Media Tour - NASCAR staff press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: If the wing was dumped for aesthetic reasons, I assume you've gotten similar negative feedback from the fans on the appearance of the front end of the car and the splitter, and I know the manufacturers don't sell ...

Continued from part 2

Q: If the wing was dumped for aesthetic reasons, I assume you've gotten similar negative feedback from the fans on the appearance of the front end of the car and the splitter, and I know the manufacturers don't sell cars with splitters and they liked the room provided by the new Nationwide car; and is the front end the next place you'll go to tweak and do you have a timetable?

BRIAN FRANCE: The front end is something we are looking at but we have been looking at for a little while and nothing to report. The spoiler, I wouldn't characterize it as something we did just for the look of the car.

The fact is, it's going to change the downforce and it's yet to be determined. We have not fully determined, and it's important to note, how high the spoiler is going to be. That's going to come out of a future test. We left that a little bit open. We want the drivers to have maximum input when they come to Charlotte, and we get ready to go to Texas, which is my hope we will have it fully implemented by then in terms of on a Super Speedway, we may have it certainly earlier for tracks less than a mile and hey half, but if we didn't think the racing would be improved as a result of the spoiler versus the wing, we wouldn't have done it.

If we didn't hear directly, one of the things that came out of these many, many meetings, and we did them individually as I said in my remarks, that we got a chance -- the teams fell a lot more at ease with telling us what they really thought, as opposed to in a big group, this he were just with their teammates, and we got some different kind of input that we had gotten even back in May, of what they thought the spoiler was going to do and how it might improve things, including racing up to one another, and being able to have a little bit more control over the car and so on, so forth.

So felt a little bit more confident about that, and again, if it doesn't make racing better and open things up a little bit, we wouldn't have done it.

MIKE HELTON: I want to remind everybody that the past couple of seasons of this car, we have made over two dozen changes to it, working with crew chiefs and drivers on multiple things to help them set up the car to accommodate the particular taste that a driver might have at a particular racetrack, and over two dozen changes. The fact of the matter was, none of those are very visible, and so some people are surprised when you make that comment to them. The change from a wing to a spoiler is hugely visible.

As good as we think the competition is today, we are always working on making it better. And you know, once we take small hurdles and the spoiler -- with the wing to the spoiler is certainly a very visible one, then we can see what else we can do. The other thing we have to be conscious of, though, when it comes to what might happen on the nose of a car is it factors in what the manufacturers' input might be, and that takes time and that takes a good deal of effort.

The other thing we have to factor in, though, is how much we can lay on to the industry at one time. How much can you ask of the car owners to convert to and how much -- what does that do to their economy of scale. So all of those have to factor in as we make those decisions.

RAMSEY POSTON: Yes, that will do it, thank you for your time.

We now welcome up for our second Q&A panel, I welcome back to the stage our vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, John Darby, our nation car Nationwide Series director Joe Balash, our NASCAR Camping World Series director, Wayne Auton and our touring series director, Richard Buck.

Q: Robin, in long or short term, I heard you will replace the current carburetors for fuel injection. Are you planning to do it in short term, already tests, and if have you already done test or and have you already chosen manufacturer for the system?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: We are in the process of the development and the testing, and we have been for probably six or eight months. The easy part is to just build the fuel injection system. The thing that we need to put in play is how we are going to regulate it and what's going to be fair for everybody.

But there has been teams that have gone off and they do have track time already on their early production or early prototype fuel injection system. So our goal is to shoot for 2011. I think that's pretty aggressive. I'm sure John will nod his head to that. But you know, we are, you know, we are pushing hard and that is what we are shooting for.

Q: What do you anticipate will be the results of the general results of have-at-it boys at Daytona and Talladega? Do you anticipate closer racing, more passing, a wreck every two laps? What ultimately is going to happen here?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, it's hard to look into the future and predict that. I think it's in the drivers' hands. I think it's all about on how aggressive they feel that they can get to make a pass, how much real estate that they can use up, and it remains to be seen, the outcome of that. But it's back in their hands and I think anything can happen.

Q: John can you talk about your new role and how it will be structured and about your move to the new position?

JOHN DARBY: Sure. It's nice to hear they love me because they don't always tell me that. But I'm not going away. I'll still be as deeply involved in NASCAR racing as I always have been, times four. And what I mean by that is obviously today, my primary concerns and responsibilities are the Sprint Cup Series as we move on, they will be the Sprint Cup Series as well as the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series, the touring series and everything else we have with wheels and tires on.

