2003 MISC NASCAR NEWS, RULES CHANGES & INFORMATION
- NASCAR #5 in Flordia: According to Florida Trend magazine, NASCAR is the fifth largest privately owned company in the state, and publicly traded International Speedway Corporation is the 53rd largest corporation. The survey listed NASCAR as having an estimated $3 billion in gross revenues in 2002, representing a 50 percent increase over the previous year. The figures were based on a study conducted by the California consulting firm Kagan World Media. ISC, which owns and operates Daytona International Speedway and 11 other NASCAR tracks, had revenues of $550.5 million, up four percent in 2002. The private companies ranked ahead of NASCAR in the list were Publix, Burger King, J.M. Family and Adventist Health System.(Gaston Gazette)(12-28-2003)
- Surgery for Cup starter UPDATE: been told that NASCAR Nextel Cup Starter Jimmy Howell will undergo two surgeries on December 12 in Winston Salem, NC. The surgery will be performed by Dr. David Martin at Wake Forest Universtiy Baptist Hospital. Howell will have surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus and will also have surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.(12-10-2003)
UPDATE: Howell is recuperating at his home in Winston Salem after undergoing surgery December 12th to repair his left knee and a torn Rotator Cuff in his right shoulder. Howell is doing well after his surgeries and has began rehab at Comp Rehab in Winston Salem, NC.(12-22-2003)
- Wal-Mart and NASCAR: Wal-Mart shoppers will be able to race radio-controlled stock cars in the toy departments of 3,100 stores for one day in February as the centerpiece of a Fan Days program that NASCAR will run with the world's largest retailer as a lead-in to next year's Daytona 500. The NASCAR-licensed cars will run on tracks built using the products of sponsors and licensees that tie in to the program, with as many as 10 brands, including Coca-Cola, expected to participate. NASCAR Fan Days will run from Feb. 1 through Feb. 22, with participating brands receiving prime placement and point-of-sale support throughout the three-week span. The "retailtainment" event, slotted for Feb. 7, will include radio-controlled car racing and NASCAR-themed programming on Wal-Mart's in-store television and radio networks. NASCAR and Wal-Mart are discussing a "presented by" sponsorship with Gillette-owned battery brand Duracell, according to sports marketing sources. Gillette recently signed on as a NASCAR sponsor in multiple categories, including alkaline batteries. NASCAR and Wal-Mart declined comment on the program. Financial details were unavailable. This will be the fourth consecutive year in which NASCAR ties to Wal-Mart for a Fan Days promotion, but the first time that the two hook up on anything as extensive and attention-grabbing as in-store racing.(Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal)(12-16-2003)
- NASCAR Seeking Another Tech Partner: NASCAR marketers are formulating a package that would give a personal computer manufacturer or another tech firm access to its timing and scoring results, this week's Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal reports. Columnist Terry Lefton writes that the sponsorship package might also cover track scoring. "Laptops are in every [NASCAR] garage, so I feel like we have a real opportunity," Brett Yormark, NASCAR vice president of corporate marketing, told the magazine.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(12-16-2003)
- Fox likes the news points system idea? While NBC and TNT would obviously benefit if NASCAR decides to determine its Nextel Cup champion through a 10-race "postseason" format, Fox Broadcasting chairman and chief executive officer David Hill is warming to the idea as well. "When I first heard about it I wasn't sure," Hill said Wednesday. "But after thinking about it long and hard, now I am very much for it."(See full story at ThatsRacin.com), see more on the proposed system on my NASCAR News page and a poll on PAGE 2 of the news, "NO Change" is winning by a decent margin.(12-11-2003)
- Hand Signals like the NFL? Less Provisionals? FoxSports Larry McReynolds reports that when a car is held on pit road, the team, the fans and the media all want to know why immediately. There was just no clear-cut way of doing it though. For four or five of the major rule infractions, NASCAR will come up with hand signals, just like a referee in football. It's neat because the crew chief, the fans who can see that pit box and the media will know right away.
AND NASCAR is looking at changing the provisional system, and while these changes aren't completely set in stone, it is safe to say there won't be seven provisional positions for next year's races. It has reached a point where provisionals need to be scaled back so there probably will be three to five provisionals per race. You've got to protect the top guys in points because with one round of qualifying, you do stand the chance of someone losing an engine or wrecking. Next year, the fastest 38 or 40 cars will get in the field with three to five on provisionals. In the past, if you were in the top 25 in points, you weren't charged a provisional. Now if you use it, you lose it -- no matter where you are. People who are usually up in the points can run out of provisionals.(See full story at FoxSports and see current provisonal rules on my ProvisionalLand Page and another story with nascar quotes from the Sports Network:
NASCAR studies points and provisional changes)(12-10-2003)
- M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E at D-A-Y-T-O-N-A: Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck will lead the parade lap before next year's Daytona 500 under terms of a new deal between International Speedway Corp. and the Walt Disney Co., today's Sports Business Daily reports. Editor-at-Large Terry Lefton says the joint licensing program will put the Disney logos on two Chevrolet Monte Carlos leading the field. The program also will combine Daytona 500 logos with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Peg Leg Pete. Diecast cars from Team Caliber will also be sold in hobby stores, through trackside vendors and on QVC and NASCAR.com. Apparel licensees include Kudzu for caps and Jerry Leigh for women's and children's clothing. Paul Phipps, ISC's vice president for sales and marketing, is projecting $20 million to $25 million in wholesale sales for the venture, which the story says is initially for a single year. A "Road to Daytona" mobile marketing program will include five Monte Carlos with Disney art on them, along with a 53-foot merchandise trailer.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(12-3-2003)
- New Elite Sponsorship: AutoZone Inc. has signed a deal to become the title sponsor of the NASCAR Elite Division, a racing circuit that is two tiers below the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Because of the deal the division will be known as the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division.(Commercial Appeal)(12-3-2003)
- Retiring: Bill Desmond, who partnered with the late Bob Harmon to form a new grass-roots racing division in the 1980s that became the All Pro Series, is retiring from NASCAR at age 70.(Tennessean)(11-27-2003)
- Bill France Jr named WCI Person of the Year: NASCAR Winston Cup Illustrated magazine has named retired NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr. its 2003 Person of the Year for his leadership in growing the sport after taking over from his father in 1972 until stepping aside this year. "Despite his great knowledge and an obvious willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done, there was no guarantee France Jr. would find success in a sports-crazed country where today's triumph is tomorrow's laughingstock," writes Jon Gunn, the magazine's managing editor. Columnist Ben White writes that France Jr. earned the honor "for his countless contributions" and adds, "Maybe in his case it should be called 'Person of the Century.'" The magazine, which is published by NASCAR Winston Cup Scene's parent company, Street & Smith's Sports Group, is available on newsstands now.(Winston Cup Scene Free Daily Newsletter)(11-21-2003)
- KKK wants a boycott of NASCAR: how weird is this? - Ku Klux Klan members were apparently busy distributing a newsletter and fliers as some local residents found them attached to their mailboxes on Monday, Local 4 reported. The newsletter called "The Flame," along with a flier, was attached by rubber bands to mailboxes in Ypsilanti and Pittsfield Township. The materials reportedly called for the boycott of McDonalds, NASCAR and Coca-Cola for what the KKK says are the companies' tendency for discriminating against whites by hiring blacks and Hispanics. Residents said the timing of the fliers was perfect because Monday was trash day, Local 4 reported.(ClickOnDetroit.com)(11-19-2003)
- NASCAR Press Conference UPDATE Gillette Young Guns: NASCAR will be announcing a sponsorship deal involving six of NASCAR's top ten drivers this Friday, Nov. 14 at 12:45pm/et from Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On hand will be 2003 champ Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.(11-12-2003)
UPDATE: hear it is something with Gillette.(11-13-2003)
UPDATE 2: Gillette Co. is expected to unveil a $10 million-plus sponsorship deal today with NASCAR and six of its most prominent young and aggressive drivers. The Hub razor maker is gunning for a huge and growing group of auto racing fans with a sweeping deal to be unveiled in Miami. As an official NASCAR partner, Gillette and its Duracell and Oral-B brands will gain exclusivity in the shaving, battery and oral care categories, industry sources say. Gillette also will sponsor six young drivers including #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr., #29-Kevin Harvick and this year's Winston Cup Champion, #17-Matt Kenseth. The six - to be dubbed Gillette Young Guns - will anchor promotional programs designed to drive sales. Gillette is expected to spend more than $10 million on the effort overall. The deal is comparable only to Coca-Cola Co. (KO: chart, news)'s sponsorship of 13 drivers under its Coca-Cola Family of Racers campaign.(Boston Herald)(11-14-2003)
UPDATE 3: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman have been called "young guns" for some time. Next year, they'll get paid for it. In a deal worth a reported $20 million a year, Gillette has signed a multiyear agreement for those Cup drivers to endorse Gillette razors, Duracell batteries and Oral-B toothbrushes. The deal also includes "official" sponsor status for Gillette. The agreement also includes a weekly contest for fans, who can register online at www.gilletteyoungguns.com, to predict the highest finisher among those six in each 2004 race. All correct entrants will be entered in a drawing for a $5,000 prize. If those six drivers finish in the top six in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May or the Ford 400 at Homestead, and a consumer correctly picks the order of their finish, the prize would be $5 million. Gillette will also donate at least $1,000 per week to the National Prostate Cancer Coalition as part of the program. None of the money in the deal goes any of the race teams involved. The agreements are with NASCAR and the individual drivers.(ThatsRacin.com)(11-16-2003)
- Jesse Jackson and NASCAR...still? Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH organization claims that, contrary to published media reports, NASCAR is still working with and supporting his initiatives in motor sports. "Reports of demise in the relationship between NASCAR and Rainbow/PUSH have been greatly exaggerated," said Charles Farrell, director of Rainbow Sports division of Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, in an interview with CNSNews.com. Farrell was referring to a July report in USA Today, which quoted unnamed NASCAR officials as saying they were cutting off funding to Jackson's organization. NASCAR has reportedly given at least $250,000 to Jackson's organizations in recent years.(more at CNSNes.com)(11-13-2003)
- New 2004 Rules; Larger Gas Can: NASCAR released 14 pages of amendments to the 2004 Cup rulebook to teams at Rockingham. Teams will now use 12-gallon fuel cans, which will deter teams from compromising the bottom of the current 11-gallon cans. (Cars' fuel cells hold 22 gallons.) The F3, or dinosaur, template will now extend from the cowl to the rear spoiler, tightening areas where teams can find an advantage. Engines must be located 14.25 inches, plus or minus 1 inch, from the center carburetor air cleaning mounting stud to the base of the windshield. Many teams will need to change driveshafts and motor mounts in order to comply with that rule. NASCAR also is separating primary and secondary ignition systems so that it will be easier to check the wiring and eliminate any opportunities for traction control.(FoxSports/Sporting News)(11-10-2003)
- More on Diversity: NASCAR is implementing a diversity program that hopes to place four minority drivers in the Weekly Racing Series, and six to 12 crewmen in the Craftsman Truck Series by next season. The program will be supported by corporate sponsors, with the goal of developing individuals who may one day advance through the ranks. The NASCAR program arrives at a time when Dodge is ending the diversity program it started three years ago. The demise of the Dodge initiative has left Bill Lester, a Craftsman Truck driver and currently the lone black competitor within NASCAR's three national divisions, without a ride for 2004.(Charleston Post and Courier)(11-8-2003)
- Winston West Awards Ceremony: I don't cover the Winston West [no idea what it'll be called next year or who will sponsor it, won't be Nextel] but since the last race was cancelled, thoguht this was good to post: NASCAR has announced plans to hold the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series awards ceremony at the Eldorado Hotel in Reno, Nev., on Friday, Dec. 12. The event, which had been slated for Nov. 2 in Glendale, Calif., was postponed because of the devastating wildfires in that region.(Racing West Site)(11-7-2003)
- NASCAR Hire: NASCAR announced that Paul Sparrow has joined its licensing division as director of retail development. Sparrow, who was director of marketing and retail development with the National Football League, will be responsible for developing new retail relationships as well as programs and promotions that sell NASCAR-licensed products to retailers.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(11-4-2003)
- Cars to the Chassis Dyno at Phoenix; #20 had the most power UPDATE 2: NASCAR put nine cars on the chassis dyno after the race, to compared effective horsepower at the rear wheels: the Dodges of #12-Ryan Newman, #9-Bill Elliott and #22-Scott Wimmer, Fords of #97-Kurt Busch, #17-Matt Kenseth and #38-Elliott Sadler, and Chevys of #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr., #48-Jimmie Johnson and #20-Tony Stewart.(Winston Salem Journal)(11-3-2003)
UPDATE: Of the nine cars NASCAR tested on the chassis dynamometer after the Phoenix race, Tony Stewart's #20 had the most horsepower.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)(11-3-2003)
UPDATE 2: The preliminary figures from Sunday's chassis-dyno runs showed Tony Stewart with the strongest engine, pulling 742 horsepower at the rear wheels, and Kurt Busch with the weakest, 702 horsepower, according to sources. That's a sizable difference.(Winston Salem Journal)(11-5-2003)
- Points Change? UPDATE: Next season's race winners will likely receive a 10 or 15 point bonus, and drivers finishing 37th or lower will likely receive the same points, if NASCAR goes ahead with its plans to revise the Winston/Nextel Cup point system. But then maybe the point system doesn't need revision. After all, the Busch tour uses the same system, and five men still have a shot at the title.(Winston Salem Journal)(10-27-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR will change its point system for 2004. An announcement could come as early as the Winston Cup awards banquet next month in New York, but more likely it will be made during the annual media tour in January. The new system is expected to award more points for wins and discourage drivers in damaged cars from returning to the track just to collect additional points.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)(11-3-2003)
- NASCAR Peformance Brand Announced: NASCAR on Monday announced the launch of the NASCAR Performance brand. Targeted to installers and consumers, NASCAR Performance will appear on more than 25 aftermarket brands such as Mobil 1 oil, Goodyear belts and hoses, Moog Chassis parts, Exide batteries and Wix Filters. The brand will serve as a NASCAR "seal of approval" for quality and reliability. NASCAR made the announcement at the annual AAPEX meeting here. NASCAR licenses its mark to automotive aftermarket products to provide a point of difference in a highly competitive retail environment. Surveys show that NASCAR fans are three times more likely to purchase products bearing the NASCAR mark. NASCAR Performance products are available nationwide through installers, dealers and retail outlets. The new brand will be made visible through the NASCAR Performance Network -- a marketing program that promotes vehicle maintenance and directs consumers to nearby service facilities. The network, housed on NASCAR.com, features a shop locator service for driving directions, store hours, services and certifications. An ad campaign (TV, print, radio and internet) for the NASCAR Performance Network uses NASCAR crew chiefs such as Greg Zipadelli of Joe Gibbs Racing, Slugger Labbe of Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Ryan Pemberton of MB2 Motorsports.(for full release, see NASCAR.com)(11-3-2003)
- Gordon's Car Cleared of Traction Control: Perhaps you noticed last week’s race winner Jeff Gordon having difficulty completing a proper burnout after winning last week’s race. You might have also noticed Gordon was able to run through Atlanta Motor Speedway’s corners so high that he was kicking up dirt and dust, but never pulled the car’s rear end into the wall. If so, you were not alone as a vast number of those who toil in the Winston Cup garage noticed these things as well, including NASCAR officials. According to NASCAR PR staff, Gordon’s car was torn down, inspected with a fine toothed comb and special attention paid to the ignition system. NASCAR officials did take the rear end from Gordon’s car into the Conover, N.C., R&D center, where the unit, away from the prying eyes of the competitors, was cleared later in the week. This confiscation was not widely publicized within the industry, but few were surprised when they did hear the news. One driver simply said of the impounded piece, “It doesn’t surprise me. I was running as hard as I could and I certainly couldn’t pull half the moves that [Gordon] was. Nope. It doesn’t surprise me, that they took it and that they didn’t find anything wrong.”(Ford Racing)(11-2-2003)
- and yet more on Traction control: When #24-Jeff Gordon couldn't do a decent post-race victory burnout at Atlanta, rivals were quick to question whether he might have been running traction control, the illegal system that prevents rear wheels from spinning out of control. Many teams suspect use of traction control is rampant this season, and one driver says he suspects as many as 16 teams [none named.....again] have used the device, which is believed to be impossible to detect. Some wonder why NASCAR couldn't modify its engine chassis dyno to detect traction control. Others say that NASCAR uses a sophisticated sound analysis system that can detect traction control. Robbie Loomis, Gordon's crew chief, says Atlanta wouldn't be a very good track for traction control, and some fellow crew chiefs agree. "I don't really know enough about it," Loomis said. "Obviously it would work at the short tracks and anywhere you have a lot of wheel-spin. But at Atlanta the car stays pretty hooked up and you have a lot of traction. Me personally, I don't think it's out there that much. Somebody might slide in and use it every now and then on you. But my hat's off to any team that's got an engineer good enough to dial that stuff in." The chassis dyno wouldn't be a good detection system, Loomis said, "because they talk about the driver being involved in putting it in the car and taking it out." One question rivals had was about the sometimes erratic performance of Gordon's car off the corners at Atlanta. Loomis said that was a fuel line problem. "Unfortunately we were having trouble with the fuel system. It scared me early in the race. We've got some stuff out here to look at it, and hopefully we've got it fixed."(Winston Salem Journal)(11-1-2003)
- Million Bucks a race to be the pace car? General Motor's decision to pull the plug on Pontiac support in NASCAR caught everyone by surprise and it is apparently related to pressure from NASCAR demanding more money from the Detroit car maker - at least $1 million a race, according to reports - to be the official pace car of the Winston/Nextel Cup circuit. Pontiac officials, according to sources, said no.(Winston Salem Journal)(11-1-2003)
- No Comment by Busch: #97-Kurt Busch declined to comment on NASCAR's decision to revoke his "hard card" - an annual credential used to gain access to tracks - in response to a pit road incident during the Oct. 19 race at Martinsville, Va.
