Pemberton - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR Teleconference July 29, 2008 An interview with: ROBIN PEMBERTON DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Video Teleconference ahead of Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge, the NASCAR...

NASCAR Teleconference July 29, 2008
An interview with: ROBIN PEMBERTON

DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Video Teleconference ahead of Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge, the NASCAR Nationwide Series Road Course at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada, and Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono raceway.

Our guest today is NASCAR Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton. Robin, welcome.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Thanks for having me.

Q: We're just a bit past halfway in the 2008 season. What are your thoughts on the competition this far?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, I think we can get to that. But I think the first and foremost it's probably on everybody's mind right now is what went on with the tire situation this past weekend at Indianapolis.

I'd like to just, you know, get out in front of that and, you know, let everybody know that we're going to work on it. We've had a call with Goodyear this morning, talked to Joie Chitwood this morning about some things.

You know, I can't say enough how sorry we are, and you know, it's our responsibility being NASCAR that we don't go through this situation again. We've already got after it, and we're moving forward with a plan to get ahead of the situation so we don't go through this again.

Once again, you know, I think it deserves to be said that the race didn't come off like we had hoped. The fans didn't get what they exactly wanted, and we'll do everything in our power and it won't happen again, I can tell you that much. So we're going to put a lot of effort towards it and get a better plan moving forward.

I just want to let everybody know and get ahead of that and try to put this behind us and we'll work hard, all us that are involved at Indianapolis - from the tire manufacturer to NASCAR, to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That being said, let's get on with the rest of the show.

DENISE MALOOF: Questions for Robin Pemberton.

Q: I was wondering with the Brickyard issues, obviously, does that help the cause for NASCAR to take some more responsibility in testing the new car and testing the tire? I know there had been some talk previously about forming an official Goodyear tire test team?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: You know, that's been something that's been done in the past, a Goodyear tire testing. But one of the things that we have learned, we need to test the current cars, the cars with the current engines, the best horsepower, and you need to test with the best drivers that you can.

So having substitute drivers, I know it's been kicked around, but I think the examples are Darlington where we had Jeff Gordon, we had Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman there to conduct a test. They did a great job, and we got good information. We came out of Darlington with a great tire.

So we probably need to do a better job at testing different racetracks obviously, offer different challenges with their services. Indianapolis probably gave us the most trouble we've seen in recent history.

Nothing wrong with the service, we've just got to do a better job with testing and come out of there with a better position on our tires.

Q: Is it the high center of gravity and the roll or the decrease in downforce that's putting so much stress on these right side tires? And also knowing that you had an unknown quantity with the new car and the entire package this year, why didn't you go into this year and allow more testing on track-specific testing?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: We followed suit with last year's test policy. As you know, we allow the teams to pick as a group where they thought they needed to go test.

This car does have a little higher center of gravity. The track is a little bit wider. That does help make up for that with a lot of the safety features on this car, this car winds up having more of an even balance of weight from left to right, which, therefore, does load the right side tires a little bit more.

So taking the things that we have learned this year with our test policy and things of that nature, I'm sure -- and I'll tell you now, we're taking a good look at it. We're probably in the 80% range on our test policy for next year.

We look at giving the teams more of an opportunity to test at places that they feel like they need the most help. So you won't see the big test that we've had in the last two or three years that we go and conduct and manage. It will be more of a team-specific type outing with the proper tires from Goodyear.

So that moving forward, moving forward will probably, I can almost guarantee that almost every track next year will have some sort of activity with a private test leading up to the race at some point in time.

Q: How much are the teams changing their set ups as they learn about the Car of Tomorrow? And how is that impacting the tires? In other words, if you tested in April at Indianapolis, are all the set-ups now totally different?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, I think that's a very fair question. You look in the past, and we've all said it, you know, we were on a 25-year history with basically the same chassis and body style. The car evolved, and as competition drives the car, the teams take and they perfect it and they get their advantages.

So I think the change in car from a team's perspective is probably, there's probably greater changes in shorter periods of time with this new car.

We haven't been to every racetrack yet. It was obviously the first time at Indianapolis. We've got Kansas City coming up. So I think if you couldn't take last year's set-ups and run them this year, I think the teams have evolved that much.

You know, we are forced and we'll have to do a better job at staying ahead of the curve on some of these issues as it comes to the teams and the tires and things like that. So to answer the question in short, I think six months is an eternity on car improvement from the team's side.

Q: I just want to get your reaction to Tony George's comments that this is NASCAR's problem not Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the track won't be changed for next year if you guys want to come back.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, I didn't get a chance to see that comment. It's obvious that we don't go there with the right car/tire combination. We raced them on that surface the last four years and realized we wouldn't ask them to change that surface. We've got to do a better job.

I didn't read Tony's comments. A few of the people have told me what they were. You know, we haven't asked the Speedway to make any such changes. We're just going to move forward and do a better job leading into the race when we get there next year.

Q: My question is that fans called in and said why not drag tires around the track? They would have been up all night if you could run cars around the track. Is there anything you could do overnight or could have done to get the track to come in and rubber in and still not have had a problem?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think when you look back on the weekend, you know, Goodyear followed suit on their tire test in April like they have those past two or three years. And we know that it takes the track a while to rubber in.

You know, our best guess at it or Goodyear's best guest is it is going to take the same path that it did in previous years. It looks like it was headed in that direction on Friday. Friday was not much different than past Fridays at Indianapolis.

But Saturday it didn't rubber in, and we were left with tires that only lasted ten laps. Now the fans that wrote in and said why didn't you drag tires? We didn't realize until race time that the track wasn't going to be in tip-top shape at lap 40 like it was a year ago.

At the end of the day, you look at it, and we ran a 400 mile race there with 43 competitors and at the end of 400 miles, the track wasn't even rubbered in.

I don't think there's anything we could have done given the circumstances that could have gotten us over the hump and gotten the track rubbered in. It never did all day on Sunday.

Q: Do you think it's too late to adjust the schedule for the year? You mentioned Kansas, could you schedule some type of a test at Kansas before that race?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: When you look at the racetracks, there's a lot of them that are very similar, you know. Chicago, we just had a great race there. We've had the race at Charlotte and Atlanta.

So I think when we move forward, we've got one more test left that would be at Charlotte before the end of the year. So I think we should be in good shape as far as the testing goes.

We have added a test this year. We added the spring Charlotte event in hopes that that was going to help all of our mile-and-a-half to almost two-mile racetrack. So next year will be a different set of circumstances, and the test policy will be a little more wide open where teams can hit the places they need to hit. But right now we're not going to change where we're at.

Q: I wanted to ask there has been some talk about Goodyear possibly making a radical change to the wider tire. So is that possible without changing the car and the body of the car? I mean having a much larger tire made forcing a change in the car?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'm going to answer that the best I can, your phone was breaking up. We had a bad connection there. We're working with Goodyear. As far as evaluating a wider tire, a tire that is a larger circumference that allows it to have a larger volume of air in there and helps its durability. I think part of your question was about the tire width and size versus the body. I think I got that out of it.

If we come to a place that Goodyear needs to be to help the performance help the tires and help the feel as far as the body goes, and the sheet metal, those type of things can be changed in a matter of days or weeks or months with proper planning.

We're looking at some different things with Goodyear. You know, we'll follow their lead on what they need to help the performance and durability of the tires.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Gilles Villeneuve , Tony George