So I think it's a great idea. I'm quite flattered, actually, that I got the opportunity to advance to this level. The teams I'll be working with in Wayne and Joe and everything are obviously very good at what they do. Having the ability to try to pull the best from each series and create a much more consistent world for all of our competitors from both the technical aspects in the rules and regulations part of our business, it's going to be a fun challenge.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: We have got a close-knit bunch here in the R&D center, all of our series directors. And if you think that you've heard of a lot of meetings over the wintertime with different teams and things like that, that pales in comparison to the work that we do in here. Everybody gets along; everybody works together and we draw on each other's experiences.

You know, I'm running out of old racing stories quite frankly to talk about my experiences in the garage area, but many of the decisions that are made in all of the series is made and we draw from this pool of knowledge. And John works hard. He brings a lot of knowledge. He's been a great leader. You know, his organizational skills are tremendous and we transitioned to the new car, the inspection process and all that, he works very well with the guys here in the R&D center with Mike Fisher and Daniel Honeycutt and Bill Erskine, those guys are unsung heroes and these guys use those resources. John is a big part of that, and he's a guy that with all of his knowledge and experience, everybody leans on quite a bit. So it's a great team effort here and John is really the perfect fit for it.

Q: Is there a time line for the new director, and during this have-at-it-era the boys are entering into, are there going to be times when you are glad you are not the series director?

JOHN DARBY: I think first of all, more importantly than a time line for a new director is actually taking the time to find the right director. That person has got to have some qualifications that not only include the competition side of what we do, but there's a lot of part of a series director's job that is more personal than that. It's one on one with the people in the garage, and every Friday we open up, you're almost the mayor of a little city, so to speak. That's the person that we need that can guide the garage, keep everybody confident, not always happy, but at least develop a respect for what NASCAR does, and what their teams do so well in the garage.

So it's not about finding somebody before we go to Daytona or before we go to California. I think it will be a little lengthier process in that and make sure that we choose the right person.

As far as the opening it up to the drivers, obviously the racing is going to get more exciting. And as you look back through the history of restrictor plate racing, not every wreck that we have had at restrictor plate races come from over-aggressive driving. For every aggressive act, somebody is making a mistake, and that's what ultimately creates those.

So I think the drivers will have a respect for what they are doing, because they will now be in a situation where they will be their own governing body, if you will. They will have to watch and help each other, as much as police each other. Their goal is to win that race, too, and I can tell you that sitting in the garage on lap 30 with a car in a lot does not help you accomplish that.

So I think all of our drivers realize that and they will do their best to not only, one, put on some of the best restrictor plate racing that we have ever seen, as well as making sure that they are around for those final laps and the finish of that race.

Q: What was the thinking that went into the big plate for Daytona this year, going back to the biggest plate since '89?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, in the midst of our wind tunnel test over the wintertime, some of the devices that we have added to the car for stability, also added a little bit of drag, and we felt like it was important to give the drivers a little more horsepower, a little more throttle response back, which is something that they have never refused in the past. But it was a perfect time to do that.

RAMSEY POSTON: Wayne, there was a lot of talk last year about the changes in pit road and steps we took. Obviously we made those changes. Talk a little about that process and how we came to those conclusions.

WAYNE AUTON: Well, first of all, let me say that the rules that we implemented last year for the NASCAR Truck Series worked. We saw a lot of new owners, a lot of new teams and drivers coming to the garage area.

Going into 2010, rolling into Daytona, going back to the conventional pitting of one time, where last year we did not, we can go to the double-file, shootout-style restarts, but also with that we can also limit how many crew members we have over the wall, which we are going to do with six, the refueling process that we have affords us the ability to do that.

So we are excited about rolling into Daytona especially going into double-file, shoot-out style restarts.

RAMSEY POSTON: Should fun at Darlington, too, as well, right?

WAYNE AUTON: Let's hope they can get through the first turn.

RAMSEY POSTON: Joe Balash, this year, obviously you are going to have a new rookie at track, a lot of talk about Danica Patrick, your thoughts about her coming into the garage?

JOE BALASH: First of all, I think we need to let the team and Danica set their own level of expectations for what they want to achieve during the season. We welcome her to the garage just like we do any new rookie into the sport, and I think it gives people a lot of things to talk about with all of the things that are happening with the new car and Road America and those type of things.