Throughout the day Friday, Busch directed questions regarding the manner to NASCAR officials. Busch's hard card was revoked last weekend at Atlanta by NASCAR President Mike Helton. For the rest of the season, Busch must pick up paper credentials outside the track each weekend, as well as a hot pass - used for garage access - from Winston Cup series director John Darby.(ThatsRacin.com)(11-1-2003)
- Busch's 'Hard Card' Revoked: #97-Kurt Busch has had his "hard card" - an annual credential used to gain access at tracks - revoked by NASCAR for the remainder of the season as punishment for an incident on pit road during the Oct. 19 race at Martinsville. The move doesn't affect Busch's participation in Cup races, but the absence of a hard card does add several inconveniences during a race weekend. Each Friday, including this week at Phoenix International Raceway, Busch must sign in at the NASCAR registration hauler outside the track and receive paper credentials. He then must take those to Winston Cup series director John Darby, who will issue Busch a hot pass good for the weekend. Busch must return the pass after the race on Sunday. "Our president, Mike Helton, is trying to make a point," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for corporate communications. "We need to do what is necessary to get Kurt's attention." After his #97 Ford blew its engine during the Martinsville race, Busch came down pit road and spun in his own oil. He then spun several more times while pit crew members worked on other drivers' cars. NASCAR officials called Busch, his crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, and owner, Jack Roush, to the NASCAR hauler after the race, but Busch failed to attend. Busch claimed he did not know of the meeting, NASCAR sources said. NASCAR rescheduled the meeting with Busch for last Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway and had it coincide with the start of Winston Cup practice. Busch missed most of the practice session while attending the meeting, which was directed by Helton, NASCAR sources said. It was during that meeting that Busch turned over his hard card and had to go outside the track and receive paper credentials for the rest of the Atlanta race weekend. Roush Racing officials were unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon. Busch was expected to arrive at the track sometime Thursday or Friday morning. Hunter said he could not recall a driver ever having his hard card revoked previously. Some drivers' hard cards have been confiscated when they were suspended.(ThatsRacin.com)(10-30-2003)
- Story on Traction Control - Electronics to be exposed in 2004: NASCAR has had it with the finger-pointing, accusations and fruitless investigations about the use, uh, make that alleged use, of illegal traction control systems in its Winston Cup Series. Starting next season, Nextel Cup teams will have to mount all of their wart-ugly ignition parts, pieces and wires so that anyone strolling through the garage area can inspect the system through the front windshield. "They will be in full display on the dashboard," Winston Cup director John Darby said this week. "The Busch Series and Truck Series are going to have the same rule." Any traction control system utilizes the ignition system to send the right amount of torque and power to the rear wheels. With a traction control system in place, a driver would have a distinct advantage over other competitors with a regular ignition system, especially at NASCAR flat tracks. Prior to this season, most of the ignition system was hidden from sight under the dashboard area. Those in the know say all it would take to convert a plain old ignition system into a traction control beast is a preprogrammed computer chip. They say such a chip could be inserted into the ignition system by the driver just before the race and quickly removed after the checkered flag, making traction control virtually undetectable.
NASCAR doesn't want this kind of technology infesting its circa-1950s motor and electrical setups, but even after issuing a you-will-never-race-with-us-again-if-caught ultimatum about traction control, the whispers continued. When Darby talked about NASCAR's plans to bolt these electrical parts to the dashboard, he never uttered the words "traction control." He said the purpose of the rule is to let everybody else know what a team is running in their car. "Right now ignition systems are not in full view of every competitor," Darby said. "It goes along with our open garage, open inspection philosophy. With the ignition systems in clear sight of everyone, all the competitors can look at it just like they look at the body, springs and chassis."Most everybody thought this was going to happen before the 2003 season because traction control was such a hot topic during most of 2002.(see full story at the Daytona Beach News Journal)(10-30-2003)
- No Restrictor Plates in NASCAR's future? Gary Nelson, NASCAR's managing director of research and development, says engines could run free of restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega in the near future. Nelson, a former crew chief, always has thought restrictor-plate races are a pain, and he's looking at other ways to decrease horsepower without restricting the airflow to the carburetor.(Fox Sports/Sporting News)(10-27-2003)
- C-SPAN Video: At the National Press Club, George Pyne, Chief Operating Officer of NASCAR, speaks on "A Classic American Success Story." 10/21/2003: WASHINGTON, DC: at C-SPAN site.(10-23-2003)
- NASCAR Returns to Canada: For the first time since 1989, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) will sanction stock car racing events in Canada. Delaware Speedway in Ontario and St. Eustache Speedway in Quebec will join the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series in 2004. Although NASCAR has sanctioned events in Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan in the past, this marks the first time that NASCAR will have weekly events in Canada for an entire season. Delaware Speedway is a half-mile (0.8045 km) oval located near London, Ontario. The speedway first opened in 1952 as a quarter-mile (0.40225 km) dirt track. The track was paved in the 1960s and expanded to its current size. Delaware hosts four divisions of racing on Friday nights: Late Models, Trucks, Modifieds and Street Stocks. Delaware is also the home track to 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year Earl Ross, the only non-American driver to win a Winston Cup Series race. Ross, who resides in Ailsa Craig near London, earned the distinction by winning the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway in 1974.
St. Eustache Speedway, a 4/10-mile (0.6436 km) oval, was originally built in 1964 and remains the only facility in the greater Montreal area to offer a weekly schedule of stock car racing. St. Eustache Speedway features Sportsman, Super Series, Trucks, Street Stocks and Four-Cylinder cars on Saturday nights. Owner Claude Aubin is a popular racing figure in Quebec and a familiar figure in the history of NASCAR. Aubin was the NASCAR Busch North Series champion in 1978 and raced at traditional NASCAR venues including Martinsville and Daytona during his driving career. Competitors at both facilities will now be eligible for NASCAR’s prestigious regional and national championships, as well as a share of the $1.7 million (U.S.) NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series championship point fund that is paid out annually. Drivers race at their respective home tracks on a weekly basis and compete for individual track championships as well as the regional and national awards. Founded in 1982, the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series features 75 race tracks in the United States and more than 8,000 participating drivers. Dodge became the title sponsor of the series in 2003.(NASCAR PR)(10-21-2003)
- NASCAR.com's Smith heading to Ireland: Snickers Marathon is running into the NASCAR family in a unique way as it sponsors NASCAR.com writer Marty Smith as he travels to Ireland to conquer the 26 miles that encompass the Dublin Marathon, but the product is already a ‘distant relative’ to stock car racing. Masterfoods USA, which produces Snickers Marathon, also produces its sister product and high profile NASCAR sponsor M&M’s Chocolate Candies. M&M’s currently sponsors Elliott Sadler and the #38 RYR Ford Taurus. “I decided about a year ago that running a marathon was a challenge that I wanted to conquer, and here I am headed to Dublin to take on the 26 most grueling miles of my life,” Smith said. “I’ve never attempted anything the magnitude of a marathon before, but with a hectic lifestyle and an intense job, I’ve had days where I honestly felt like I had logged 52 miles in a day, so I really felt like I could do this. People everywhere are like me and put in a lot of miles in an ordinary day,” Smith continued. “They don’t intend to cover so much ground…it just kind of happens. Snickers Marathon not only helps me in training, it helps me get through a normal day.” Snickers Marathon didn’t target Smith for a sponsorship, but as an ‘everyday marathoner’ he was the perfect fit to represent their new product abroad in the 24th Adidas Dublin Marathon in an effort to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation as a member of the "Joints in Motion" training team.
Smith follows the NASCAR circuit around week to week translating the day to day happenings into words for 8 million fans that frequent the official website of NASCAR - NASCAR.com. Smith’s usual sit-down job is very time consuming and the travel involved is intense. Being on the road for 30 weekends a year means logging hundreds of miles in airport terminals, from parking lots to media centers and chasing driver celebrities for interviews. Though he’s never run 26 consecutive miles, there is not doubt he worn out more than one pair of sneakers in his ‘ordinary’ line of work.(Elevation Group PR)(10-15-2003)
- NASCAR Hire: NASCAR has hired Justin Johnson, Major League Baseball's vice president of corporate sales and marketing, today's Sports Business Daily reports. Johnson will join NASCAR as managing director of partnership marketing in the New York office, reporting to Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(10-10-2003)
- NASCAR Tops for Marketing: NASCAR leads all major sports by a substantial margin when it comes to innovative and aggressive marketing, according to the 2003 League Report Card from Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal. NASCAR scored at least a 4 or 5 on the 5-point scale from 83 percent of the 195 sports marketing executives who filled out a 12-page survey that was mailed to 1,290 sports marketers nationwide. The score was slightly better than the 81 percent who gave the sanctioning body the same grades in the weekly magazine's initial survey in 1999. The National Football League ranked second this year, scoring a 4 or 5 from 59 percent of respondents. It was followed by minor league baseball (56 percent) and the NBA (51 percent) on the list of 16 organizations, which included all major professional sports and the NCAA.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(10-8-2003)
- NASCAR Looking to Change Scoring System: NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said the sanctioning body has been looking at ways to upgrade its scoring system after the current system came under question on the last lap of Saturday's Mr. Goodcents 300 Busch Series race. The race was restarted with one lap to go, but a crash between Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Greg Biffle forced NASCAR to throw the caution. Under rules implemented two weeks ago, cars don't race back to the yellow, even on the last lap. But several drivers, including race winner David Green, raced to the yellow and checkered flags anyway. That meant the results on NASCAR's scoring computer -- which records where the cars are at the finish line -- were incorrect. The new rules dictate the cars being scored exactly when the yellow flag comes out. That's the problem. Hunter said NASCAR knew it was going to be difficult to score the cars "because we cannot freeze the cars at the exact moment that the yellow is displayed. We're simply telling all those competitors that we're looking for a better system," Hunter said. Hunter said NASCAR is considering two systems. The first will use electronic lines under the racetrack, just like the one currently at the start-finish line, in quadrants around the track. The second is an effective global positioning satellite system that would freeze the field when the caution is waved. NASCAR has a GPS system, but Hunter said exact positions can't be determined. Asked when either of the new systems could come online, Hunter said. "I think next year is realistic," and "possibly" by Daytona. Hunter also said NASCAR would not reconsider its decision to allow racing back to the yellow, even on the last lap.(NASCAR.com)(10-6-2003)
- Drivers Snub Media at Kansas; Penalties in the future? NASCAR may be considering penalizing drivers who fail to meet media obligations following race events, said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for corporate communications. Hunter said Sunday the sanctioning body will review the policies of of other professional sports regarding media responsibilities of participants. His comments came after driver #9-Bill Elliott refused to attend a post-race news conference Sunday. Elliott finished second in Sunday's Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway. #42-Jamie McMurray, the rookie of the race, also failed to attend the post-race news conferences. Typically, the top-three finishers in each race, along with the highest-finishing rookie, are required to attend post-race media news conferences.(ThatsRacin.com)(10-6-2003)
- Goodyear Explains Tire Flap at Dover: Goodyear Tire officials on Friday blamed a mismatched set of tires for any problems reigning Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart had in the final laps of the Sept. 21 Winston Cup race at Dover, Del.
Following the race, in which Stewart finished third but could not make up ground on the race leaders after a late-race pit stop, Stewart lashed out at Goodyear, accusing the tire manufacturer of costing him a chance at victory.(see full story at ThatsRacin.com)(10-4-2003)
- Questions about NASCAR post-race inspections: Questions about NASCAR's post-race Talladega inspection, with rivals wondering about a possible NASCAR tilt toward DEI stars #15-Michael Waltrip and #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr. Waltrip and Earnhardt have dominated Daytona and Talladega for three years now, and Waltrip's win Sunday in Alabama was DEI's ninth in the past 12 at the two plate tracks. So rivals are suspicious, and when NASCAR inspectors surprised Talladega's runner-ups by not checking the rear-quarterpanel heights of the Waltrip and Earnhardt Chevys, there were howls. NASCAR's no check was all the more surprising because Earnhardt and Jason Keller, in a third DEI car, were busted in Friday inspections for being too low.(full story at the Winston Salem Journal)(10-4-2003)
- Shorter Weekends at the Track? Race teams are encouraged that NASCAR is looking into two-day weekends next season for restrictor-plate races other than the Daytona 500. NASCAR's goal is to eliminate the special setups teams used for qualifying, which are very different from the race setups. By eliminating the qualifying setups, series officials could reduce the time at the track from three days to two days. Series officials are considering a plan where teams would come to the track with their cars in race setup. Teams would have drafting practice, be given time to make some minor changes and then qualify. The race would be the next day. This is being examined for both Talladega races and the July Daytona race next year. Series officials also are looking at reducing race weekends to two days at other tracks. NASCAR tried it a few years ago but bad weather hindered those schedules and ended the experiment.(Roanoke Times)(10-1-2003)
- Owners trying to reverse 2004 car changes? Winston Cup team owners are banding together in making an appeal to NASCAR officials to cancel plans for new body rules for 2004, and tour crew chiefs are hoping the car owners are successful.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-29-2003)
- Forbes LIst: The new Forbes 400 list is out, and NASCAR's big three are even richer: Bill and Jim France are pegged at $1.2 billion each, just ahead of Bruton Smith at $1.1 billion.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-26-2003)
- McFarland wins NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Championship: Twenty-five year old Mark McFarland, of Winchester, Va., has won the 2003 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national championship and is set to collect the richest payout in series history. McFarland won the series’ Atlantic Region championship after recording 16 wins and 18 top-five finishes in 18 starts in the Late Model Stock Car division at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va. McFarland’s racing record was the best among the eight NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional champions, as determined by NASCAR’s Competition Performance Index (CPI) and he will receive $170,000 as the series’ national champion. McFarland will also collect bonuses of $27,500 from Dodge, plus an additional $16,000 for finishing fourth in the series’ Southeastern Coastal Region standings. McFarland earned the second regional award for his performance at Southampton Motor Speedway in Capron, Va., where he competed on Friday nights in addition to his Saturday schedule at Old Dominion. The bonus awards pushed his post-season winnings to $213,500, the largest point fund award ever won by a single driver in the 21-year history of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. McFarland is the first driver from Virginia to win the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national championship and he is the second-youngest driver to claim the national title (Robert Powell was 23 when he accomplished the feat in 1988). McFarland is the first driver to win the national championship in an asphalt Late Model Stock Car since 1997. McFarland, who has competed in selected NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events in his career, will also get a few opportunities to showcase his skills in some top-notch equipment. As the 2003 national champion, McFarland will participate in two “test & tune” sessions courtesy of Dodge and Whelen Engineering. First, McFarland will spend a day testing one of Ray Evernham’s NASCAR Winston Cup Series Dodge Intrepids, a benefit he earned for winning the national title behind the wheel of his own Dodge race car. After that, McFarland will spend another full day testing with the Whelen Engineering-sponsored No. 31 NASCAR Busch Series car. McFarland’s post-season schedule also includes several special events for Late Model Stock Cars plus a host of media appearances as 2003 national champion. The festivities will continue through the NASCAR Winston Cup Series awards banquet – Dec. 6 in New York City – where he’ll be an honored guest along with the 2003 champions from every other NASCAR series.
2003 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Regional Champions
Driver, Home Track, Region,Starts, Wins, Top 5
1. Mark McFarland, Old Dominion Speedway, Atlantic, 18, 16, 18
2. Tom Seets Sr., Tri-City Speedway, Heartland, 18, 17, 17
3. Mark Wertz, Langley Speedway, Southeastern Coastal, 18, 13, 17
4. Jerry Robertson, Colorado National Speedway, Northwest, 18, 11, 16
5. Rip Michels, Irwindale Speedway, Sunbelt, 18, 10, 14
6. Kyle Berck, Nebraska Raceway Park, Midwest, 18, 6, 15
7. Ed Dachenhausen, Chemung Speedrome, Northeast, 19, 12, 17
8. Dennis Gada, Waterford Speedbowl, New England, 18, 6, 11
- More Realignment Coming: NASCAR's Brian France said he's going to step up the pace of 'realigning' the Winston/Nextel Cup tour to feature newer markets. 'We are moving a date to California for 2004 -- we think that will work better in the long run. And there'll be more of that,' France says. But he said that the moves will be considered 'carefully,' and that the moves will come 'in a slow, methodical way. We're just not going to shred it up to where we lose that continuity.'
The next step is expected to be adding a second Cup date at either Kansas or Phoenix in 2005, or perhaps both, at the expense of races in Rockingham and Darlington. But France has offered no details on that or on any plans he might have for dealing with Bruton Smith and that contentious second Texas race date. However there has been speculation that, as swiftly as France is moving in his first days on the job as NASCAR CEO, that the 2004 tour schedule might not be cast in stone. There is an open date in July ... and the Labor Day Southern 500 was not a sellout, despite all the hype.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-23-2003)
- Three Pole Limit Starting at Talladega: Beginning with next weekend's race at Talladega, Ala., NASACAR will limit the use of poles in the pit area. The following poles will be permitted: an overhead camera, the sign board, a brush, a pole used to clean the windshield; and one used to service the driver. NASCAR announced the change in Sunday's pre-race driver meeting at Dover International Speedway. Poles with hooks, which have been used by team members to help collect and keep track of tires after they are changed, will not be allowed.(ThatsRacin.com)(9-21-2003)
- Racing Back to the Yellow to be Dropped? as of Dover? UPDATE: Racing back to the caution flag, long one of NASCAR's most controversial procedures, could be eliminated as early as Sunday's MBNA America 400 at Dover, Del., according to sources. New NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Tuesday there would be announcements later this week that required "tough decisions," but he would not elaborate. But other NASCAR sources said both France and the sanctioning body's president, Mike Helton, favor banning "racing back to yellow," unless their race-official lieutenants can present satisfactory arguments to the contrary.(Orlando Sentinel)(9-17-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR is seriously considering revising its long-standing policy of allowing drivers to race back to the yellow flag. Discussions about changing the rule, which gives competitors a chance to earn laps back on the leader, are taking place at the highest levels of NASCAR's management team. Racing back to the yellow is considered dangerous because many times the race leaders and those attempting to get a lap back must pick their way through an accident site. The current yellow flag rule also inhibits response time by emergency crews, who must wait until the field gathers up behind the pace car.(Daytona Beach News Journal)
AND New NASCAR Chairman Brian France, who took over from his father, Bill France Jr., on Monday, is said to be leaning heavily, along with Helton, toward banning the practice. Unless lieutenants who directly conduct the races can give the two top executives sufficient rationales for status quo, the bedlam's days are numbered. Whether an announcement comes before the Dover races, or is deferred, may depend on whether the younger France, 41, is worried about being perceived as changing too much, too fast.(Orlando Sentinel)(9-18-2003)
- More on the 'Escape Hatches' UPDATE: Also, a technical bulletin authorizing installation of safety-escape "roof hatches" is expected to be issued to all competitors today. The new trap doors in the roofs of cars will be recommended but not mandated. Teams probably won't have time to install the systems by this weekend, but majority adoption is expected by the Sept. 28 EA Sports 500 at Talladega.(Orlando Sentinel)(9-17-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR completed another of its priority safety projects today as officials announced an option to NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series teams for the design and components of an alternate exit that can be implemented beginning with the Sept. 28 NASCAR Winston Cup race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
........... The recommendation completes a 13-month project at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. for a safety initiative that will provide drivers with an alternate exit through a hatch in the roof of the car in the event of an emergency situation. The alternate exit project, guided by NASCAR Managing Director of Research and Development Gary Nelson, had its overall design and components created at the NASCAR Research and Development Center.
........... NASCAR has made the installation of the alternate exit optional for both the NASCAR Winston Cup and NASCAR Busch Series. NASCAR Winston Cup teams will have the option to use the alternate exit at Talladega while the NASCAR Busch Series teams, which are idle the Sept. 28 weekend, will have the option beginning with the Oct. 4 weekend at Kansas Speedway. The kit, which will be available through independent vendors, will cost approximately $150 and will take teams about 15 hours to install on a car.
