group here, we have Tom Gideon that's here that took Steve Peterson's place this year. We have Mike Fisher and we have got a group in the back that goes and does investigation work that helps us make all of the right judgment calls. We do that on a regular basis if need be.

Also, many times we'll impound a car at the R&D center and invite car builders from around the area, all of the different teams, to not just look at their cars, but look at the competitors' cars to where they can each help each other as it relates to safety matters.

Q: Brad Keselowski had said he asked at the rookie meeting and that he thought what he would do in this situation, certainly not his fault something would fly into the stands, but talk a little about what he did. And is it that NASCAR is just inherently not going to be ever perfectly safe and that you guys will do the best that you can, and inherently there is a little bit of danger in the sport?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's automobile racing.

JOHN DARBY: Inherently driving down the interstate has a degree of danger.

But as everything in what we do in life does, our responsibility, understanding that any sports has a degree of danger to it is how you protect your participants and your fans the best that you can. And that's what we do and we do it every day.

Q: And about Keselowski in the rookie meeting, and then I'm through, thank you very much.

JOHN DARBY: You lost me a little bit on that one.

Obviously what Keselowski did on Sunday was win the race. He was in his lane and he stayed in his lane and he didn't change his lane and he was the first one to cross the start/finish line. I don't see I don't see a whole lot of room here to point a finger at Brad Keselowski for much of what happened in the incident; as the 99 was doing what he could do to protect the lead at that time, and maybe made a little bit of an error.

But at the end of that, what we all know is that two cars made some contact, and that resulted in the spin for the 99. But the incident surely was not caused from the 09 hitting or ramming or bump drafting or any of the above on the 99.

Q: Robin, the teleconference opened today with you guys intimating, with Jim intimating that the drivers need to be more carefully policed perhaps, and I was wondering if there was a specific driver that caused you concern and that you had spoken to or taken any action with any of them.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yesterday was nothing stands out. We didn't have any talks or anything with anybody. You know, we gave them the warning in the drivers meeting, in the pre race drivers meeting, and that was it.

JOHN DARBY: And for the most part, yesterday was rather calm on the aggressiveness. There was a degree of some bump drafting and a good degree of pushing, but the bumps that maybe created some of the earlier incidents were more of the inability for a line of cars to slow down in time than it was aggressive bump drafting.

Q: And just as a quick follow up, Carl got out of the car; he was obviously upset. He said: "What if the car goes up in the grandstands and kills 25 people, you know what I mean? Look, at some point they have to change this thing around." Have you had any direct conversation with Carl, and what do you say with drivers who are upset about having a restrictor plate race? Is there anything you can say other than basically shut up and race?

JIM HUNTER: We wouldn't say that.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, we wouldn't say that.

Q: Have you talked to Carl, though?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: No. Haven't had an opportunity to talk to Carl.

You know, you look at the situations, and I think that I'm glad that Carl walked away from the accident with virtually without a scratch, and it shows that Carl had a normal Carl, good personality out, when he jogged across the start/finish line. We are just thankful that everybody was safe, and we will take what Carl says and we will listen to him, and that's just Carl's comment.

Q: You're not expecting to have a one on one with him to follow up on what he said?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'm sure at some point in time, Carl will want to come to talk about some different things. But our doors are always open. You know, this wasn't Carl's first race at Talladega, and you know, if drivers want to come in and talk about different things, they know where we are at, day in and day out, seven days a week.

Q: Probably for Robin or John. I think we are obviously focusing on what happened there right at the end, it seemed that the drivers' biggest complaint was the plates in general. In terms of being predictive, there's going to be a big one every time you go to Talladega. Is there anything with taking a plate off that can be done to eliminate I understand you are in a tough spot, too, because tight racing is what we all like about it, but is there anything else that can be done besides the plate to try and minimize I guess the possibility of the big one actually happening?

JOHN DARBY: Without getting too technically complicated, whenever the horsepower of a car has to be less than what the drag of the car is to achieve the speed, then competitors will do all they can in grooves to reduce the drag of the car to gain a competitive advantage over the other competitors.