RAMSEY POSTON: Richard Buck, obviously a great announcement with K&N, but talk about the health much the sport at the development level and the track level as well.

RICHARD BUCK: What we are seeing is a good health of the touring series in general across North America. Car counts are up. The touring series is a great place, that's one of our focus to help build skill sets, not only with drivers, owners, crew chiefs, so a lot of things we pattern ourselves out of in the touring division is to help get them ready to graduate. We have had some great graduates. Obviously the notable Joey Lagano began know, but also we have some really good ones coming up, Ryan Truex, Jason Bowles, we have got some great champions and with evident got some great future athletes coming up.

The addition of the K&N Pro Series is excellent. They are a great partner. They are racing-based. They are it the grass roots. This is what they have done. I know the first toolbox that I ever had, I still own and it has a K&N sticker on it. So that's where they come from.

Q: Talking earlier about the yellow-line rule, how close were you to doing something about that and did the drivers talk you out of it, and also is that something you're going to continue to look at going forward?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: It was a lot of debate. You know, we threw it out there, like everything that we have been doing lately, we work closely with the drivers and the teams. But we respect their opinion, and I would say it was not 50/50. Probably wasn't even 70/30. But most of the drivers said, look, we have got enough changes, let's move forward the way we are, and we can continue to look at it.

Q: Robin, the spoiler that's finally decided, will it stay unchanged for the first race to the last race, or can the angle of attack for lower or bigger downforce change? Question for John Darby. The current rumor in Europe is that from 2011 onwards a lot of unemployed Formula 1 drivers will come into NASCAR. What's your personal opinion about that?

JOHN DARBY: I think we have seen some transition, or we have seen some influx of mechanics, to our sport already, and in some cases they have been a great addition to the race teams that they are employed by. Actually it comes from all different areas, whether it be their engine and power plant departments, their chassis people, or just racing strategists that help organize the teams on race day. But I haven't -- nobody has seen a negative to that. We are a very competitive sport, and you know, the jobs that are available at the race teams are every bit as competitive as that, and it's a matter of making the move and beating the streets, finding the right position, and then improving yourself once you're there.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: As relates to the spoiler, some of the selling points that we have put forward over the past few years is some adjust ability. The spoiler, we are still going to the wind tunnel, conducting tests. But we will probably introduce some things on the body. We have talked to the teams and they have tried some different things on quarter panel extensions to help tune the side forces and downforces. They will not be just locked into one particular aero package. Once again we will work with the teams and give them some options.

Q: For John, regardless of what the person turns out to be, what is the best piece of advice you can give your successor?

JOHN DARBY: I can only explain what's worked for me, and that is just trying to be as fair and consistent with every competitor in the garage that you can. And you know, with that, I think comes a relationship with the competitors, you know, where you like to be is to be able to -- if you have to, issue 150,000 fine in the afternoon and meet for dinner that evening to understand why. That's hard to do, but over time, and a lot of hard work, you can get there.

It's just a very people-oriented position that you have to be a great listener and only talk when you need to, and you're in position to deliver, directly, the philosophies and the responsibilities that go forward with the France family's ambitions and goals.

You have just got to pay a lot of attention to everything that's going on around you.

Q: Could you talk about the health of the Truck Series and how you think the truck count will be this year?

WAYNE AUTON: Sure. That's a good question. Last year, I think we were all sitting here with unknowns, and we ended up having a 25-race schedule with all but two races with full fields. That was very exciting. At the end of the season, we saw an influx of new drivers and owners, as I said before, looking into 2010. If everybody comes that says they are coming, I think we are going to have to build bigger garages, because we really have been getting a lot of phone calls. That's a lot of exciting things happening in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit since John will be looking over the officials, and that was before under your umbrella from what I've been told, are there other changes that will come to your job description moving forward?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's basically the same for me. I mean, what is going to come out of it is the obligation to delegate a little bit more and do a little bit better managing my time and what I need to do for Mike and Brian and Steve O'Donnell and that group.

So like Brian said earlier, you know, our organization is not just flat as far as growth with people, but the OR g chart was laid out and there was a lot of reports of certain people and it really slowed things down. We will be adding a position with John taking that, and with his experience, so things will -- we should just be able to get more production out of the same people.

RAMSEY POSTON: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

-source: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup , NASCAR
Drivers Jason Bowles , Ryan Truex , Mike Fisher , Danica Patrick