........... The alternate exit will allow drivers an additional exit through the top of the vehicle should they be unable to utilize the traditional window exit. The hatch, which measures approximately 24 inches by 24 inches on the driver's side roof, is controlled by steel cable pull cords in the cockpit that are connected to a latch system. By pulling on one cable, it will allow the driver to open the exit to the front or rear of the car. By pulling on both cables, it will allow the driver to completely remove the piece. The system is controlled by the driver, but safety crews also will be able to release the system as well, if needed.
Under the direction of Dr. Dean Sicking, director of the University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Facility, NASCAR conducted numerous crash tests at the facility. The final crash test was held Aug. 6 at the Midwest Roadside Facility and this test included a crash dummy and simulated a rollover-type accident. The test generated positive results and data on the integrity of the design.(NASCAR PR)(9-18-2003)
- NASCAR Unveils Modified All-Time Top 10: Four drivers who are among The 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time are members of the "NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10" announced Friday by the sanctioning body. Richie Evans, a nine-time NASCAR champion, heads the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10. Six-time champion Jerry Cook is No. 3, with Ray Hendrick at No. 4 and Geoffrey Bodine at No. 5. All four also are part of "The 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time" list compiled in 1998. Mike Stefanik, one of two active Modified drivers on the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10, is No. 2 on the strength of his six titles and 65 career Featherlite Modified Series victories. The list:
No. 1 Richie Evans
No. 2 Mike Stefanik
No. 3 Jerry Cook
No. 4 Ray Hendrick
No. 5 Geoffrey Bodine
No. 6 Tony Hirschman
No. 7 Bugs Stevens
No. 8 Fred DeSarro
No. 9 Jimmy Spencer
No. 10 Reggie Ruggiero.(NASCAR PR)(9-13-2003)
- New rule for measuring minimum height: NASCAR issued a technical bulletin this week outlining changes in how the minimum height is measured of Winston Cup cars in pre-qualifying and pre-race inspections. Beginning with this weekend's race at New Hampshire, teams presenting cars for inspection of the minimum body height and minimum ground clearance must remove their front shock absorbers before the measurements are taken. The absorbers can be reconnected after the car has passed inspection.(ThatsRacin.com)(9-12-2003)
- a crew member short? One option that NASCAR is considering [to stop crew members from getting in altercations] is, if a crewman is suspended, that team will have to race a man short over the wall.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-13-2003)
- Traction Control? Traction control is the hottest illegal trick on the stock car tour this season, to hear drivers and crew chiefs talk. But who's using it? It's probably easier to pinpoint who isn't - clearly Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett. The two have been unable to run with the leaders much of the summer at many tracks. Some teams say that if NASCAR can't police traction control, then it should legalize the trick, which keeps rear wheels from spinning wildly off the corner. But don't try selling that to Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief, or Doug Yates, Jarrett's car owner. Both men want NASCAR to crack down with stiffer inspections.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-11-2003)
- Changes for Talladega UPDATE: According to NASCAR Winston Cup director John Darby, there will be an adjustment to the speedway formula when the tour arrives at Talladega, Ala., to contest the Sept. 28 EA Sports 500. Darby told TFR the change would come in the throttle response area. “We’re going to increase the plate size and also increase the spoiler so that we can still keep our control on the speeds. We’ll put a taller spoiler on it so we’ve still got a handle on the speeds but essentially it’s a matter of putting a little more drag on the car and a little more horsepower underneath the hood.” The goal, Darby explained, is to keep the drag horsepower ratio the same as it was the last time the Cup cars ran at Talladega, which will keep the speeds from escalating to beyond the comfort level of the sanctioning body. Asked if NASCAR considered again working with the roof blade on the speedway package Darby replied in the negative, “They may be back some day or a different version of it."(Ford Racing)(9-4-2003)
UPDATE: When the Winston Cup circuit returns to Talladega Superspeedway for the Sept. 28 EA Sports 500, drivers should feel a little more pep when they step on the gas pedal. That's because NASCAR is opening the holes in the restrictor plates used on superspeedways from 7/8 inch to 29/32. That allows more fuel to the engine's combustion chamber and therefore more response when the throttle is opened. To compensate for the increase in power and speed, the rear spoiler, which causes speed-reducing aerodynamic drag, is being raised from 6 1/4 inches high to 6 3/4 inches. Winston Cup director John Darby said the changes were based on results of wind tunnel tests of cars following the Brickyard 400. He said top speeds, which are limited at Daytona and Talladega to keep cars from becoming airborne, shouldn't change much. "They'll probably be a little faster, if anything," Darby said.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)(9-5-2003)
MORE NASCAR released a four-page bulletin to teams at Richmond that included, among other items, changes to the cars for Talladega. All cars' rear spoilers will now measure 6 3/4 inches high and 57 inches wide, and restrictor plates will open up to 29/32-inch, which should boost the engines by 15 horsepower. "Any time we get more power at a plate track it's going to be better," says Sterling Marlin, who has seven poles and five wins at restrictor-plate tracks. Marlin also believes the new configuration will promote more passing.(FOX Sports/Sporting News)(9-8-2003)
- 2004 Templates and a meeting UPDATE spoilers to be cut: NASCAR is putting the finishing touches on Cup templates for 2004 and plans to show them to teams and explain the differences at a September 9 meeting. Ford will have a new nose and tail, and Dodge will have a new tail.(from the Sporting News)(9-1-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR will announce Tuesday its body template guidelines for the 2004 cars. A rear spoiler reduction, as requested by some drivers and teams, will be announced either at that time or shortly thereafter, in plenty of time for teams to begin preparing for next season. There likely will not be templates added to the current 32 or 34 required to police NASCAR's aero-matching policy, which makes the bodies of all four competing makes virtually the same in the air. NASCAR will require tighter tolerances on many of the templates now in use, NASCAR garage chief John Darby said over the weekend at Richmond. The spoiler reduction, from the current 6.25in to 5.5in, will not be accompanied by a mandatory reduction of the front valence, Darby said. That, he believes, will take care of itself as teams work to balance their cars for competition. The changes suggested will apply only at the unrestricted races, 32 of the 36. A different set of regulations will apply to the restricted tracks, Daytona and Talladega. It has been reported, however, that NASCAR will try a slightly taller spoiler and a slightly larger restrictor plate at the Talladega race in three weeks. Exact details were not given.(Speed Channel)(9-8-2003)
- Nextel/NASCAR assignments? Andrew Feit, one of the key men in NASCAR's New York office, is expected to be assigned full-time to NASCAR's Nextel account, and Brett Yormark, the head of that office, could be named 'Marketer of the Year' for his work in closing the $700 million/10-year deal.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-6-2003)
- Penske and NASCAR: Greg Penske, Roger's son, could be in line for a top NASCAR job, according to NASCAR sources. Penske is on the ISC board of directors and runs Penske Automotive Group.(Winston Salem Journal)(9-6-2003)
- No Major Changes in Points System Planned: NASCAR is not likely to make any drastic changes to the championship points system, instead focusing on alterations to the cars. Since NASCAR adopted common templates this year, drivers have complained that passing is nearly impossible and the competition is too even. By fixing that - perhaps by reducing rear spoilers by a half inch next season, thus cutting down on downforce - NASCAR officials said Sunday it would help even out the current points system. NASCAR has been toying with different ways to change the points system, ranging from awarding extra bonuses for victories and poles and changing the way points are given to cars finishing at the back of the pack. But every formula under consideration has been applied to the past 10 years final point standings, and NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said the champion never changed. Plus, talk of making changes is insulting to current points leader Matt Kenseth, who has built a tremendous lead through consistency and just one victory this season. NASCAR is still considering awarding extra points for victories and poles, but Hunter said changes to the way points are given to the back of the field will likely not change.(from the AP/ThatsRacin.com)(9-1-2003)
- More on Helton; DEI; and Horish; from Tuesday's Toronto Sun...in part......The NASCAR racing world is buzzing about a rumour that Mike Helton will pack up his job as president of the stock car racing sanctioning body and move his stuff over to Dale Earnhardt Inc. For anyone who follows the ins and outs of NASCAR in general and DEI in particular, Helton taking over the reigns at the Mooresville, N.C., based team makes absolute sense. Since the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in 2001 the family firm has been run by a triumvirate -- Earnhardt's widow, Teresa, racing boss Ty Norris and shop boss Steve Hmiel. The problem is that the three vie for decision-making power, and often it ends up that nothing gets done, or when it gets done it gets done badly. A case in point was the apparent deal offered open-wheel ace Sam Hornish by Norris. Hornish, the two-time defending IRL champ, signed with Team Penske yesterday [Monday]. Norris had made a handshake deal for Hornish to join DEI to replace Jeff Green in 2004. The deal would have been a double win for DEI, as it would have have kept Pennzoil from taking its sponsorship off the #1 team. But according to sources in the garage, Norris failed to pass the deal by Teresa Earnhardt. When she got wind of it, she put the kibosh on it -- not because she didn't think Hornish was a good driver, but because it was not her idea. Now Hornish is telling people the whole thing soured him on ever racing for DEI.
And then there's the Dale Earnhardt Jr. contract dispute. Junior holds Norris in high regard, both as a friend and team boss, but thinks that maybe Hmiel and his stepmother don't realize his value. DEI without Junior is unthinkable but many NASCAR people are saying that Helton may be the only one capable of patching things up between the 28-year-old superstar and the team.
(see full story at the Toronto Sun)(8-27-2003)
- The Preview: been asked, what happens to the Winston Preview now that Winston/RJR is leaving?
The T. Wayne Robertson preseason NASCAR preview may not be dead after all, according to several Winston Cup drivers who say they've been told by NASCAR officials that no decision has yet been made on the annual January event, which has been held in Winston-Salem for the past 18 years. But NASCAR's hopes to hold the preview in Daytona during January testing may be doomed, according to drivers, who said they're not interested in flying all the way to Florida for the one-day autograph session and auction. NASCAR had tentative plans to hold the preview on the Jan. 10 weekend between the two three-day Daytona 500 test sessions. If the preview is held the same weekend as it was this year, it would be Saturday, Jan. 17, after the two sessions. Some drivers would prefer the preview simply be dropped -- others say it's a worthwhile charity event.(Winston Salem Journal)(8-24-2003)
- France Daughter taking over? This week's New Yorker [story here] has a lengthy article on NASCAR. The piece itself is fairly routine, but it does have a curious paragraph in which the writer, who spent considerable time with Bill France Jr., hints that Lesa Kennedy, his daughter, could take the helm of the family empire. Kennedy is head of the family's International Speedway Corp.(Winston Salem Journal)(8-23-2003)
- Helton and DEI? UPDATE 4 Denied: There is validity to the long-running reports that NASCAR president Mike Helton's name is once again in the hat to take over Dale Earnhardt Inc., according to top NASCAR sources. Owner Teresa Earnhardt has asked Helton to take over running the company built by the late six-time [um..actually 7 time] Winston Cup champion, according to sources. It is unclear how interested Helton might be in such a position or how such a move might change the power structure inside the stock-car racing sanctioning body.(Winston Salem Journal)(8-5-2003)
UPDATE: a source tells me that the Helton/DEI deal is done and that Helton will leave NASCAR and become a part-owner and the new President of DEI. Seems unlikely to me, however.(8-21-2003)
UPDATE 2: being told to expect an announcement in December 2003; possible replacements [if it happens]? Brian France, George Pyne, Greg Penske.AND been told that the rumor has been denied by Helton.(8-22-2003)
UPDATE 3: During his interview on Speed Channel's Wind Tunnel with Dave Despian, Mike Helton wouldn't comment on the unsubstatiated rumor that he would leave NASCAR for DEI.(8-22-2003)
UPDATE 4: The rumor persisted at Michigan International Speedway: NASCAR president Mike Helton will leave the race series to run Dale Earnhardt Inc. So Mike, any interest in replacing Ty Norris at DEI? “I’m flattered, though I’m not sure Teresa [Earnhardt, Dale’s widow] likes hearing the rumors out there,” Helton told AutoWeek. “I’m happy doing what I’m doing now. As long as Mr. France wants me, I’ll be here.”(Autoweek)
AND NASCAR president Mike Helton on Thursday denied rumors that he's leaving NASCAR to run Dale Earnhardt Inc. DEI was founded by the late Dale Earnhardt and is now run by his widow, Teresa. The company fields the Winston Cup cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Michael Waltrip and Jeff Green. "With all respect to Dale and Teresa and her organization, I'm very content with where I'm at," Helton said. "As long as Bill France and Jim France and the family will keep me there, I hope to stay there." The France family owns NASCAR. Helton, a close friend of the Earnhardt family for years, said the rumor may be fueled by the respect he has for the Earnhardt family and their organization. "But those rumors are out of order and not accurate," he said, adding that he and Teresa Earnhardt "possibly have had light-hearted conversations" about him coming to DEI. "If I were inclined to leave NASCAR voluntarily, which I am not, and was going to stay in motorsports, I would be honored to work for Teresa and that organization and Dale Jr.," he said. "I would be flattered to be considered, but the biggest issue is I have no desire to leave NASCAR." He also said he didn't know of any effort to oust him from his current job. "I don't put a lot of time or worry into rumors," he said.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
AND from NASCAR.com: Contrary to recent published reports, Mike Helton has not been offered a position at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and has no intention of stepping down as NASCAR president, Helton told NASCAR.com Friday. "I have no desire to leave NASCAR. I have not been offered a job by Teresa (Earnhardt) at DEI," said Helton, resting comfortably on a sofa in the principal's office of the big red truck. "I'm flattered that somebody out there thinks she would even offer me the job, but I'm happy at NASCAR and plan on staying at NASCAR throughout my career. I'm very thankful to Bill France and Jim France and their whole families for having faith in me to give me the responsibility they've given me and I have no intentions of leaving NASCAR."(NASCAR.com)(8-22-2003)
FROM Wind Tunnel Mike Helton's description is accurate: the rumor of his impending move to D.E.I. is unsubstantiated. No source for that information has been named. That said, Jayski's website has earned a reputation for the remarkable accuracy of the unsubstantiated rumors it spreads, and Jayski said it's a done deal. Here's "My Take.".......see the full column at Speed Channel: "My Take" on Mike Helton and DEI by Dave Despain.(8-23-2003)
- Traction Control being used by 16 Cup drivers? As many as 16 Winston Cup teams may have used traction control this season, #54-Todd Bodine says. And he says he's been beaten this season by the illegal but virtually undetectable technology that keeps a car from spinning its rear wheels: 'Yes, unequivocally yes. I've heard numbers that up to 16 cars in here have it. The funny part is the guys who win with it and then forget they have it, and they can't do the burnout. So they stop, switch the (ignition) box, and then do the burnout. It's happened three times in Busch this year with two different drivers.' Traction control - standard equipment on many passenger cars - has long been a no-no in NASCAR. It was also a no-no in Formula One until inspectors finally gave up trying to police it. Some Winston Cup teams want NASCAR to legalize it, too, since it has proven impossible to police. 'They're almost undetectable,' Bodine says. 'There is one the driver himself can put in and take out when he gets in and out of the car. I don't know exactly how they all work, but I know they're hard to find. 'They've caught people, but the people they've caught, they're not going to say anything about. That's just the way they do it." So what's NASCAR to do, just ignore it? 'It's almost to that point' Bodine says. 'It's either that, or do like ASA and NASCAR puts the ignition boxes in the car itself,' Bodine says. The penalty for using traction control? 'You would definitely be thrown out of NASCAR,' car owner Jim Smith says. 'No fine. Just indefinite suspension. Pack your stuff up and go home.' However Smith concedes he's been hearing numerous reports that traction control is widespread, particularly on the Truck tour. 'There are even systems out there you can operate with your cellphone,' Smith added. Car owner Jack Roush dismisses all the talk: 'I'm like the dog that never heard the whistle, so I'm not getting fed. It looks to me like people are organizing a snipe hunt. I doubt NASCAR is missing anything, certainly not with the teams they inspect. If there were an opportunity, it would be for a team that wasn't torn down after a race.(see full story at the Winston Salem Journal)(8-11-2003)
- The Big Red Hauler is busy: The NASCAR hauler was a busy place after Sunday's race. Kevin Harvick and crew chief Todd Berrier were summoned following Harvick's last-lap incident with Jeff Gordon, who had run out of gas. Making the trip on their own accord were drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon. Earnhardt Jr. went to thank NASCAR officials for allowing him to remove the in-car camera system from his car Saturday. He said it had thrown off his No. 8 Chevrolet's balance. Gordon went to the hauler to discuss his wait for an ambulance to arrive at his last-lap wreck and the ensuing ride to the track's infield care center.(ThatsRacin.com)(8-11-2003)
- Wind Tunnel Testing Tuesday UPDATE: NASCAR will take cars to the wind tunnel for the first time this season Tuesday in Marietta, Ga., to test how they react to a reduction in spoiler height. The cars that will be tested: Chevrolet, #24-Jeff Gordon and #20-Tony Stewart; Ford, #17-Matt Kenseth and #38-Elliott Sadler; Dodge, #2-Rusty Wallace and #42-Jamie McMurray; and Pontiac, #32-Ricky Craven and #10-Johnny Benson. Reducing the spoiler height likely would lead to slower speeds because the rear end of the car wouldn't be as stable. The tests also will serve as baseline for the 2004 Taurus, which will go to the wind tunnel later in the week.(Sporting News)(8-4-2003)
UPDATE: McMurray's and Kenseth's engines will be torn down and inspected Wednesday at NASCAR's tech center.(Winston Salem Journal)(8-5-2003)
- Upgrade the Points System? UPDATE 2: NASCAR may use the sponsorship change from R.J. Reynolds to Nextel as an opportunity to change the championship points system and give a points bonus for winning poles and races. But there is also talk among crews and car owners about giving every race entrant at least 30th-place points, even if he finishes last. The move would be a safety plus, by removing any points-incentive to repair a damaged car. The danger of lightning-fast garage repairs during a race was seen when Robby Gordon's hood flew into the Daytona grandstands last month. Plus there are dangers to crewmen making the repairs.(Winston Salem Journal)(8-2-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR is considering changing its championship points system to give bigger rewards for winning poles and races. The current system favors consistency over winning. The system, which began in 1975 and is often criticized, has been under attack this season while Matt Kenseth has built a whopping 232-point lead in the championship race with just one victory but a string of top-10 finishes. "We are reviewing the points system, as we often do when there is talk about one driver having so big of a lead that it looks like the championship will be decided before the season is over," NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said Saturday. One of the scenarios NASCAR is looking at is awarding a sizable points bonus to the race winner -- anywhere from an additional 10 points to 50 -- and giving a bonus for winning the pole. Other options include awarding the same amount of points to drivers who finish 30th through 43rd, or not awarding any points after 36th position. Both of those scenarios would make it pointless for damaged cars to return to the racetrack. NASCAR has already applied all those scenarios to past seasons and found that it never changed the series champion, Hunter said.(NASCAR.com)(8-3-2003)