If you watched the race yesterday, one of the things that you saw most of the day was a couple of cars teaming up and driving to the front. And as they team up like that, they double their horsepower, but they don't necessarily double their drag that each individual car would have, so that enables them to go through the their quicker.

The larger the more that they stay in a group and stay in tight lines, ultimately the better their performance is. So there's a lot to that. It's the most amplified at Daytona and Talladega, but we see grafting at Indianapolis, we see grafting at two mile racetracks. The Truck Series, for example, that has even more drag than the Cup cars. You see them even drafting on the mile and a half tracks.

You know, when you look at what a race car driver is charged with, he's charged with winning a race, and they will do the competitiveness forces them to do whatever they can do in the race cars to improve upon that, and that's basically what it's about. It's just the level of competition that all of our race drivers have, and that's part of the appeal of our sport.

Q: So are you saying that whatever sort of reflection, be it a plate or I'm not going to get into the technicalities of it, because I would just sound stupid, but drivers will find a way around it on the track?

JOHN DARBY: Basically we restrict the engines from 800 horsepower to 400, just to use round numbers, okay. We could develop a recipe to build an engine that was 400 horsepower without a restrictor plate, but you would still have the same situation as you do.

I mean, if 400 horsepower is what it takes to keep those cars at the speeds that we need them at, we could put six cylinders in them at 400 horsepower, and you are still going to have the same situation, because you don't have enough engine to push the drag of the car through the air.

Q: So blocking aggressive driving, would that be something at Talladega or Daytona, or all tracks across the board, policing it more?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: We already police it at all tracks. We have made the call before for guys that were being aggressive. I think if you look at, is it Montoya and David Gilliland at Charlotte or somewhere last year, so we already do that.

Q: So would it be just all across the board, or is there greater emphasis that comes at Talladega and Daytona?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think a greater emphasis may come at Daytona and Talladega, because we have tried to let the racers take care of themselves. And when certain situations develop a pattern on a more regular basis, that's when we may have to step in and make some calls that we really would really don't want to put them in the position to have us make the call. We would rather the competitors take care of it on the track.

Q: The next plate race at Daytona in two months, will you have to have more officials positioned around the track or would they just have an extra duty or keeping a closer watch on things? How would that type of thing work looking at, say, Daytona in July?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's the same thing as what we do today, it escalates; as guys get more comfortable in how they handle their cars, you know, not everybody has the same feel for how you can push or bump draft, and you know, we'll just have to scrutinize that a little closer.

Q: And one other thing, you talked about what you've already done with looking at the cars and some of the discussions that you've had with the track and stuff; what happens now moving forward, is it just simple meetings at the NASCAR offices? Are there certain for lack of a better term, are there committees formed? I know you have certain people in positions to do that; do their focuses change a little bit or how do you move forward from this point on?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I don't think our focus has changed. To what you said, it's what we do in the R&D center. We may shift some resources from one area to another to try to expedite things a little bit, but that's basically it. That's what we do here.

Q: Any thoughts of modifications to the rear bumper to make drafting a little less easy, because the new cars, the bumpers line up so well, and have you considered the possibility of at Talladega of moving the flag stand to the other side coming out of turn four so cars might not get quite as big a run and you might not have the same sort of wreck that you had on Sunday?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'll answer the card thing and maybe Hunter can touch on the start/finish line deal.

What happens, if you look at some of the other series that run, if the bumpers lining up are they get more opportunity for drafting or bump drafting or pushing a teammate along. When they didn't line up, what would happen is incidental contact would be the trail car would lift the back tires of the lead car off the ground and create more of an issue.

So that, we feel, is even worse. At least with the bumpers lining up and things, you know, everybody you're not getting the rear wheels lifted off the ground.

Hunter, you might want to weigh in on the start/finish line.

JIM HUNTER: Bill France, Senior and his vision, with the track being as wide as it is, being the widest on the surface, Bill France, Senior thought it would be great if we gave them an opportunity to go through the trial wall and race through the start/finish line down towards turn one, and that's why it is where it is.

