NASCAR R&D Competition Forum transcript, part 2

NASCAR R&D press conference GARY NELSON, NASCAR Managing Director of Research and Development JOHN DARBY, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director BRIAN DeHART, NASCAR Busch Series Director WAYNE AUTON, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director GARY SMITH,...

NASCAR R&D press conference
GARY NELSON, NASCAR Managing Director of Research and Development
JOHN DARBY, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director
BRIAN DeHART, NASCAR Busch Series Director
WAYNE AUTON, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director
GARY SMITH, NASCAR Director of Event Logistics

Part 2 of 3

Q: On the topic of speed, we heard that recent rules changes, engine and maybe perhaps the spoilers, are likely to produce higher top-end speeds. What modes are looked at -- are being looked at to reduce top-end velocity and how likely are we to see an engine rule aimed -- or carburetor rule aimed at reducing top-end speeds?

JOHN DARBY: When we talk about speed, if we're talking about an overall lap speed, we're pretty doubtful that those speeds will increase much. What very possibly may happen is the cars will have a little faster speed on the straight part of the race tracks and ultimately have to slow down a little bit more as they travel through the corners which is okay.

If the speeds that we see today, if they do increase, typically we're expecting maybe in qualifying on a one- or two-lap type situation, but as part of the tire construction changes, one of the things that we have really asked for some help for is that the tire continues to follow-up off as it runs on the racetrack. So during a racing type environment, the speed should not even rescind a little bit.

Q: Mike, Richard Childress yesterday was chastising NASCAR a bit for saying on the one hand that you want to try to save the team's money, but yet keep making rule changes that force them to spend money and rebuild cars and go test them and whatever. I just wondered your response to that and how you try to balance the needs of the competition versus what it cost the teams to keep up.

MIKE HELTON: First of all, that's part of the reason in developing the R&D Center here is for NASCAR to better understand the ripple effect and ramifications, if you will, of reaction from our side. But in the meantime, as we get smarter on that and we understand that better, I think you can see a track record in NASCAR where we've tried to make major changes ahead of the season and not change anything if we can keep them from doing that, until the end of the season is over with.

The challenge, though, in the meantime, is that we can't prevent owners or their bodymen or their engine rooms or what have you, in trying things, if you will, that circumvent the rules. In an effort for NASCAR to police the sport, sometimes it has to make rule decisions that is ultimately more cost effective for the entire garage, but very well could cost more than one team, certainly a single team, but others as well, money to adapt to that. That's where we have to look for that balance or that line to say okay, is it worth it. If we see a particular element going in one direction and it's the wrong direction to go and we draw a line in the sand, whoever is going in that direction has to recover from it, so it keeps everybody else from having to go in that direction on occasion.

Then there's moments where we make major changes, whether it's in an engine package, or in the sheet metal package, that we know is something that the entire garage area is affected by, but those are done, hopefully, for the good of the economic package long-term. We still can't, even with the single engine rule, that the guys came up with a couple of seasons ago, which should be saving the team owners money, whatever they saved, they are going to turn around and invest in something else. And that's the challenge that NASCAR has. And Richard has his position on this right now and he shared that with us as well, but we think the changes that we made, that John made, and Brian had made in the Cup and Busch Series, that he has taken issue with us, are warranted for the entire series and not just a single team or a couple of organizations.

Q: Gary, we all know about the multiple safety initiatives that have happened in the last couple of seasons. What else is on the horizon and what may be the next thing we're going to see?

GARY NELSON: It's pretty exciting for me to talk about it, but the Car of Tomorrow is the title we're giving it. It's kind of all of the best ideas put together. Some of the things that turns out to be parts of the Car of Tomorrow will turn out to fit on the Car of Today also, like the alternate exit and the fresh air study that we did and the fire extinguisher bottles, a lot of those things that are Car of Tomorrow projects, if they'll adapt to today's car, that's great.

But as we move down the road we're also faced with is this the right wheel? Is this the right engine? Is this the right transmission? As we start examining all those things with the cost to the car owner in mind, we understand that the more of those things that are on the track today that we can save, the better off we are going to be. So don't think of it as throwing away the old car and having to buy a new car. Think of it as anything that we can use that the owners have already invested in, we want to use. If it's doing a good job, let's keep it. If there's something we can do better, let's add it on and ultimately we end up with a Car of Tomorrow really one piece at a time. That's what excites me every day and gets me going is the progress we're making there.

Q: Mike, when you were talking about the EMT and that role that kind of sounded very similar to the role of the medical liaison. I wanted to clarify if they are two different positions or did you replace one position or what the difference is on that. My other question was to Gary is just: Where do these stand in regard to the safer barrier for this season? Did you like what you saw out of Homestead? And will there likely be tracks this year where they will have the barriers up before the series gets there?

MIKE HELTON: The EMT role is an extension of the medical liaison program that comes under Gary Smith. But it's not a medical liaison function. The medical liaisons are there to understand the medical history of the participants; to manage that program, the collection of that data; and the utilization of that data as it integrates into the medical care providers that the facilities provide.

The addition of an EMT, after we began using a chase vehicle, if you will, was the idea of, okay, if the chase vehicle makes sense - and we feel like it does - then let's take an EMT and their experience and make them the official that drive that chase vehicle, or whatever it may be, so that he also functions as an official, but he also has the experience and as he watches everything unfold out there, he can help us manage the programs that we have in place; that the medical liaisons do around the table and in advance of the advance to establish the standard that we ask tracks to live up to. He is actually a function of the EMT would be, more an official function as the event unfolds on the racetrack, supervising it or understanding it as it unfolds out on the racetrack at the scene.

GARY NELSON: Your question on the safer barrier, I think most of you know that five tracks have installed the safer barrier that are on the NASCAR schedule now. And the University of Nebraska experts that designed the barrier, the last race at Homestead, they were there -- actually they came to every race where the barrier was used and continue to monitor the progress of it and as they watch it to see how it fits on the flatter track at Richmond and New Hampshire and then at Indianapolis, Homestead was the first bank track, they had some adjustments that they made. They have now gone onto is surveying all of the tracks over the last few weeks and into the next few weeks and months to get a hands-on understanding of the way the current wall works and how it will fit each particular track.

So as they move along, and talk to the different tracks, and make the recommendations for the tracks, you will hear more from the track operators as they start putting it into their schedule.

From our standpoint, we are certainly monitoring everything that's going on, but the experts that invented the wall and designed the wall working with the track operators who have the asphalt, banking the wall, concrete wall that is in place now, and bringing all that together, that the decisions and the announcements on what is next will come from the race tracks.

Q: Has there been any change in Shane Hmiel's status for the season?

GARY SMITH: Shane has been going through a program that we had an independent agency set up for him. To be honest with you Shane up to this time has been doing very well. He's progressing through it, so yeah, I would venture to say that there's a distinct possibility for him to possibly be reinstated this year all depending on following the program.

Part 3

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About this article
Series Automotive , NASCAR
Drivers Shane Hmiel , Gary Smith
Teams HART