UPDATE 2: Changing the points system was a hot topic last weekend at Indianapolis. NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. says NASCAR is looking at awarding bonus points during different periods of each race. Although race winners likely will receive a bump in points, France doesn't anticipate teams receiving points for qualifying [ie - the Pole]. Regardless of what is agreed upon, expect a new points system to be in place for 2004.(Sporting News)(8-4-2003)
- Contract Stuff: When Winston Cup drivers and owners open up their 2004 contracts - the 'no sign, no drive' contracts that NASCAR officials require teams to sign each season - they won't be those loosely written three-page deals that have been sent out for years. The 2004 contract package is expected to be detailed on sponsorship issues, and some Winston Cup team owners are worried about what rights NASCAR executives may try to get them to sign away. There are also expected to be a number of legal issues at stake.(Winston Salem Journal)(8-1-2003)
- NASCAR Changes Ad agencies: NASCAR is changing ad agencies, dumping the company that created the award-winning 'How bad have you got it' ad campaign and signing on with a company with ties to Nextel, NASCAR's new series sponsor. Interpublic Group's Martin Agency of Richmond, Va., will take over for Chicago's Y& --R. An official at Y& --R said that NASCAR was cutting its ad budget and was getting tight on production, which NASCAR disputed. When the original contract was signed three years ago, it was worth $25 million to $35 million a year. The new contract is estimated to be worth $20 million.(Winston Salem Journal)(7-30-2003)
- Bye-Bye Jesse: In response to pressure from a conservative legal watchdog group and racing fans, NASCAR is cutting off its funding of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. NASCAR has paid a total of $250,000 to an affiliate organization of the black advocacy group in recent years. But a person familiar with NASCAR's internal decisions confirmed that the racing organization has not paid Jackson's group any money in 2003 and doesn't plan to. NASCAR is seeking more subtle ways to back Rainbow/PUSH without appearing as though they directly support the politically volatile Jackson. Said Charles Farrell, a spokesman for Rainbow's sports division: "We have had no contact whatsoever with NASCAR that would indicate that they are changing the status of their support for Rainbow/PUSH." Four months of media attention and fan backlash have prodded NASCAR into cutting ties with Jackson. At a Rainbow/PUSH conference in June, which was attended by NASCAR chief operating officer George Pyne, one of the organization's board members called NASCAR "the last bastion of white supremacy" in sports. (USA Today)(7-29-2003)
- Goody's Dash Series News: BRDAYTONA, a Florida-based motorsports promotion company, will take over the sanctioning and operation of the Goody's Dash Series at the conclusion of the 2003 racing season. BRDAYTONA, led by investors Randy Claypoole and Buck Parker, will assume all operations of the series effective Oct. 26, 2003 and is currently in negotiations with track operators and sponsors for the 2004 season. The Goody's Dash Series has been a part of NASCAR since 1975 and was a training ground for such drivers as Michael Waltrip, Hut Stricklin, Shawna Robinson and Shane Hmiel. The Goody's Dash Series features compact cars powered by six-cylinder engines. Approved models include the Chevrolet Cavalier, Ford Escort, Mercury Cougar, Pontiac Sunfire and Toyota Celica. Goody's Dash Series cars have a wheelbase of 100 inches and weigh 2,750 pounds (2,950 pounds on superspeedways).(NASCAR PR)(7-26-2003)
- Helton Testifies UPDATE: NASCAR President, Mike Helton, testified at a House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington, DC on Thursday [along with many leaders of others sports], towards the end of the NY Times story........Stock car racing also came under fire at the hearing. Representative Jan Schakowski , a Democrat from Illinois, asked why at least one ephedra company [Stacker 2] had been allowed to sponsor a racing team and promote its products at racetracks. Mike Helton, president of NASCAR, has set limits on how much ephedra was acceptable in tests of drivers. But he also said that the driving teams and tracks were owned by various individuals, and NASCAR could not set a blanket policy covering them as well.(New York Times and see more at energycommerce.house.gov and nascar.alanjones.us)(7-25-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR president Mike Helton testified before a Senate subcommittee this week in Washington, D.C. about the use of Ephedra. NASCAR has not banned the use of Ephedra but does test for it. Helton acknowledge that NASCAR may consider a more specific policy.(Fox Sports Net's Totally NASCAR) and more info on the subject at nascar.alanjones.us: NASCAR 'does' have policy against ephedra(7-26-2003)
- Sad News - Services: NASCAR historian Bob Latford passed away Wednesday, July 23rd. At this time, no funeral arrangements have been announced. The family is considering waiting until next Tuesday to conduct the service to give the racing community time to return from this weekend's event. Latford came up with the Winston Cup points system that is in use to this day. See a nice and informative column on Latford by David Poole at Thatsracin.com: Sport loses Bob Latford, originator of NASCAR's modern points system. Latford was also the author of NASCAR: A Celebration.(7-23-2003)
many articles/columns about Latford on my Articles/Columns/Story Links page.(7-24-2003)
AND A statement from H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, concerning the death of longtime public relations practitioner and motorsports historian Bob Latford follows: Bob had a thorough knowledge and in-depth appreciation of our sport's history. He was a valuable resource in retrospect of that history. As a public relations practitioner, he understood what the media needed and provided it in a concise, accurate manner. His passing leaves a giant void that connects our sport's past to the present. My condolences go out to his wife, Leslie, and their family."(LMS PR)
SERVICES: Robert Graham "Bob' Latford, 67, died July 23, 2003. Memorial service is 2 PM Wednesday, July 30 at Hartsell Funeral Home, Concord. Visitation is 7-8:30 PM Tuesday, July 29, at the funeral home.(Charlotte Observer)(7-25-2003)
- France up for International Motorsports Hall honor: The first round of voting for the Class of 2004 at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame could have a pair of "seconds". Veteran drag racer Shirley Muldowney could become the second female inducted, and Bill France Jr. could become the second generation of sanctioning body executives, if they are chosen among the five individuals to be inducted at Talladega, Ala., next spring. Muldowney, who has won four Top Fuel championships and been named All-American five times, could join Louise Smith as the only two females in the 102-member Hall of Fame. France would join his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who was inducted in the inaugural class in 1990. France and Muldowney led the first round of voting by an international panel of motorsports media. Twenty-two individuals will be on the final ballot from which the five-member class of 2004 will be selected.(Thatsracin.com)(7-23-2003)
- More on AT&T and Nextel: The future of AT&T's involvement in NASCAR remains in question, although it appears #49 BAM Racing has lost most hope in securing the company as a primary sponsor for its Dodges and driver Ken Schrader [who is NOT retiring]. NASCAR chief operating officer George Pyne confirmed Friday that NASCAR made the decision not to allow an expansion of AT&T's sponsorship of BAM Racing in light of the sanctioning body's new 10-year deal with Nextel Communications to sponsor what is now the Winston Cup series beginning in 2004. AT&T's 1-800-CALL-ATT division, which has served as a primary sponsor on BAM's #49 in several races this season, was among the sponsors that would be allowed to continue in the sport under a "grandfather clause," Pyne said. However, NASCAR drew the line on any expansion of AT&T's involvement, particularly the use of any logos that would promote AT&T Wireless, a direct competitor of Nextel. "It is part of our responsibility to look out for the interests for our teams and our sponsors," Pyne said. Audrey Schaefer, director of corporate communications for Nextel, said NASCAR was the "final arbiter" for all sponsor decisions. She said Nextel had no objection to AT&T's continued involvement in the sport so long as it fell within the confines of Nextel's agreement with NASCAR. The use of AT&T's trademark "globe" logo has been the sticking point on most of the discussions involving the possible full-time sponsorship of BAM's team. NASCAR has also had AT&T as an "official sponsor," but that agreement concludes at the end of the season, Pyne said.(ThatsRacin.com)(7-18-2003)
- Reggie White Accuses Jesse Jackson of Wasting NASCAR's Money: Reggie White, one of the National Football League's greatest defensive players of all time, has accused Jesse Jackson of taking "a quarter of million dollars from NASCAR and not do[ing] anything with it. "It's really disappointing to me that Jesse and his organization would take a quarter of a million dollars from NASCAR and not do anything with it to try to get black drivers into the sport," White said in an interview on FOX News Channel's Fox & Friends Wednesday morning. NASCAR has reportedly given at least $250,000 to Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition as part of an effort to increase the number of minority racers in the sport.(see full story at CNSNews.com)(7-17-2003)
- To the Dyno's UPDATE: hearing that NASCAR put the following cars on the chassis dyno : #12, #20, #48, #15, #99, #42, #38 and #19. Odd, no Richard Childress Racing cars even though the #29 ran 2nd until two laps to go and the #31 finished seventh.(7-13-2003)
UPDATE: Tony Stewart didn't win Sunday, but his engine man, Mark Cronquist, won the post-race chassis dyno battle, according to NASCAR sources. That leads credence to reports that Roger Penske no longer has a big edge under the hood, although Ryan Newman and Elliott Sadler had motors equal to Stewart's. The surprise was that Jeff Burton's engine was considerably off, by some 40 horsepower, according to one engine specialist.(Winston Salem Journal)(7-15-2003)
- New Minimum Bolt Size: NASCAR on Thursday mandated a minor equipment change in reaction to an incident Sunday in which the hood of Robby Gordon's #31 Cingular Wireless Chevy flew off into the frontstretch grandstand near the end of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. A NASCAR investigation found the bolt securing a tether that connects bars in the engine bay to the hood failed on Gordon's car. Those bolts now must be at least 5/16th of an inch, NASCAR spokesman Herb Branham said. There previously was no minimum size. NASCAR officials did not release the size of the bolt that failed during the 156th lap of the Pepsi 400, causing Gordon's hood to injure a woman who was treated and released from Halifax Medical Center. It was the second time a hood flew into the stands at Daytona since 1997. Hoods also are secured with steel hinges and pins. NASCAR is not expected to fine Gordon. The new requirements will be in effect for Sunday's Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.(St Petersburg Times)(7-11-2003)
- Hatch Test: NASCAR was scheduled to test the “ultimate exit,” a rooftop escape hatch, this week at the University of Nebraska. Technical director Gary Nelson said engineers planned to hook a car to a cable and pull the car into the SAFER wall at 135-plus mph to see what happened to the barrier, the test dummy and the new hatch during the crash. Nelson planned to roll the car over during the test. With that additional data, NASCAR hopes to make a decision about how soon the hatch can be installed in racecars.(Sporting News)
AND Another area where NASCAR is attempting to address safety issues deals with driver escape hatches, and how to best implement a workable system into the roofs of the cars to allow for easier driver exit in the case of a wreck. “In my opinion NASCAR needs to work on expediting a roof hatch,” Jeff Burton said of the ongoing project. “The effort is there. The desire is there but there are times when I wish they could expedite a little better. How can you make it so it opens to the left or to the right because you might have to open it one way or the other way, or the bottom or the rear. When you start getting into OK, how do you do it? NASCAR painted some scenarios where the thing wouldn’t open with what they had done [in an original design]. So they had to go back and come up with a different idea. There are a lot of things that go into it and that’s why it feels like it doesn’t happen quick enough. NASCAR tries to paint every scenario and then they go through a practice and they come up with something. Then they’ve got to go paint another scenario. Then they’ve got to redo everything. Their unwillingness to compromise on the unknown is why it’s slow,” Burton added. “Some people could say, ‘Well, I’d rather have something that doesn’t work very well versus something that doesn’t work at all and so those people get impatient. But then it’s wrong to do something that’s worse than what you’re doing. There have been many examples where I’ve had conversations and I’ve said, ‘What the hell, let’s just do it.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, yeah but look at this’ and they’d walk me through some scenarios that I hadn’t thought about and I’d say, ‘Yeah, it was more complicated than I thought it was.’” NASCAR’s Darby told TFR Thursday that the full court press is on to get the roof hatch completed and that some crash testing will be required before the system is implemented. Darby cited several reasons why the roof hatch is not as simple to implement as say roof flaps. The roof flaps, which are the only approved pieces that are supplied as kits, attach only to the cars’ roof sheetmetal. The roof hatch, however, would need to be secured to the roll bars to give it the strength it needs in the case of a rollover accident. Slowing the process somewhat are the roll bars which, while close to being standardized, are not at a point where a “one size fits all” approach can be taken, such as is the case with roof flaps.(Ford Racing)(7-7-2003)
- Helton Talks About the 'gentleman's agreement': During Saturday's pre-race drivers meeting at Daytona, NASCAR President Mike Helton reiterated the need for drivers to adhere to the gentlemen's agreement not to race back to the caution flag. "It was realized a long time ago the drivers really don't want NASCAR into that part. We would be better off if NASCAR didn't have to get into this issue," Helton said. "Drivers came up with an agreement that if the caution came out, the leader would put out his hand signaling other drivers to (slow down). It's been working pretty well up until recent years. We joked at Sears Point (now Infineon Raceway) about there really wasn't much of a 'gentleman's agreement' anymore. The point is there should be." Helton acknowledged the debate that has raged over the issue since the Sonoma race. He warned if drivers fail to adhere to a gentlemen's agreement, NASCAR would be forced to implement a rule. "You are the only ones that can make this happen. There should be a 'gentleman's agreement,' " Helton said. "If there's not going to be one, and it gets out of hand, then NASCAR will step in. We don't want to do that and I don't think you want us to do that."(ThatsRacin.com)(7-5-2003)
- More on Jesse Jackson and NASCAR: Both black and white conservatives are calling for NASCAR to end its relationship with its most unlikely of partners: the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. It's a difficult spot for NASCAR, which is trying to diversify its fan base but doesn't want to alienate its traditional supporters, who tend to be politically conservative. Headed by the staunchly Republican France family, NASCAR has also given $250,000 to the Citizenship Education Fund, an arm of Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. The group says it has used the money to boost minority participation within motor sports. But critics -- including a network of black conservatives -- accuse Jackson of intimidating NASCAR into giving him money to keep him from making a public fuss about the lack of minorities in motor sports. See full story at the Orlando Sentinel.(7-5-2003)
- New Cowl Template: According to NASCAR’s John Darby the surveying of car builds with the unofficial new cowl template will continue. The new template ensures that the cowl is on the car squarely, which keeps the teams from fooling the dreaded “F3” template.(Ford Racing)(7-4-2003)
- Why No Fuel Injection In NASCAR? Steve Peterson, NASCAR's technical director for Winston Cup, said one of the main reasons NASCAR hasn't switched to a fuel-injection engine is the belief that it would be harder to control rules violations. "Fuel injection can be very difficult to police once it gets beyond the basic computer controls and programming," Peterson said. "Computer code must be downloaded, analyzed and verified, and it will always be suspect. Fuel injection is a real opportunity to tune the system and attempt to add in driver aids and devices beyond the technology limits." But other racing series are using fuel-injected engines without any problems. Making the switch would mean many NASCAR inspectors would need to be retrained, as would many of the mechanics who work in the sport. Even if NASCAR stays with the push-rod, carburetor engines indefinitely, the way the engines are produced could undergo changes. Most teams build their own engines from components supplied by the manufacturers. Some smaller teams lease engines from a team that builds motors. Toyota might want to do it the way it has in other racing series – build engines in house and supply them to teams through a sale or lease agreement. That could eliminate a lot of jobs in NASCAR, but it also could reduce the costs of team owners.(Dallas Morning News)(6-28-2003)
- Helton: There's no "gentleman's agreement": The whole issue - this "gentleman's agreement" Winston Cup drivers have about passing during a caution period -- remains as clear as the northern California fog that rolls over the golden hills above Infineon Raceway.
Does the "gentleman's agreement" still exist? It happened again Sunday during the Dodge/Save Mart 350. Race-winner Robby Gordon, in a move called "chicken" by Kevin Harvick and "crap" by Jeff Gordon, passed Richard Childress Racing teammate Harvick on the way back to the start-finish line after a yellow flag was waved on Lap 71. It was the third time this season that drivers used their interpretation of the agreement to further their own interests. At Dover earlier this month, Tony Stewart got bent out of shape when leader Ryan Newman - who had a lap on Stewart - would not let him back on the lead lap during a caution. In March at Texas, second-place Jeff Gordon - of all people - passed leader Matt Kenseth under yellow, although Gordon was trying to keep some lapped traffic lapped. Let's let Winston Cup Series director John Darby explain what's supposed to happen when a yellow flag flies: "Once a caution flag is displayed, the only cars technically under caution are the ones who have driven under the caution flag," Darby said. "If a big group is beyond the start-finish line and the caution flag comes out, they're still officially under green until they get back to that start-finish line. At that point, the drivers have a choice of either easing up, everybody getting in line and coming back; or in many situations racing back." At a drivers meeting Sunday before the Sonoma race, Robby Gordon said he repeatedly asked if it was OK to pass during a caution. NASCAR president Mike Helton responded to Gordon and the rest of the drivers: "There is no gentlemen's agreement, we figured that out a couple of races ago. Guys, this not a new gig, this is the same deal we've done before. I know everybody wants to be up front and you want to get every chance you can get. In the event we feel like you got one unfairly, we will react. In the meantime it's up to you guys to work it out up there. If you're going to be obnoxious about it, we'll get into the middle of it. Nine out of ten times we'll let you guys have it."(much more at ThatsRacin.com)(6-23-2003)
- Fins Increased: NASCAR recently told teams to increase the rear window fins from 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches for the Pepsi 400 July 5 at Daytona. While officials were researching the possibility of adding a third roof flap to the cars for restrictor-plate races, they discovered that adding an inch to the fins improved the efficiency of the two existing flaps. NASCAR still is working on adding a third flap, but for now the larger fins should make the cars more stable.(Sporting News)(6-23-2003)
- New Gas Can Rule: Beginning with the July 13 race at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR will prohibit teams from throwing or tossing gas cans or gas catch cans over the pit wall during a pit stop. The change was announced in Sunday's prerace drivers' meeting.