Yesterday was an exception, but there have been some unbelievable finishes.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about how the roof flaps have developed over the years, and what the changes, if any, from the old car to the new style car?

JOHN DARBY: The flaps were the result of a series of testing that we went through

JIM HUNTER: Let me interrupt here real quick. I remember we had to get the Talladega County Airport closed.

JOHN DARBY: So you're going to tell the real story. (Chuckling).

JIM HUNTER: I remember it Jack Roush was involved, as were some of the other car owners. And one of the first tests we did was put a car on a flatbed trailer and turn on a jet's motors and turn the car at different angles. That's one of the primitive, preliminary tests in the roof flap development. Now, you can have it, John.

JOHN DARBY: Yeah, the original concept was to try to use the trunk with itself as the flap. It was too extreme and there was too much forces on the trunk and everything else that didn't work.

So with the help from a lot of the competitors and a lot of the people from the industry, we went more towards the flaps up on the roof, and they were pretty much remained the same design, since their inception, until we built the new car.

The new car has a larger flap. There's more square inches of door, if you will, in both the 30 degree flap and the 90 degree flap. The positioning is now mandated exactly where they need to be mounted in the roofs, so that all cars are the same. And that was just a position through wind tunnel testing that we found to be optimum so that the flaps would be lifted up quicker and sooner.

There is a series of new restraints or the flap doors that are inside the flaps that help it. And in addition to the roof flaps, there's other pieces on the car that assist the flaps, if you will, or enhance the flaps.

If you notice the much larger shark fin today on the rear window, on the left side rear window, that helps to funnel the air to the flap to help lift it sooner as the car rotates. The roof rail's help. The side window, also. All of those, it's a whole package of things that use aerodynamics in our favor to help keep the car from lifting off, and even more so if it does get into a situation where it comes up definite, to help set it back down as quickly as possible.

Q: Were you surprised to see the car lift up in the air?

JOHN DARBY: "Surprised" I don't know if is the right word. If you could predict every spin of every car, the whole system would be very easy.

Although we can wind tunnel and we can test, and understand what how the air will lift the car, what you can't predict and what you can't test for is every single situation that the cars may be involved in when they are on the racetrack.

And yesterday's situation was very unique in the fact that the 09 car was in such close proximity to the 99 when the car rotated, and although although the flaps opened and everything deployed, the car was coming back down, there's a lot of the disturbance of the air that the 99 saw from the 09 car that probably was responsible for it starting to lift.

Q: I don't know if any of y'all heard these comments yesterday but Jack Roush talked about when Talladega and these tracks, Talladega and Daytona were made, Talladega in particular, 40 years ago, the aero packages of these cars were drastically different than the look of these cars today. That being said, is this whole game just a thing of just trying to fit a square peg into a round whole?

JOHN DARBY: When Talladega and Daytona were originally built, the cars they raced back then honest to gosh had lift instead of downforce. So the automobile as we know it through the design of it have improved even to the cars that we drive on the street today in regards of aerodynamics.

It was way up into the early 80s that the cars, all the race cars, the stock cars at all of the racetracks we had, the teams battled with lift issues instead of downforce issues. That was in the very early 80s where teams understood that wind tunnels could be used to their advantage and started constructing the cars a little differently as manufacturers of street cars followed that same trend line to gain efficiency in the automobile.

What we really realized is the efficiency of Detroit and the auto manufacturers that they made strides in making their cars more efficient with NASCAR or stock cars adopting those same trend lines and body styles over the years, we have received the benefits of that same evolution.

Q: The last part of that, he said to this degree, too, if a track was being built today and Talladega did not exist, would a track like Talladega be built?

JOHN DARBY: I don't know. It would be a huge undertaking for somebody, I don't speculate in answer to that question, because I know I sure as heck couldn't afford to built one.

JIM HUNTER: I want to thank everybody for joining us today and look forward to seeing a lot of you in Richmond this weekend.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers David Gilliland , Jack Roush , Brad Keselowski , Mike Fisher