If a violation happens under caution, the driver will have to restart at the end of the longest line. If it occurs under green-flag conditions, the driver must return to pit road to serve a 15-second penalty. The change is being made to reduce the liklihood of gas spills during pit stops.(ThatsRacin.com)(6-22-2003)
- New Template for the future?: NASCAR introduced a template to the teams at Infinion Raceway. The new measuring stick is designed to keep the car bodies from twisting out of the approved shape in the hands of the teams. As TFR first reported from Pocono, some teams have found a way to skirt the intent of NASCAR’s strict body templates — sloping every so slightly the right rear roof panel. That slope allowed five teams a little extra rear downforce on the right-rear wheel. The handful of teams increased by a few at Michigan. NASCAR had been watching the rear of the car and performing spot measurements to develop the best approach to policing that area of the car. The result was this new cowl template, which lays on the car directly between the car’s hood and the windshield in the position of the air intake. This spot on the car bodies was getting twisted and fooling the templates to indicate the car was square. The new roof template displays a team's altered cowl, intended to gain the clearance needed for the latest trick. If the alteration doesn't disappear from the team's toolbox, the enforcement tool could go into action with the Chicago race. NASCAR is simply showing the template to the teams this weekend. Dealing with the aftermath of the new template one crew chief said of NASCAR, “They give us a [metaphorical] box to build these cars in and they should just leave us alone for the year. They just need to leave us alone or give us the cars – either way.”(Ford Racing)(6-21-2003)
- Some Rules Changes for Daytona: NASCAR on Friday issued a four-page technical bulletin to all Winston Cup teams outlining several changes that must be made to cars for next month's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The most visible change is the requirement of an additional rear roof air deflector, which will likely slow the cars slightly as well as help keep them stay grounded should they get involved in an accident. NASCAR recently conducted a wind-tunnel test with a third roof flap and discovered a change in the air deflector improved the efficiency and performance of the two flaps currently in use. Several other, minor changes were outlined in the bulletin, including rules mandating the height and thickness of air filters, quarter panels, and the fuel cells.(ThatsRacin.com)(6-13-2003)
- Changing the 'pitting over the line' penalty? NASCAR officials are considering changing the penalty for pitting over the line, the violation that cost Tony Stewart a shot at victory at Dover. The new penalty will likely be a 15-second penalty instead of the current one-lap penalty.(Winston Salem Journal)(6-9-2003)
- Cancelled: NASCAR senior vice president Brian France is no longer scheduled to speak at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund Annual Conference [Jesse Jackson], scheduled for June 21-25 in Chicago. The agenda item, “Motorsports — Increasing Minority Participation,” has been deleted from the conference’s schedule.(Gaston Gazette)(6-6-2003)
- Helton Comments: Give us some of the factors that led to the decision tonight to call (the Coca-Cola 600) at 414 miles:
Mike Helton, NASCAR president: "Well, what we're faced with right now... It's 9:30pm/et, and based on the experience we had Friday, which took us a little over four hours to get the track dried under pretty hazy conditions and everything and tonight without any sun, the conditions, more weather on its way, the grounds around here have been annihilated all day long with rain and everything for fans and the policemen to help get the traffic out. If we'd had no rain the rest of the night -- although there's more forecasted -- it would take us at least three hours, and that's 12:30am/et getting started back. Enough's enough, and we would have loved to have gotten all 600 miles in and had a great race at the finish, but sometimes it just doesn't work out right.(from a Q&A at FoxSports)(5-26-2003)
- Some Folks Surprised Race Was Called: Matt Kenseth couldn't understand why NASCAR decided to call the Coca-Cola 600 short of its advertised distance. Bobby Labonte wondered the same thing. Even winner Jimmie Johnson was surprised when NASCAR ended the race 124 laps early. Johnson was walking to the sanctioning body's hauler in the garage area when NASCAR officials started shaking his hand. "You know, I'm happy finishing second, but I'm certainly not happy calling the race at 9:30 at night," said Kenseth, who finished second. Bill Wilburn, Rusty Wallace's crew chief, went a step further. "We can spend an extra day to get qualified," Wilburn said, "but we can't wait another 15 minutes to see if we can get this race in? I feel like I've been cheated." NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said that even though it wasn't raining when the race was called, rain was on the way. Plus, the track would have taken three hours to dry, Zizzo said, which would have put the race restarting at 12:30am/et Monday morning.(NASCAR.com)
AND The decision to close the show did not go over well with fans, who booed and jeered loudly, and a number of drivers who never had a chance to chase down Johnson.(Orlando Sentinel)(5-26-2003)
- Tire's at Lowe's: Goodyear's new combination of right-side tires selected for Lowe's Motor Speedway threw off some teams' setups during The Winston. Kurt Busch, who was runner-up to winner Jimmie Johnson, complained that with the softer right-side tires, he couldn't "approach the corner as quickly" because it made his Ford loose. Most drivers got enough laps on the tires in The Winston or Winston Open to get a feel for them going into the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.(Sporting News)(5-19-2003)
- Former Philly Eagle to be involved in NASCAR former Philadelphia Eagle [Jayski team] and Green Bay Packer [booo] Reggie White and one of his old rivals announced a partnership on Saturday they hope will increase minority involvement in motorsports. With the financial backing of Joe Gibbs Racing, Gibbs and White said they will start looking for promising young minority drivers, mechanics and crew chiefs to run Late Model Sportsmen races at Charlotte-area tracks in 2004. "Black kids haven't had a chance to get into this sport," said Gibbs. "We want to do what's best for young people and for the sport." NASCAR hasn't traditionally been a large draw to blacks - either as fans or participants. A team that was to be owned by former NFL player Joe Washington and the NBA's Julius Erving never got off the ground. The late Wendell Scott won a race and a pole in the 1960s and was followed by Willy T. Ribbs, who experienced limited success. Bill Lester was the first black to win a pole for a modern-era NASCAR race when he qualified first for Friday's inaugural Truck Series event at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Gibbs said he has already identified a few young black drivers and is looking for more. He also said that while he will concentrate on finding black drivers, he won't ignore other minorities. "That's our push," he said. "But we're not restricting it (to blacks)." Gibbs said he hoped to begin with two to five teams in 2004. His team will fund the operations - each costing between $50,000-$100,000 a year - whether sponsors step forward or not. "I'm intrigued by this," said White, who lives in the Charlotte area and got interested in racing after he played for the Carolina Panthers in 2000. "I think it boils down to black children not being able to afford getting into the sport. Look at golf, where there was the same situation. Tiger Woods helped there, and maybe we'll find the next Tiger Woods in NASCAR." Said Gibbs: "I think it's coming. This should be a sport for all Americans, for everybody. When you go to a race track, there should be huge following of all kinds of cultural backgrounds, I think. Because everybody loves cars."(in part from ThatsRacin.com)
AND Former NFL rivals Joe Gibbs and Reggie White announced yesterday they will field several Late Model cars at short tracks in the Charlotte, NC, area next season in hopes of fostering minority involvement in NASCAR. White and Gibbs had talked over the past 18 months about White's hopes to form a NASCAR team. But because sponsors were difficult to find, Gibbs decided on a grass-roots approach. "This will be good for Reggie because he'll get in on the ground floor," Gibbs said. "We're looking for sponsors, but it isn't subject to it. We'll start immediately, spend our own money and go full speed ahead." White became hooked on NASCAR only recently but is interested in being an owner. "I'm really intrigued by the opportunity to get into sport and help minorities," said White, a star defensive end who played for Green Bay, Philadelphia and Carolina. "I know it's been a big concern for NASCAR. One of the things I'm excited about is it also gives inner-city kids a chance to make contacts with corporate America. We could raise up a kid who could be the next Tiger Woods in NASCAR." Gibbs and White are soliciting applications from potential drivers and crew members who are at least 18 and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Resumes should be mailed to Joe Gibbs Racing Diversity Program, c/o Steve de Souza, 13451 Reese Blvd. W, Huntersville, NC 28078.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(5-18-2003)
- Cleaning Up: Clean Control Corp., which manufacturers a disinfectant called OdoBan Odor Eliminator, sent all Winston Cup and Busch series teams its product to help battle viruses. As the world deals with the threat of SARS, the company, which sponsors Stanton Barrett's car on the Busch Series, decided it would be good business to give its racing competitors gallons of the product.(Augusta Chronicle)(5-15-2003)
- Jesse Jackson Defends NASCAR Work: The Rev. Jesse Jackson tells NASCAR Winston Cup Scene this week that he got involved with NASCAR to help bring more diversity to the sport and says the sanctioning body has shown a commitment to providing more opportunities to minorities. "We reached out to [NASCAR] because of so many black drivers and engineers who couldn’t get in," the civil rights activist says in an exclusive interview with contributing writer Doug Johnson. "We wanted to open up the industry…. Race car driving is an American sport. And African-Americans are part of that one big tent of American interest…. I think that there is now a very definite commitment [by NASCAR]. I think they appreciate the undercapped market and the untapped talent."(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter, there is also a full column by Doug Johnson in this weeks magazine)(5-15-2003)
- NASCAR fan pleads in e-mail barrage: A NASCAR fan who flooded Fox with angry e-mails after a Red Sox game pre-empted an auto race pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge Tuesday. Michael Melo acknowledged that he fired off more than a half-million e-mail messages to WFXT-TV 25 in Boston after the Red Sox game was broadcast instead of a NASCAR race in 2001. The e-mail messages were automatically forwarded to Fox-25's Los Angeles parent company, Fox Entertainment. The network, thinking it was a hacker attack, shut down Internet communication with the affiliate and was forced to spend about $36,000 to clean up the barrage. Melo pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of damage to a protected computer system. Under a plea agreement, the government recommended a sentence of six months' confinement in a halfway house. Melo's sentencing is Aug. 12. After the hearing, Melo and his lawyer, Andrew Good, declined comment.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(5-14-2003)
- NASCAR Executive to Address Symposium: George Pyne, NASCAR's chief operating officer, is scheduled to address the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium in Dearborne, Mich., Thursday as part of a NASCAR awareness program. NASCAR’s "unperformed maintenance" awareness program is designed to help fans maintain their vehicles and add value to the more than 30 aftermarket sponsors who back NASCAR. "Research shows that NASCAR fans own more vehicles, drive more miles, are more likely to own older vehicles and buy more auto parts to service their vehicles," Pyne said in advance of his address. "Using our media properties and relationships to encourage fans to take good care of their vehicles is good for them and our automotive sponsors."(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(5-8-2003)
- Goodyear Looking to save $$? Saving money is apparently the goal behind Goodyear's proposed plans to bring its entire race-tire distribution program in-house. Five different distribution companies handle Goodyear's Winston Cup distribution operation.(Winston Salem Journal)(4-28-2003)
- NASCAR, Flash in the Pan? David D'Alessandro, the chairman and CEO of John Hancock life insurance, isn't one of the corporate leaders who has jumped aboard the NASCAR bandwagon. In a conversation with the Boston Globe about his company's choices for sponsorship money, D'Alessandro said NASCAR wasn't in his final three. "It's a growing sport, but I think it's a flash in the pan," he said. "It's a pure consumer product. It has 1,000 sponsorship symbols, so there's no distinction. The fatter your driver is, the more symbols he can have on his jumpsuit." D'Alessandro isn't high on golf, tennis, pro football or pro basketball, either. His top three? The Olympics, major league baseball and the Boston Marathon.(Press Enterprise)(4-27-2003)
- New McDonald's/NASCAR Commercial: McDonald's will launch its newly-created NASCAR advertising campaign during Sunday's FOX telecast of the Auto Club 500 Winston Cup race. The new series of commercials is an enhancement to the inaugural McDonald's Drive-Thru Pit Championship fueled by POWERade. Tony Stewart and Kyle Petty are featured in three different versions of the 30-second commercials, produced by DDB Chicago, McDonald's national advertising agency. Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet and the reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion, has firsthand knowledge of the similarities between a NASCAR crew and a McDonald's restaurant crew. As a teenager, Stewart worked as a McDonald's crew person [as did Jayski].(PR)(4-27-2003)
- More on a potential tire war: dding another tire maker to the Winston Cup garage, a development that may be in NASCAR's future, could be a nightmare for teams, although it would certainly add unexpected elements to each race. At the height of the last NASCAR tire war, with Hoosier eight years ago, Goodyear was custom-designing tires for each track in the Winston Cup series. That meant that teams had to keep up with more than 50 tire designs, an expensive prospect for team owners and a major headache for crew chiefs. And tire designs frequently changed even for the same track from race to race. But during the past two years, Goodyear has trimmed the number of tire codes to just 18, mixed and matched for the 23 tracks. However Goodyear has cut back on its NASCAR testing during the past six months, which some Winston Cup teams are questioning.(Winston Salem Journal)(4-25-2003)
- Some Politics - Jesse Jackson and NASCAR UPDATE: getting more questions on this [since is was mentioned last Thursday night on the Fox News O'Reilly Factor show], have something that was posted back on April 3rd below.
AND MORE NLPC vs. NASCAR: The National League and Policy Center pushed its protest of NASCAR's contributions to Jesse Jackson to television last week. Peter Flaherty, president of the NLPC, contends Jackson abuses his nonprofit privileges and that NASCAR has made $250,000 in donations in the last two years to his organizations to create the guise of diversity. "Our message to NASCAR is you don't take short cuts to diversity by paying off Jesse Jackson," Flaherty told The O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly. "This whole thing started in 1999, when Jesse Jackson complained to NASCAR that they had no black drivers at the Winston Cup level, which is the major league of stock car racing." Flaherty said IRS records show NASCAR is Jackson's top contributor among professional sport organizations. "I think what (NASCAR) is trying to do is insulate themselves from charges of racism," Flaherty said. "I think it is an insult to the NASCAR fan." O'Reilly, who said if Jackson is "shaking down" NASCAR it's an insult to "every American," asked NASCAR to participate in the show, but the racing organization declined.(Augusta Chronicle)(4-24-2003)
UPDATE see NASCAR's response and an excellent column at NASCAR.com: A reluctant foray into political writing by Marty Smith; and NASCAR statement on Rainbow/PUSH Conference.(4-25-2003)
- Update on NASCAR's Carbon Monoxide Study: NASCAR has been studying the effects of carbon monoxide on drivers through the course of a race weekend, and the results from Martinsville Speedway, where Tony Stewart had a severe reaction last fall, were integral to the findings. Gary Nelson, who oversees NASCAR's technical center, says the data received through breathalyzer testing at Martinsville weren't “alarming” but added the reports weren't conclusive. Nelson cites two ways to decrease a driver's chances of suffering harmful effects: strengthening the crush panels that protect the driver from exhaust fumes and improving a driver's conditioning, which decreases susceptibility to the gas. Because contact between cars damages the crush panels, their strength is particularly important at a short track such as Martinsville. Nelson says several teams have installed scrubber systems that the teams and NASCAR have worked on to remove or lessen the amount of carbon monoxide ingested by competitors under race conditions.(Sporting News)(4-21-2003)
- NASCAR and the Soap Box Derby: The All-American Soap Box Derby, recently named a NASCAR Youth Initiative, is the premier youth and family oriented racing program in the United States involving boys and girls (ages 8-17) from across the U.S. and overseas with the goal of advancing to the All-American Soap Box Derby, held annually at Derby Downs in Akron. The Derby season, which runs March through July, is comprised of 150 local races, with more than 400 local race winners advancing to Akron.(see more at NASCAR.com or allamericansoapboxderby.com.(4-16-2003)
- $100 Million into R&D: NASCAR says it plans to invest $100 million over the next decade in its new Concord research and development center -- welcome news for a sour local economy. "Having the NASCAR research and development facility here is like having a Johns Hopkins or Mayo Clinic. That's the kind of impact it'll have," said John Cox, chief executive officer of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chief among the problems the local economy has experienced lately are the financial hard times hitting several major companies, including Kannapolis textile giant Pillowtex Corp., which is for sale, and Corning Inc., which mothballed its Midland optical fiber plant this year. Cox said the $100 million investment will ripple through the local economy many times over, from the jobs NASCAR adds, to the homes its employees buy, to the spending by people working for or coming to the center. The NASCAR complex on West Winds Boulevard (off Derita Road across from Concord Regional Airport) houses the racing organization's research and development work, as well as accident investigators, racing series directors and other NASCAR workers. The 61,000-square-foot facility opened in December. The research work focuses on short- and long-term projects ranging from testing surfaces of race track walls to designing safer cars. NASCAR owns 16 acres across from the regional airport, where it has a hangar. Its corporate headquarters is in Florida. NASCAR itself is continuing to expand, and Nelson sees growth at the Concord center mirroring growth in the sport. NASCAR had offices in the Catawba County town of Conover for about two years before it moved to the larger Concord site. The initial investment in the Concord project was $8 million, according to the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp.(Charlotte Observer)(4-14-2003)
- Helton defends Talladega 'no-call': NASCAR president Mike Helton insisted once again Sunday that the no-call on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s controversial pass below the yellow line on Lap 185 of the Aaron's 499 was the right call. "It was clear to us last weekend that when the 8 car (Earnhardt Jr.) went below the yellow line he didn't do it to advance a position," Helton said in a taped interview with Fox Sports anchor Mike Joy. "He did it primarily to avoid an accident." Helton also said that Earnhardt Jr. had already made the pass before going below the yellow line. "He already had the position," Helton said. "(Winston Cup Series director) John Darby explained it inside the garage area to some folks earlier today. If you had a start-finish line at that point before he went below the yellow line, who would the winner be? Everybody agreed it would be the 8 car. If the 8 car was the leader, how can he gain a position?" Appearing on the Fox Sports prerace show, Helton acknowledged the controversy that has raged all week. "The thing that we hope everybody will remember is that...we have areas where judgment calls have to be made," Helton said. "It's just like in baseball with balls and strikes or whether he's out or safe...those type of judgment calls exist in our sport, too. We're the sanctioning body and we're the ones who have to make them."(ThatsRacin.com)(4-14-2003)
- Another tire war coming? Firestone engineers have begun testing NASCAR-type stock-car tires for what could be a planned move into this branch of the sport, according to NASCAR sources.(Winston Salem Journal)(4-12-2003)
- NASCAR gets letter from Congress about Ephedra UPDATE NASCAR will NOT ban it: According to wire reports Congress is asking major league sport leagues for information regarding their knowledge and position regarding the over-the-counter drug, ephedra. The now-legal substance is under review by Congress following Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler’s death in February. According to a report there was a link between Bechler’s death from heat stroke and the dietary supplement. The congressional letter, which was sent to Major League Baseball the prior week, was followed this week with similar letters to National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and NASCAR. The letter was penned by House Energy and Commerce chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), along with Reps. Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and James Greenwood (R-Pa.).(Ford Racing)(4-12-2003)
UPDATE: For now, NASCAR will not join other major sports leagues in banning use of the controversial stimulant ephedra among its competitors. In a printed bulletin handed out to teams in each of NASCAR's top three series Saturday, NASCAR advised competitors to "seek guidance from their individual physician prior to taking and supplement product labeled as containing ephedra/ephedrine." The bulletin cited a recent government-released study that concluded supplements may increase the incidence of side effects such as heart palpitations. "NASCAR will continue to monitor reports regarding health related concerns for ephedra/ephedrine and will advise NASCAR participants as additional information becomes available," it said.(USA Today some good related links there too)(4-12-2003)
- Wheel Tethers UPDATE: Mark Harrah, one of the owners of Dave Blaney's team and an engineer, said that NASCAR should change the way it has teams attach the wheel tethers to keep them from flying off the cars in a wreck. A wheel off Ryan Newman's car flew over the wall at Talladega and hit a car in the parking lot.(Winston Salem Journal)(4-12-2003)
UPDATE: In response to a wheel and tire that went sailing over the wall at Talladega last weekend, NASCAR issued a technical bulletin Saturday revising its policy on tethering wheels in the Winston Cup series. Under the revised guidelines, distributed to teams Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, two fiber cables must be used on each front spindle of the car on all tracks 1Ľ miles or more in length, excluding the two road courses. In addition, steel cables will no longer be permitted. The new guidelines go into effect April 23. Last weekend, Ryan Newman lost the left-front wheel of his #12 Dodge during a 27-car accident on Lap 4. The entire wheel assembly sailed over the Turn 2 wall and landed in a parking lot. It was later recovered by NASCAR officials.(ThatsRacin.com)(4-12-2003)
- Fuel Problems? Sources at Talladega Superspeedway told teamfordracing.com that the fuel Unocal has provided since the announcement that they were leaving the sport might have some consistency problems. This, according to a leading engine builder in the sport, is leading to some interesting finds during post-race engine tear down. “We’ve even questioned here lately with Unocal moving out how the fuel … We’ve seen some funny things on our parts after the race and for some of us fuel quality is changing on us,” said the engine builder. “So yeah, it’s a big issue and we’ve been talking about it quite a bit.” Fuel is a vital part of the Winston Cup engine builder equation as the additive packages are what help hold a motor together during a race. Fuel chemistry changes can lead to premature part failure. NASCAR hasn’t let the teams know what will be pumping in 2003, which is making the engine builders nervous. Variances with the chemistry and consistency of blend will be needed soon as it can take six to nine months to match the engine package to the fuel package. One big question that’s not been answered is whether the fuel will be of a leaded blend, or no-lead. There is concern that if the sanctioning body goes the no-lead route that engine failure could rise dramatically due to leads lubricity qualities, or the capacity for reducing friction. Unocal, along with NASCAR and the teams, tried a no-lead blend several years ago in the Busch Grand National Series. Those experiments ended after the exhaust valves beat the seats out of the head. Unocal, to help solve the problem, suggested that the teams move to titanium vales. That suggestion angered the involved engine builders as they’d been using titanium for several years, and were surprised that Unocal engineers seemingly didn’t know what was in a motor for which they were blending fuel.(Ford Racing), see my NASCAR-Sponsors page for more info on the Unocal deal.(4-12-2003)
- Snake Oil? Word in the garage: Some teams are using oxygenated oil additives that can boost an engine's horsepower by five to 15. Winston Cup Series director John Darby says the “snake oil” has been reported for a while, and his officials have taken random samples at Daytona and Talladega to try to determine what is out there. NASCAR always has taken a stringent stand against using additives in gasoline and might take a similar approach with oil. One owner whose team used oil additives last year says there is an increased risk of engine failure. Additives put a strain on the engine's rings because the oxygen reduces the oil's ability to lubricate.(Sporting News)(4-7-2003)
- Wind Tunnel Plans Canceled: NASCAR canceled plans to take cars to the wind tunnel for aerodynamic testing after watching Sunday's race. "After that race, I reconvinced myself that the cars are evenly matched," said Winston Cup director John Darby. "A Dodge led, a Ford led, a Chevrolet led, and I think Ricky Craven in a Pontiac might even have led a lap. And at the end of the race, all four makes were running up front." Wind tunnel testing is done to make sure all makes are aerodynamically equal, something NASCAR is trying to make certain of this year through common templates. But Darby had been reluctant so far this season to test the cars to make sure his process was working. He said Sunday he had since reconsidered and was all set to take the cars to the wind tunnel following the race. Instead, the big white haulers that normally transport the cars sat idle on pit road with Darby convinced the test was not needed.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(4-7-2003)
- Traction Control to be watched at Martinsville: NASCAR will employ “special help” to monitor teams for traction control this weekend at Martinsville, where spinning the tires coming off the corners is a big concern.(Sporting News)(4-7-2003)
- Seeking speed, General Mills turns to NASCAR: When General Mills wanted to cut the time it takes to make a product changeover at a Betty Crocker plant, it turned to NASCAR for help. The food company sent a team to work with a Winston Cup pit crew "because nobody can change over a car faster than these guys can," said Randy Darcy, senior vice president of General Mills' supply chain operations. After studying the NASCAR crew, General Mills cut to 12 minutes -- from as long as 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours -- the time it takes to switch production lines from one Betty Crocker meal to another. One thing the mechanics learned from working with the NASCAR pit crew was to videotape each of the changeovers, then critique everything that happened.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)(4-7-2003)
- 16 Gallon Fuel Cells? Word at Texas was that NASCAR is considering moving towards the 16-gallon fuel cells for all events, but the tracks a mile in length [Dover, Lodudon, Rockingham?]. The idea is to get the cars on pit road more often, and to give the crew people who go over the wall more chances to shine each weekend. That move would seem to play into the hands of Matt Kenseth’s #17 crew due to their frequent fast-as-lightning work on the DeWalt Ford when it comes to pit road [the crew is not a parcipating team in the McDonald's Drive-Thru Pit Championship].(Ford Racing)(4-4-2003)
- Some Politics - Jesse Jackson and NASCAR: Peter Flaherty, President of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), today sent the following letter to William C. France, CEO of NASCAR: Because American troops are currently engaged in combat in Iraq, we ask that NASCAR cease and desist from further support for Jesse Jackson and/or his nonprofit organizations. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, you have stated that NASCAR fans are "the kind of people who go to war and win wars for America." Branches of the Armed Services and the National Guard maintain important NASCAR sponsorships. Race teams have demonstrated their support for the troops in a variety of ways. NASCAR's support for our troops is undercut by your support for Jackson, which includes substantial monetary contributions, at a time when Jackson is leading anti-war protests, even in foreign countries. Disturbingly, Jackson has employed extreme and provocative anti-American rhetoric. NASCAR was a "Platinum" sponsor of the 2002 Rainbow/PUSH and Citizenship Education Fund Annual Conference, reportedly paying $100,000 for the distinction. NASCAR's relationship with Jackson is detailed in a new report I authored and published by the Capital Research Center. See Organizational Trends, April 2003. (http://www.capitalresearch.org/news/news.asp?ID=111) Jackson spoke at the January 18, Washington, DC anti-war rally organized by A.N.S.W.E.R., an alleged Marxist front group. At a March protest in London, Jackson reportedly stated, "Today is not about Saddam Hussein. Today is about Bush and Blair and the massacre they plan for Iraq." On March 18, Jackson told a rally that the United States would be guilty of "war crimes" if it attacked Iraq. After the military operation began, Jackson on March 27 proposed a "truce." Toyota has ended support for Jackson's groups in apparent response to my request that it do so, after a wave of negative media coverage last year. A DaimlerChysler executive touched off a firestorm of criticism in January for remarks critical of Jackson's critics that he made at Jesse Jackson's Wall Street Conference. DaimlerChysler has formally apologized to me. NLPC is a nonpartisan foundation that supports ethics and accountability in public life. In 2001, the group filed a still-pending Complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that Jesse Jackson's largest nonprofit group violated of its tax status.
(Catchefence via a National Legal and Policy Center PR)(4-3-2003)
- And the Race to the Yellow Flag rule UPDATE: Defending Texas champ Matt Kenseth was running in first when the caution flag was waved at the end of 168th lap. Kenseth slowed before the line to allow Roush teammate Kurt Busch to get a lap back. Ricky Rudd, who was two laps down, and second-place driver Jeff Gordon went racing by as well. After NASCAR reviewed the move, Kenseth was restored to the lead, ahead of Gordon, and both Busch and Rudd got their laps back. "There's a gentlemen's agreement not to pass for position, but if he chooses to let the guys have a lap back, the gentlemen's agreement is out the door," said Gordon, who finished third.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)
AND It's not often you see Jeff Gordon get riled up, but the four-time Winston Cup champion has had it with NASCAR's rule of racing back to the start-finish line when a caution comes out. How that rule is enforced came into question Sunday when Gordon passed leader Matt Kenseth as they reached the line to start a caution midway through the race. Gordon, who was running second, moved ahead of Kenseth when Kenseth slowed down to let drivers Kurt Busch and Ricky Rudd by him and get back on the lead lap. But Gordon moved ahead of Kenseth to keep the other two drivers a lap down. NASCAR officials ruled that Kenseth still would be the leader, Gordon would be second and Busch and Rudd would get their lap back. "Someone will have to explain that one to me," Gordon said. "It's frustrating. Just because the leader may want to let them have their lap back, it doesn't mean everybody else behind him has to let them have a lap back. The next guy in line can choose. I did. I was the leader when we crossed the line." NASCAR president Mike Helton said Gordon didn't have the right to determine who got a lap back because Gordon wasn't the leader when the yellow was displayed. Drivers have a gentlemen's agreement not to pass the leader while racing back to the yellow flag. But the leader often slows down enough to let lapped cars go by him to get back on the lead lap. "There is a gentlemen's agreement not to pass for position, but we're talking about keeping cars down a lap," Gordon said. "I don't know of any gentleman's agreement to let cars get a lap back, even if you aren't the leader. I didn't think there was any reason for me to let them have a lap back. We're fighting those guys for a championship. For NASCAR to put those guys back just blows me away. I think the whole getting a lap back thing is crazy." NASCAR is the only major racing body that has it cars race back around to the start-finish line when a caution is displayed.(Dallas Morning News - may need to register to view) AND see my Story/Columns/Article Links page for many more stories and commentary on this.(3-31-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR president Mike Helton said Tuesday the sanctioning body erred in the way it handled Jeff Gordon's attempt to keep down cars that Matt Kenseth tried to let back on the lead lap during the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. "If we had to do that call over again, we would have done it differently," Helton said. "We made a mistake." Kenseth was leading the race when Elliott Sadler's Ford spun on the backstretch on Lap 168. When the yellow flag came out, Kenseth slowed to allow Ricky Rudd and Kurt Busch to make up a lap. Gordon sped up to try to keep them a lap down, passing Kenseth before the start-finish line. That pass, Helton said, technically made Gordon the race leader. Since he got to the line before Busch and Rudd, they would have still been a lap down. The problem happened when Gordon allowed Kenseth to go back by him before the pace car picked up the leaders. Gordon said he didn't want to violate the "gentlemen's agreement" against racing for position back to the yellow, so he wanted to give the lead back to Kenseth. But Gordon did want to keep Busch and Rudd a lap down. "It was a scenario that we had not seen before," Helton said. "Someone who took the lead in the race then gave it back after the start-finish line." But since Gordon ceded the lead back to Kenseth, Helton said, NASCAR ruled Busch and Rudd did make up a lap. "For a long time we've told the drivers...that when a yellow comes out, slow down and let the leaders be the one to keep the lapped cars down," Helton said. "What happens between the leaders is their prerogative. What we did Sunday was interject NASCAR into that prerogative that we leave to the drivers, and we shouldn't have done that." Helton said that since the race continued there's no way to go back and change anything about Sunday's race now. He also said NASCAR does not plan to change its rules about racing back to the flag, partly because the technology does not yet exist to ensure NASCAR could accurately record the correct positions of all cars at the time a caution comes out to freeze the running order at that point.(ThatsRacin.com)(4-1-2003)
- NASCAR Wheel of Fortune: Wheel of Fortune, America's #1 rated syndicated television series, and NASCAR have teamed up for a second consecutive year for Wheel of Fortune's "NASCAR Week," scheduled to air nationwide April 7-11. NASCAR fans have been selected as contestants to compete on a NASCAR-themed Wheel of Fortune set, featuring 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot car (wonder if it is the car from Texas? just joking). Official NASCAR licensees are providing apparel for the studio audience to wear during the taping. In addition, race fans and Wheel Watchers alike can expect some of NASCAR's top 10 drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Ricky Craven and other fan favorites to appear in taped segments throughout Wheel of Fortune's "NASCAR Week". (NASCAR PR) (4-1-2003)
- Helton reviews restart policy Following a controversial call that resulted in a late-race black flag for Brian Vickers in Saturday's O'Reilly 300 Busch Series race, NASCAR president Mike Helton reviewed the policy for passing on the restarts at the drivers' meeting before Sunday's Cup race. NASCAR said that even though Vickers hadn't completely passed Chad Blount's car to the left before the start-finish line on a Lap 179 restart in Saturday's race, he was in the act of passing and therefore in violation of the rule. "The act of passing is in NASCAR's judgment when it happened," Helton said. "Yesterday we chose that it was the act of passing taking place, therefore we had the black flag. ...All passing is to the right. And the act of passing is when NASCAR deems that momentum is taking place before the start-finish line." NASCAR officials also answered several questions about the final restart on Lap 191 in Saturday's race, which was a double-file restart. Restarts are single file with less than 10 laps to go in a race, but with 10 complete laps left they're double-file. "There's a line, and it's 10 laps to go," Helton said. "You got the one-to-go (signal) with 11 to go and you completed that lap and got the green. ...It's 10 laps to go."(ThatsRacin.com) AND see my Story/Columns/Article Links page for many more stories and commentary on this.(3-31-2003)
- NASCAR's ad policy baffling: Taboo sponsors in NASCAR: Hard liquor, racy magazines and Internet sports gambling sites. Approved sponsors in NASCAR: Bricks-and-mortar casinos, dietary supplements that contain the controversial stimulant ephedra, and beer — including malt-based beverages made by hard-liquor companies. Cigarette maker Winston, of course, sponsors the series. NASCAR officials look at team sponsorship issues on a case-by-case basis. Approval wasn't automatic, for example, when Stacker 2 — a company whose product line includes ephedra supplements — wanted to sponsor a car. Supplements are sold at malls and grocery stores, but several sports leagues have banned ephedra because of potential health risks.(See full story at the USA Today)(3-27-2003)
- NASCAR considering Ephedra ban UPDATE: NASCAR gives random drug tests but does not check for ephedra, which has been banned by other sports leagues but is sold in malls and grocery stores. Kevin Triplett, NASCAR's managing director of business operations, says an ephedra ban "is something we're looking at." Ephedra, which is extracted from an Asian plant, is banned in college sports, the Olympics, the NFL and minor league baseball. Although supplement manufacturer Stacker 2 sponsors Kenny Wallace's race #23 car, Triplett says that would not stop NASCAR from considering an ephedra ban. Karen Finocchio, vice president of marketing for NVE, Stacker 2's parent company, says the company stands behind its ephedra supplement but notes it also offers an ephedra-free version. She says users should follow the extensive set of guidelines printed on the bottle. "Take it as directed," she says. "Consult your physician. ... Know your limitations."(USA Today)(3-26-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR is hiring an expert on the use and effects of dietary supplements that contain the stimulant ephedra. "We're talking to an expert in that field," NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Wednesday. "It's not so much a health expert as it is a drug expert, although I hate to ever use the word drugs in relation to NASCAR." Ephedra is banned in college athletics, the NFL, minor league baseball and the Olympics. It was partly to blame for the heatstroke death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler last month. After Bechler's death, questions arose about the possible use of products for weight loss or extra energy by NASCAR drivers and crew members faced with a grueling 38-race schedule and heavy race-day pressure for quick pit stops and wins. NASCAR does random drug tests, but ephedra is not among its banned substances. Al Shuford, head trainer for Chip Ganassi Racing, was quoted by USA Today as saying an estimated 80 percent of NASCAR's crew members have at least tried ephedra. "I do not believe that number," Hunter said, pointing out that supplement manufacturer Stacker 2, sponsor of Kenny Wallace's Winston Cup car, handed out samples to the teams earlier this year. Hunter said Winston Cup director John Darby and his staff are investigating to determine if anyone in the sport is using ephedra. He added that the investigation is also "a priority" for Gary Nelson, who heads NASCAR's new research and development facility. "We want to find out who is using it and what they're using it for," Hunter said. He added that NASCAR is also talking with Bill Davis, who owns Wallace's car. "We don't know a lot about this, yet, and we want to find out what we're dealing with before we react," Hunter said. "We don't even know if it's a problem for us or not." Wallace went to NVE Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Stacker 2, after Bechler's death. "I said, 'Hey, what's going on? Is this going to affect us?' And they said `Everything's fine,'" Wallace said. NVE also markets a Stacker 2 without ephedra. "They have told me that racing has just put them to another level," he said. "The commercials we've done have been a lot of fun because people react to them. And our sport is about selling product." Dr. Scott McNair, team physician for Hendrick Motorsports, said the effects of dehydration on drivers or crew members could be serious, but added, "I've never been aware of (ephedra use) being a very big problem." McNair urged anyone in the sport using ephedra to stop. "It would be beneficial in a sense to ban it," McNair said. "People don't understand the seriousness of the effects of drugs and ephedra is not a good drug."(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(3-27-2003)
- No Racing Back to the Yellow Flag? NASCAR's drivers have had what they call a gentleman's agreement not to race back to the yellow flag, except in certain situations where a driver is trying to get a lap back and is within a couple of car lengths of the leader. That agreement was designed with driver safety in mind.(Winston Salem Journal)(3-15-2003)
- Contingency Plans for travel and TV in case of war: With the country on the verge of war, NASCAR teams and officials are considering contingency plans for travel to Fort Worth, Talladega and Los Angeles in the coming weeks. "I know that became a concern when we went to Dover last year, and I'm sure at some of these tracks there will be different restrictions that come up," Robbie Loomis, Jeff Gordon's crew chief, said. "It's a pretty stressful time on all the folks in the military and their families right now." Fox is expected to put Winston Cup races on its FX cable if or when war begins.(Winston Salem Journal)(3-14-2003)
- Inspection Process Speeds Up: The race car inspection process at Atlanta Motor Speedway proceeded with nary a hitch, today, with the field of 45 cars getting the good to go signal at 10:40am/et. The fastidious and through inspections came off with so little commotion that there was an honest 40 minutes between the time the last car was inspected and when the first practice for Winston Cup was scheduled to start. However, NASCAR inspectors were afforded the 40-minute cushion when morning showers slid the schedule back due to track drying efforts. NASCAR Winston Cup director John Darby credits two factors for the quick inspection turn around process, which just the week before had some wondering how NASCAR could get all the cars done in a timely fashion. “Number one it didn’t rain,” said Darby of this week’s inspections. “In Las Vegas [rain] was probably the biggest thing that held them up. Race teams pay attention to what’s going on around them and when its pouring down rain and it’s 10 o’clock in the morning it’s real easy for them to figure out ‘well, it’s going to be two-and-a-half hours before they get the track dry so we don’t have to go as quick as what we normally do. “Vegas wasn’t a surprise, Vegas was created by weather,” Darby continued. “It might be a little bit ironic we get to Atlanta and the weather wasn’t messing with us. It was business as usual. We were confidant that when the day came that we’d be able to start the weekend without having to change a schedule before we did anything else, that the result would be very similar to this.” Addressing the other major contributing factor to the quick inspections was the teams’ work. “My hat’s off to the race teams. I have a ton of respect for the teams in this garage and the fabricators and the crew chiefs and everybody else that have taken the new program and taken it seriously and took the extra setup time in the shops to make sure they’re correct when they get here.” Darby’s men did find one violation. The No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac fuel cell check valve assembly didn’t meet specification. The part was replaced and the team didn’t miss practice.(Ford Racing)(3-8-2003)
- NASCAR 'not a big betting sport' in Vegas: In a town full of casinos, you'd figure NASCAR fans would be flocking to the sports books on Winston Cup weekend. Don't bet on it. "It's a dead sport for us," said Robert Walker, race and sports book director for MGM Mirage's eight casinos in Las Vegas. "It's a huge weekend. It's a great event for the town. It's just not a big betting sport."(see full story at NASCAR.com/AP)(3-7-2003)
- New Mid-Race Award: A race's halfway point means the race is "official." But this season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, halfway has added significance. A new contingency program called the "MBNA Mid-Race Leader" award pays the mid-race leader (provided he is participating in the program) $10,000. In addition, if the Mid-Race Leader Award winner goes on to win the race he gets a $5,000 bonus “ or maybe, more. If the bonus isn't collected, it rolls over to the next week's event; thus, at Atlanta, the bonus will be worth $15,000. After three races this season, there have been three different MBNA Mid-Race Leader Award winners: #15-Michael Waltrip, #2-Rusty Wallace and #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr.(NASCAR PR), no word on if a driver gets the award if the halfway is under yellow at the time or if the award is given out if the lead is not participating in the program and if it would go to the next place car at the time.(3-6-2003)
- France's on the list: In its 17th annual ranking of the world's richest people, Forbes magazine says NASCAR and International Speedway Corp's Bill France and Jim France tie for 427th with $1 billion each.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(2-28-2003)
- Advertisors spending more: Nielsen Media Research says advertisers spent 54.2 percent more on televised NASCAR events last year than they did in 2001, according to today's Sports Business Daily. The report pegs last year's spending at $419.6 million ($311.4 million on network broadcasts and $108.2 on cable). Advertisers spent the most on NFL broadcasts ($2.017 billion), followed by sports commentary, the Olympics, the National Basketball Association, golf, college basketball, college football, NASCAR, Major League Baseball and tennis.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(2-28-2003)
- Inspection Taking Time: Inspections were once again quite detailed this weekend for Winston Cup teams, with NASCAR opening up its tech line at noon Thursday and working until nearly 8 p.m. clearing cars for Friday's activities. Several cars were late getting to the qualifying line Friday afternoon, too, as the rain-delayed session pushed toward nightfall. Teams seem to be having the most difficulty building cars that meet new interlocking templates being used by NASCAR this year. The templates measure, for instance, a car down its length as well as across its width at the same time, and very little deviance is accepted.(ThatsRacin.com)(2-23-2003)
- Third Roof Flap? A third roof flap that NASCAR is studying, probably wouldn't have kept Ryan Newman's car from getting airborne in last Sunday's Daytona 500, a series official said. "I don't think that anything shows us that if two of them didn't open that the third one would have opened in that case," said Joe Garone, director of NASCAR's research and development center. Each car has two roof flaps that are intended to flip up and keep the car from getting airborne when it gets turned around. Garone said unique circumstances led to Newman's car getting in the air. After Newman hit the wall, the right rear wheel came off, allowing air to rush under the car. As that happened, Newman's car slid down the banked track. The front half of his car was on the flat apron as the back end was on the 18-degree tri-oval. Also, Garone said Newman's car did not turn around enough to trigger the roof flaps.(Roanoke Times)(2-23-2003)
- NASCAR defends decision to red flag Daytona 500: Fans and drivers weren't the only ones disappointed with the rain-shortened Daytona 500. As it turns out, NASCAR also wasn't thrilled with the early end to its biggest race of the season. "It's our Super Bowl, too, and the way it ended was personally disappointing to me," Winston Cup director John Darby said Friday. "After watching the race that long, it had just reached a point where it was all starting to come together and was about to get interesting." Michael Waltrip won Sunday's race when NASCAR called it after a second hour-long rain delay. The event ended 91 laps short of its scheduled 200. Because 109 laps had been completed, the race had passed the halfway point and was considered an official event. With no evidence that the rain would let up, NASCAR officials determined it would be impossible to resume on Sunday. Coming back on Monday to finish it was not considered an option because the event was already official. "The general practice that we've always been pretty solid about, that's no big secret and is not going to change, is that if we get past halfway and you can't complete it that day - that's it," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. Darby said NASCAR made the only decision it could, based on the rule book. "As bitter and disappointing as it might seem, our decision is in black and white," he said. "If we make an exception because it is the Daytona 500, then later in the season when we are in the middle of 20-straight weeks of racing, we've opened up a can of worms when we try to come back on a Monday to finish a race that is already official."(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(2-22-2003)
- Fuel Injection in NASCAR? Whatever Detroit is selling on the NASCAR tour this season, it's certainly not cars, and it's certainly not engines. NASCAR's common-template creation has almost nothing in common with anything on the street. Every piece of a Winston Cup car now is specially made. And when was the last time anyone bought a [New] passenger car with a 358-c.i. engine with a carburetor? Nevertheless, Detroit's presence in NASCAR is huge. And if the men in the suits in the suites of America's car capital are really paying attention to what's going on down here, and not simply laying out new full-page ads celebrating victory in USA Today, then Detroit's presence may soon be getting bigger. Why? Toyota.
So is that why Ford's Robert Yates is suddenly so interested in pushing NASCAR to approve a new, exotic race engine? Yates, the legendary engine builder and #38/88 car owner, is talking about NASCAR's need for a new-generation engine. The two current designs used on the Winston Cup tour are based on the 1955 Chevrolet V-8 small block and the 1969 Ford 351 small block. What Yates has been working on would be radical departure from those carburetor motors: A four-valve, double-overhead cam 4.6 liter. One of his motors just ran in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and, Yates said, "These things would do fine right here today," referring to the Winston Cup tour. "They make all the horsepower we need or more, at considerably less cost. And it's been enlightening for me to work on them," Yates said. "We felt proud in the 1960s and early 1970s that some of our technology went back to the manufacturers. But since then we've really sort of disconnected. There's not much stock about our engines. I feel like we're just working on dinosaurs. There is a lot of technology we use on the engines today, and I don't want anybody to think we're running with 1955 technology. But I just think we can accomplish the same thing with something that's built by the manufacturer. That's when the price comes down. Despite the expected dubious reaction from NASCAR executives to such an exotic piece, Yates said, "It would actually give them better control over what's going on." Yates said he talked with NASCAR officials last month during the 24 Hours, and he says he felt he sold Gary Nelson, NASCAR's director of competition, on part of the concept. Yates suggests that NASCAR might consider approving the engine for the tour's four restrictor- plate races, "because that's an engine program of its own. It would be a good place to introduce this engine.(Full story at the Winston Salem Journal)(2-20-2003)
- The Military and NASCAR: While the Army has the broadest, deepest and most expensive program, each of the services will spend at least $1.5 million and all will dispatch show cars to make stops at schools from Bangor to Bakersfield.
The Air Force will put about $2.25 million into an associate sponsorship with a Winston Cup team. That will buy placement on the rear corners of a car driven by popular veteran #21-Ricky Rudd throughout the 38-week season, along with a primary position for three races.
The Marine Corps will spend about $2.25 million as primary sponsor of a team in the Busch Series [#25 Bobby Hamilton], where it has found fertile recruiting ground since 1999.
The Navy will spend about $1.5 million as a primary sponsor of a Roush Racing team in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck series [#50 Jon Wood]. Its sponsorship differs slightly from the others in that it is funded mostly from a retention budget, rather than a recruiting budget.
The Army National Guard will sponsor a Winston Cup entry, putting its colors on a [#54] car driven by Todd Bodine. The Guard would not discuss its spending, but industry insiders estimated it was one of the lower team deals in Winston Cup, likely worth $5 million to $6 million for the season.
Together, the armed forces will spend about $28 million in the sport this year. All have similar goals: raising awareness, generating recruiting leads and retaining those already in uniform. The resources allocated to achieve those goals are substantial. The service branches will spend about $600 million on advertising this year, with much of it paying for time during network sporting events and other programming that draws young male viewers. The four active branches together must sign up about 200,000 recruits this year, more hires than any U.S. industry. Together, the active and reserve branches of the armed forces will spend $1.4 billion on recruiting, advertising and examining this year, according to Defense Department budgets.(see full story at the Business Journal). Also, not mentioned, the Civil Air Patrol sponsors the #46 BGN car of Ashton Lewis, no idea what they spend.(2-18-2003)
- Hammond expects rule change after Vegas IF Chevy's continue to dominate: If the Chevrolets continue to have a lopsided advantage after Rockingham and Las Vegas, I'd [Jeff Hammond] look for the powers that be to make an adjustment. The change would have to be in the front end because that's where Chevrolet seems to have a better balance and a touch more front downforce than the other cars. Ford and Dodge haven't told [Hammond] what they're working on, but [Hammond] believes that both camps are already looking into a rule change in the front headlight area to create just a little bit more downforce. Of the 329 laps raced in the two 125-mile Winston Cup qualifying races, the Busch race and the Daytona 500, Chevy led all but seven or two percent of the laps. During Speedweeks, it was pretty clear that Chevrolet was the class of the field.(FoxSports)(2-18-2003)
- Plate Problems? Some Winston Cup crew chiefs are critical of NASCAR's new system for pre-race selection of the crucial carburetor restrictor plates. Ever since NASCAR went to the air-choking plates to cut speeds at the tour's two biggest tracks some 15 years ago, drivers and crews have at times questioned just how fair that selection process might be, with rumors frequently rampant about a particular driver getting just the right plate. That issue is once again being raised in the garage, with the lack of randomness of the selection at particular issue.(Winston Salem Journal)(2-17-2003)
- Rusty's Carb: NASCAR put Rusty Wallace's controversial carburetor on display yesterday for teams to examine. The specific alteration that Wallace's crew had made to the carburetor was to the walls of the four venturi, to alter the air flow to make it more effective.(Winston Salem Journal)(2-17-2003)
- NASCAR close to toxic-gas solution: Today's 45th Daytona 500 likely will be the last one ever run with a silent, invisible enemy of NASCAR drivers: carbon-monoxide poisoning. A solution is near for a problem as old as stock-car racing itself, in which toxic fumes from front-mounted engines can turn enclosed driver compartments into gas chambers, especially if exhaust systems are damaged in crashes. Now, NASCAR chief technical officer Gary Nelson thinks technology is about to eradicate carbon-monoxide exposure. Nelson is hoping to have a device approved and ready to recommend to drivers for use in the spring. He said the system acts like a catalytic converter, which reduces emissions from passenger cars, but operates at a lower temperature so as not to increase heat in the driver compartments. Application of the technology is the result of studies begun last fall both at racetracks and at NASCAR's new research and development facility near Charlotte. At least five drivers will be tested before and after today's Daytona 500, according to Nelson, though he wouldn't name them.(Orlando Seninel)(2-16-2003)
- More on the Twin 125's Dyno Tests: The total number of cars NASCAR tested on the chassis dyno came to an even dozen according to the NASCAR dyno sheet. The numbers, which are highly suspect due to the wide variance, cover a range that spans 384 - 360 horsepower. Topping the charts was Jack Sprague’s #60 Pontiac, which carried a Hendrick motor. At the bottom of the list was Ray Evernham’s #9, which measured 24 horses short of the best. Falling between the two were engines from the following cars: Tony Stewart, Dave Blaney, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Todd Bodine, Rusty Wallace, Kirk Shelmerdine (in Junie Donlavey’s Ford) Jeff Green and Ricky Rudd. Calling the numbers into questioning by many was the Rudd’s Motorcraft Ford performance, which performed well beyond what the dyno sheets indicated woud occur. However, the chassis dyno is not really the ultimate tool for measuring a car’s horsepower levels. So many external influences can affect the readings. Parasitic drag in the drivel line can vary by a great deal with temperature as well real wheel traction to the dyno drums with ambient air and relative humidity changes. While the chassis dyno does give NASCAR a hint of what’s going on, in the most general of terms, true comparisons could only take place in a fixed dyno cell where all environmental and operating conditions can be tracked.(Ford Racing)(2-16-2003)
- 'Yellow-line' rule clarified, stiffened by NASCAR: During Sunday's pre-race drivers meeting, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced a revision to the sanctioning body's "yellow line" rule, which is enforced at Daytona and Talladega. Under the rule, drivers are black-flagged if they drive below the yellow line to advance their position on the track. The line marks the end of the racing groove. Beginning with Sunday's Daytona 500, a driver who forces others to go below the yellow line in an effort to prevent a pass will also be subject to a black flag. "Now what we are beginning to see happen, and we saw it yesterday (in the Busch race), is some of you have figured out to protect your spot, you can move down against the yellow line to prevent someone from going on your inside," Helton said. "That is OK. But if you do it while that guy is trying to get around you and you move him down there while he has a quarter-panel or fender alongside of you, if you make him go down there, then you are subject to a black flag, too." The announcement received a round of applause from the drivers, crew chiefs and car owners in attendance. Helton also announced a policy adapted for Saturday's Busch race regarding the use of the red flag to ensure a green flag finish, would be used in Sunday's Daytona 50 as well. If a caution comes out with less than five laps remaining in the race, the race will not be restarted under green.(ThatsRacin.com)(2-16-2003)
- Red Flag 'rule': NASCAR has implemented a new procedure to help guide its use of the red flag to ensure green-flag finishes in its BGN and Cup series. In Saturday's BGN race at Daytona, if a caution had been with less than five laps remaining in the 120-lap event, the race would not be restarted under green. NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said the procedure would also be used in Sunday's Daytona 500, and likely with the same five-lap rule in effect. "As with any new procedure, NASCAR will evaluate its use and effectiveness and decide how best to implement it in the future," Zizzo said. The new procedure was adapted to attempt to remove the complaints about the random nature of how the red flag is used to try to ensure green-flag finishes, Zizzo said. NASCAR's Truck series requires a green-flag finish. If there is a late-race caution races in that series are extended in two-lap segments until a green-flag finish is achieved.(ThatsRacin.com)(2-15-2003)
- Cars to be Dyno'd UPDATE 2: NASCAR is expected to put today's top finishers of the 125's on its chassis dyno to compare effective horsepower at the rear wheels of cars fresh off the track. NASCAR is also expected to chassis dyno Sunday's top finishers. Drivers will be using their qualifying motors in the 125s, changing to new motors for the 500.(Winston Salem Journal)(2-13-2003)
UPDATE: Following the Twin 125 qualifying races for the Daytona 500, NASCAR impounded eight cars for testing on the chassis dyno. The cars were called out on pit road and taken to the BGN garage, where NASCAR inspectors measured horsepower readings at the rear wheels. The Ford cars of #88-Dale Jarrett and #21-Ricky Rudd were selected from the first race while #54-Todd Bodine’s Taurus was tabbed from the second event. GM’s SB2 piece was represented on the dyno by the cars of #30-Jeff Green and #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr. along with #20-Tony Stewart. One Dodge from each race was tested with #40-Sterling Marlin’s culled from race one and #2-Rusty Wallace’s from race two. Breaking down the engine builders, Robert Yates was tested in his #88 and with a lease customer (#54). Jack Roush was represented with a lease in the Wood Brothers car. GM’s engines were built by Richard Childress Racing (#30), Dale Earnhardt Inc. (#8) and Joe Gibbs Racing (#20). Dodge’s offering came from Ernie Elliott (#40) and Roger Penske (#2). There are times the NASCAR dyno numbers will float out into the garage, but with this being a new year and new NASCAR Winston Cup competition department things could well have changed.(Ford Racing), no idea why no Pontiac were chosen.(2-14-2003)
UPDATE 2: NASCAR, in addition to the cars they pulled from the line for mandatory dyno testing, ran a number of volunteer cars on the dyno. And while www.teamfordracing.com doesn’t have the results, yet, the high and low end numbers were aquired with the high end of the cars tested measuring at 380 hp while the bottom end was at 366 hp. It’s believed that it was a Joe Gibbs Racing motor on the top and that it was very likely that it was Ray Evernham’s at the bottom.(Ford Racing)(2-15-2003)
- More on the ISC moves: If Bill France's latest in-house move - promoting his brother, Jim, to take over his role as CEO of the family's International Speedway Corp. and promoting his daughter, Lesa, to president of ISC - is part of a broad plan to prepare this sport for his eventual retirement, then the next big question is what Bill France might have planned for the NASCAR half of the operation. Bill France is chairman of a five-man board of directors of NASCAR, including George Pyne, the chief operating officer; Mike Helton, the president, and Lesa and Brian France. Pyne has been taking an increasingly important role within the organization over the past two years.
(Winston Salem Journal)(2-14-2003)
- Gas Cans Getting Looked at: on Tuesday NASCAR inspectors began checking closely cans the teams use to shuttle gas from the fuel pumps to their pit stalls. The maximum they're supposed to hold is 11 gallons each. With 13.5-gallon fuel cells in the cars at Daytona, however, teams were getting creative in making one can hold enough gas to fill up a car in an effort to save time on pit stops. "There are ways to very cleverly allow a drop can to hold 13.5 or 14 gallons," Winston Cup series director John Darby said. "In appearance, there is not enough change in the can to notice a difference. So we're inspecting and sealing all cans that will be used." Darby said several cans had been sent back to various teams for "repair for various infractions." He said some teams are being forced to have different cans shipped to Daytona from their shops in time for Thursday's 125-mile qualifying races.(ThatsRacin.com)(2-12-2003)
- ISC Changes: NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. chairman William "Bill" France Jr., announced several changes to the ISC infrastructure Monday. France, 69, will relinquish his role of ISC's chief executive officer. France's brother Jim France, 58, will inherit the position. Jim France has served as ISC's president and chief operating officer since 1987. ISC executive vice president Lesa Kennedy, 41, will become president. John Saunders, senior vice president of operations becomes senior vice president and COO. "We need to start making moves," Bill France Jr. says. "My father was here for a while, and he's not here anymore. One of these days I won't be here." Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1948. Bill France Jr. assumed the title of CEO in 1981. ISC owns and operates 12 of the NASCAR racetracks including Daytona International Speedway.(Sporting News)(2-11-2003)
- Races will go on: NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said Monday it is likely the sport would continue racing even if the United States finds itself at war, but admitted there are certain circumstances that could affect the sport. "It depends on how far away it is, what's the inconvenience to the spectators -- can we buy fuel, for instance," France said Monday. "But I remember during World War II, President Roosevelt wanted to have baseball continue on because he thought the country needed recreation, needed to take some time to where they could get their mind off what their job was at the time. They advocated sports and movies and that sort of thing. Like I said, it depends on the extent of the hardships. If people can't buy gas to go where you're going to go and they can't get there, and you can't collect enough money to pay the purse, I guess you'd have to call it a day."(Florida Today)(2-11-2003)
- Remember those old Two Division rumors? The possibility of two Winston Cup divisions in the future, effectively doubling the number of races NASCAR could run over the course of a season. ``We did a focus group on that a few years ago and it wasn't really feasible,'' he said. ``I don't know if television would be in favor of it. This is a different ballgame now. With the revenue they're putting into the sport, we've got to pay attention to them.''(Tampa Tribune) AND A proposal made by [Bruton] Smith to split NASCAR into two divisions to create more race dates has been deemed unworkable by the sanctioning body and likely would be rejected by its TV partners.(Fort Worth Star Telegram)(2-11-2003)
- NASCAR Celebrates Black History Month: In celebration of Black History Month this February, NASCAR will participate in four upcoming activities that include:
Feb. 22 - NASCAR will serve as the title sponsor for the Association of Minorities in Motorsports Awards Celebration honoring minority pioneers in the motorsports industry.
Feb. 25 - NASCAR will serve as a sponsor for the National Consortium for Academics and Sports 5thAnnual Giant Steps Award Banquet. Jackie Joyner-Kersee [remeber she attempted to start a Cup team a few years ago], considered by many to be the greatest female athlete of the 20th Century, will be inducted into the NCAS Hall of Fame.
Feb. 27 - NASCAR will be the title sponsor and assist with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Charity Golf Classic at Duke Universityin Durham, NC.
NASCAR, and the entire industry, continues to take important steps to expand diversity in the sport. These include the NASCAR Diversity Council; the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program; the NASCAR College Tour presented by the Coca-Cola Company; partnership with the NASCAR Technical Institute; Scholarships to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions; and support of the Urban Youth Racing School.(NASCAR PR)(2-11-2003)
- A few parts seized at Daytona: NASCAR inspectors gave Winston Cup cars a thorough going-over Friday, with the garage finally closing at 10:02pm/et. Despite the slow process, only four items had been confiscated from teams and displayed on the NASCAR hauler. Unapproved underpans were taken off the #10 Pontiac driven by Johnny Benson; unapproved springs wwere taken off Michael Waltrip's #15 Chevrolet and Norm Benning's #84 Chevrolet. A plastic gas container was taken from the team of David Green's #60 Chevy. Late last year, NASCAR banned the use of plastic containers to transport or store gas.(ThatsRacin.com)(2-8-2003)
- Last season for Dash? NASCAR does not plan to sanction the Goody's Dash series after this season, so its future is in question. Hooters, which owns the Myrtle Beach, SC-based United Speed Alliance Racing circuit [Hooter;s USAR Pro Cup], has expressed interest in running the series. A long-time NASCAR touring division based in the Southeast, the Dash series features small sedans with six-cylinder engines. Johnny Chapman, the 1991 Goody's Dash series champion, captured the pole for Sunday's Goody's 150 - a race that may be the Dash series' final appearance at Daytona with a speed of 162.784mph.(Tampa Tribune)(2-8-2003)
- NASCAR makes minor changes in substance-abuse policy: Among the responsibilities NASCAR has prior to the 2003 season openers for its Winston Cup, Busch and Truck series next week, is collecting releases from drivers and crew members, who must agree to abide by NASCAR's substance-abuse policy. The policy has undergone several changes over the past 10 years, but remains for the most part as it was in 2002. Last season, NASCAR tested fewer than a dozen competitors in its top-three series, said Kevin Triplett, NASCAR's managing director of business operations. The policy outlines NASCAR's prohibition of illegal drugs at any time in any amount; bans the use of alcohol on the day of an event; and warns of the effect of certain prescription and nonprescription medications. The release entitles NASCAR to test anyone who signs it at any time for any reason during the season. Typically, Triplett said, NASCAR tests only those who it has a "reasonable cause" to believe might have violated its policy. Some parts of the policy are stricter than state laws regarding the consumption of alcohol. For instance, a blood-alcohol level of .02 percent is considered "under the influence of alcohol" under NASCAR's policy. A .08 finding is considered driving while impaired in North Carolina, for example. "This is a pretty dangerous sport," Triplett said. "You have people working around machines and heavy equipment." Triplett said he has never encountered a situation where a driver or crew member has refused to sign the release.(ThatsRacin.com)(2-7-2003)
- Common Engines? Expect NASCAR to explore the use of common engines. The manufacturers initially had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the common template approach, and they could react the same way to the possibility of common engines. But that certainly would make Toyota's entrance to Winston Cup easier.(Sporting News)(2-5-2003)
- NASCAR Considering Test Ban At Non-Cup Tracks: NASCAR is toying with the idea of limiting Winston Cup testing at tracks that don't have Winston Cup racing but do have other NASCAR events such as a Craftsman Truck or Busch Series race. Gateway, Nashville and Kentucky Speedways would fall under that catergory. NASCAR put a limit of five test dates for Winston Cup cars in 2003 but teams are finding a way around it by running at non-sanctioned tracks. One of the approved test dates have already been used by testing at Daytona the past few weeks.(Insider Racing)(1-31-2003)
- Scheduling Change For Daytona Inspections: Events playing-out at Daytona International Speedway during a 10-day grind, known as Speedweeks, it can present a real challenge for NASCAR. Top on that list is potentially Feb. 8, with both qualifying for the Daytona 500 and the Bud Shootout scheduled, not to mention the corresponding inspections. In prior years NASCAR would fill the labor-intensive inspection lines with both Shootout and Daytona 500 cars. But not this year. Winston Cup Director, John Darby has made the call to inspect the cars for the Shootout on Feb. 6 and then the Daytona 500 cars on Feb. 7, thus ensuring quality inspections for all cars. Inspections are vital as the teams try to improve their on-track chances with anything they can think of that’ll reduce drag by 10 drag-horsepower or increase the engine power by 10 horsepower.(Ford Racing)(1-30-2003)
- Two New NASCAR Series UPDATE No More Busch 'Grand National': NASCAR plans to add two divisions later this year, the Grand National and Elite. The Grand National will encompass top drivers from the Winston West and Busch North series and will have a series of races to crown one champion. The Elite will be made up of Northwest and Southwest series drivers.(Tampa Tribune)(1-22-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR has formed a new "feeder system" for its three national series, with the creation of two new racing divisions. The all-new NASCAR Elite Division and NASCAR Grand National Division will provide a clear path for local and regional racers to advance towards the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The NASCAR Elite Division will consist of four NASCAR-sanctioned series: the Featherlite Southwest Series, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series and the newly renamed International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series (formerly the RE/MAX Challenge Series) and Kodak Southeast Series (formerly the Hills Bros. All Pro Series). The Elite Division will accommodate drivers who have recently been competing in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge or at other local short tracks. At this level, competitors will compete on a variety of tracks before progressing to other NASCAR divisions. Once a competitor has gained experience in the Elite Division, the next logical step is the NASCAR Grand National Division, which will now consist of the Busch North Series and the NASCAR Winston West Series. Previously, these cars had different specifications - the Busch North Series cars are modeled after the NASCAR Busch Series cars while the NASCAR Winston West Series cars are designed after NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars. The NASCAR Grand National Division will represent NASCAR's top regional touring series, where competitors will refine their skills before making the jump to one of NASCAR's three national series.
The "Grand National" designation has a long history in NASCAR racing. It was first used in 1949, when the first NASCAR Grand National Division races were held. This division evolved into the Winston Cup Series, and the "Grand National" moniker was passed to the NASCAR Busch Series in 1986. With this announcement, the NASCAR Busch Series no longer carries the name as it's passed on to NASCAR's top regional touring division.(More at NASCAR.com)(1-29-2003)
- Cut Downforce? Softer Tires? NASCAR's George Pyne reiterated NASCAR's plans to cut downforce on Winston Cup cars. Four years ago, a good car would generate 800 to 900 pounds of downforce, with its rear spoiler, nose and roof designs. This season, a good car will generate well over 1,400 pounds. The more downforce, the better a car sticks in the corners, but at the expense of a tremendous, dangerous increase in tire deformation. In response, Goodyear has gone to a much harder tire to prevent blowouts. But drivers have complained about the hard tires and have pushed NASCAR and Goodyear for softer tires, which they say would make for better racing. Goodyear, however, doesn't plan to switch to softer tires until NASCAR can cut the downforce to back under 1,000 pounds, according to several teams. This year, NASCAR's John Darby hopes to make at least two 1/2-inch cuts in the rear spoiler. Each cut would take about 50 pounds of downforce off the rear, and it is assumed that teams would then have to take another 50 pounds off the nose to keep the car balanced. Two such cuts would cut downforce back to 1,200 pounds, close enough to where Goodyear might provide somewhat softer tires.(Winston Salem Journal)(1-27-2003)
- More Secure: NASCAR is hiring a director of security to work with each track to beef up security.(Winston Salem Journal)(1-27-2003)
- Hunter on the mend: Former Darlington Raceway president and current NASCAR vice president for corporate communications Jim Hunter will be checking into the Mayo Clinic this week. Hunter, who appeared at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Tuesday, will be getting tests and treatment for his back.(Florence Morning News)(1-23-2003)
- 3 Doors Down and NASCAR: It's fitting 3 Doors Down are releasing "The Road I'm On" as their next single, since the Mississippi band is on the road at least through February. 3 Doors Down are hoping to team up with NASCAR for the video, "as long as I get to drive a car," Arnold joked in his thick southern accent.(MTV)(1-23-2003)
- Garage/Pit Access to be introduced UPDATE Announced: NASCAR is expected to talk policies, procedures and philosophies Tuesday, as more than 250 journalists on the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour pay a visit to a new research and development facility in Concord, NC. New rules governing access to the garage area and pit road during times when Winston Cup cars are on the track will be outlined by NASCAR officials during the midday session. NASCAR and race tracks will this year begin issuing "hot" and "cold" passes granting garage area access. Fans with "cold" passes will be allowed to visit the track's working areas when cars are not on the track. But during practice and qualifying sessions and races, only those with "hot" passes will be allowed in the garage or on pit road. Teams will have a limited number of "hot" passes to hand out to sponsors and guests, and tracks will also be limited in the number of "hot" passes they can hand out to local media, sponsors and guests.(ThatsRacin.com)
NASCAR Announcement: NASCAR has instituted an access policy for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series garage and pit areas, designed to alleviate overcrowding and improve safety and security in the 2003 season and beyond. The policy, which goes into effect next month for season-opening events at Daytona International Speedway, is based on the designation of "hot" and "cold" times in the garage and pit areas and the requirement that some people have a "hot pass" allowing them garage and pit road access during "hot" times. NASCAR and its tracks will issue "hot passes" prior to and during a race weekend. Those passes must be accompanied by a normal NASCAR or track-issued paper credential for access during hot times. Those possessing a NASCAR season credential “ commonly referred to as a 'hard card' “ will not be required to have a hot pass. Accredited news media personnel will have the access they have been granted in past seasons.
Hot times for the garage will begin 30 minutes prior to any scheduled on-track race-car activity, and will end approximately 10 minutes after the on-track activity “ including practices, qualifying sessions and races “ concludes. At other times the garage will be considered ścold.ť
In addition to the garage restrictions, pits will be designated as hot 30 minutes prior to the start of a race and will remain so until a race ends. "Our goal is to reduce the number of people in the garage and in the pits," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications. "We want to significantly reduce the number of people."
To help facilitate adherence to the access policy, large, red, strobe-like lights will be prominently positioned in the garage area to signify hot times. NASCAR reviewed the issue of allowing autographs in the garage area and determined the establishment of hot and cold times should inherently reduce the number of autograph-seekers.
NASCAR will continue to monitor the new access policy as the season unfolds, and will make changes as needed. Said NASCAR President Mike Helton: "We're constantly working to improve the environment for everyone involved with NASCAR Winston Cup racing. This policy is all about two issues “ safety and security. And this policy should improve the environment considerably."
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Access Policy Fast Facts:
Q: What is a "hot" pass?
A hot pass, which will be issued by NASCAR and track during a race weekend, allows the holder access into the garage area and pit area during "hot times." A hot pass by itself will not allow the holder access; it must be accompanied by a credential issued by NASCAR or a track.
Q: What is the difference between "hot" and "cold" times?
A: A hot time for the garage area is defined as a period beginning 30 minutes before any on-track race-car activity, and ending approximately 10 minutes after that activity. All other times are considered cold. A hot time for the pits is defined as a period beginning 30 minutes before the start of a race, and ending when the race ends.
Q: What is the reasoning behind the access policy?
A: To significantly reduce the number of people who have access to the garage and pits during a race weekend and, in the process, increase safety and security in the garage and pits.
Q: Will media be issued hot passes?
A: Media members who have a NASCAR-issued season credential “ commonly referred to as a 'hard card' “ will not need a hot pass for garage/pit area access. Other accredited media members who do not possess a hard card will have to request a hot pass.
Q: Will other "hard-card" holders be required to have hot passes for garage/pit area access?
A: No. Those possessing a hard card will have access during hot and cold times.(NASCAR PR)(1-21-2003)
- Frye to leave NASCAR for MRN? UPDATE: Hearing that Danielle Frye will leave her NASCAR PR position to become an MRN pit reporter. She would replace Jim Phillips who retired at the end of last season.(1-15-2003)
UPDATE: Danielle Frye is leaving her position in NASCAR's public relations office and will become a member of the Motor Racing Network's broadcasting crew as a pit reporter.(ThatsRacin.com)(1-20-2003)
- Smaller Spoilers, Softer Tires in the works UPDATE: NASCAR Winston Cup Scene reports this week that NASCAR officials are moving toward smaller spoilers and working with Goodyear to use softer tire compounds, but the officials aren't ready to say when the changes will be made. While drivers such as Rusty Wallace are urging the change as early as the season's second race, the Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Winston Cup Director John Darby told the paper that the changes may not come that quickly. He said Goodyear has agreed to produce softer tires if NASCAR can reduce downforce, which Darby said the sanctioning body intends to do. The changes would make cars less dependent on aerodynamics and might make for more competitive racing by reducing the aero-push and increasing passing. "It's going to take some time, and it's hard to pinpoint how long that will be," Darby said.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(1-2-2003)
UPDATE: Winston Cup series director John Darby confirmed Thursday that NASCAR is moving toward cutting the height of rear spoilers and softening tires to help reduce the aerodynamic problems that have plagued the series in recent years. For the first time, Darby put somewhat of a timetable on addressing the problem. During preseason testing the past two weeks, such drivers as Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin have expressed their desire to see changes come sooner, rather than later. The primary complaint is that the dependency on aerodynamics of the cars, combined with the harder tire compound, have made passing extremely difficult and put more emphasis on pit stops during races. "Obviously, Goodyear will have to have a lot of notice. It's easy to soften one tire, but they have to manufacturer tires enough for everyone to race on," Darby said. "That process alone is likely a three-month lead time." The tire change assessment itself indicates a change involving tires and spoilers would likely not be implemented before the second half of the season or even 2004.(ThatsRacin.com)(1-17-2003)
- Policy change will limit fans' access to garages UPDATE 2: For the first time in its history, NASCAR will severely restrict admission to the garage and pit-road areas. Only ''working'' personnel will be allowed in those areas during practice, qualifying and the race itself. Thousands of fans will be denied access under the new policy. Supposedly each race team will be issued 30 pit passes per race, and each track limited to 50 additional passes to be issued at its discretion. NASCAR will reserve an undetermined number of passes for distribution, and will continue to issue the annual ''hard-card'' credential to national media that cover a large number of events. Tracks can use their discretion in issuing additional media passes. Details of the new policy have not been finalized but a new policy would be in place for the 2003 season that severely curtailed the number of people admitted to the working garage area.(in part and paraphrased frpm the Tennessean)(1-2-2003)
UPDATE: hearing that NASCAR will install devices throughout the garage and pit area that flashes a yellow light. The light will come on precisely 30 minutes before practice, qualifying, and the race. At that point, security will begin making a sweep. The pits and garage then become "hot." You must have a hot pass to accompany your hard card or track-issued credential. This is a change because in the past hard cards were considered to always be "hot." No longer. Everyone all the way up to team owners have to pick up a "hot" pass each week to accompany their hard card. Each team will be given 30 passes (in addition to hard cards) per race.(1-6-2003)
UPDATE 2: Being told the lights will be red LED's not amber.(1-11-2003)
- No Autographs in the Garage Area? UPDATE Drivers in favor: NASCAR is considering a plan to prohibit drivers from signing autographs in the garage area at tracks to reduce fan congestion. NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said Wednesday the possible ban is part of the sanctioning body's ongoing effort to restore order in the garage. "We need to get the garage area back to where the guys can work on the cars," France said in an interview with The Associated Press. "So if we do this, when a fan asks a driver for an autograph, the driver will be able to say `NASCAR won't let me.' " A sport that has long prided itself on the level of access that fans have with the teams, NASCAR in recent years has seen an overcrowding that has led to numerous complaints from drivers and crews, as well as injuries among spectators. So France said he's proposed only allowing drivers to sign autographs in the area immediately around their hauler and organizing a period once a weekend where all 43 drivers would take turns sitting at a table to sign autographs in 10-minute increments. Punishment for signing autographs at any other time could be monetary - perhaps a $500 fine - although France said he preferred penalizing offending drivers by sending them to the back of the field at the start of the race. "Obviously, it would be a judgment call on when a driver would be punished for it, but we've got to do something because these guys can't even walk around anymore," he said. NASCAR plans to unveil the new rules for garage access later this month, France said. But its goal is to reduce the total number of individuals in the garage during competition by some 20 percent. Expected to be introduced this season will be special "hot" passes that will be given to team members, NASCAR officials and media that allow entrance into the garage while cars are on the track in practice, qualifying or the race. Without the pass, access to the garage won't be granted. The rule is likely to be enforced on pit road during the race, but not during practice and qualifying. Teams and sponsors will receive an allotted sum of passes each week, ending the near limitless supply they used to have.(Fort Worth Star Telegram/AP)(1-9-2003)
UPDATE: NASCAR drivers on Thursday supported a proposed effort to limit autographs in the garage area, stressing the importance of finding a way to clear up the current congestion. NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. has proposed outlawing autographs in the garage except for the areas immediately around a driver's hauler and in designated spots at specified times. "We've got to educate the drivers and the fans on what's appropriate and what is not appropriate," Jeff Burton said during testing at Daytona International Speedway. "There is no autograph etiquette, there is no proper understanding of what to do and when to do it and how to do it," he said. "I think to get an education process started, we've got to make some rules and just stick to them." France said Winston Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart both support his proposal, which would force the drivers to decline many autograph requests and blame it on the sanctioning body. NASCAR has always been fan friendly, giving the average spectator almost total access to its teams. But overcrowding in recent years has led to complaints from drivers and crews, as well as injuries among spectators. The sanctioning body plans to unveil new rules for garage access later this month, with a goal of reducing the number of people in the garage during competition by some 20 percent.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(1-10-2003)
- Restrictor Plate Track Weight Rules: NASCAR has implemented a new rule effective for the four superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega this season requiring the total rear weight of the right rear and the left rear to not exceed 50-percent of a car's minimum weight. For example, a car required to weigh 3400 pounds must not weigh more than 1700 pounds across the rear wheels. Winston Cup series director John Darby said Tuesday the rule was adapted to prevent teams from circumventing the rear shock and spring requirements at Daytona and Talladega. Darby said NASCAR did not want to allow teams to chance compromising the safety advantage in rear crushability.(ThatsRacin.com)(1-7-2003)