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Earnhardt Says Sharing Not A NASCAR Tradition

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 16 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says that sharing data with other teams and drivers rubs him the wrong way. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – A good argument can be made that the sport of NASCAR racing as we know it today was built on the backs of innovators.

The Sprint Cup Series started out as Strictly Stock, which meant that showroom cars were the vehicles of the day.

Now the Cup cars bear only a cosmetic resemblance to the showroom versions and many of those changes – good and bad – have occurred because some mechanic found a way to improve on what he or she initially was given to work with.

But in recent years, the rules for Cup cars, particularly since the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow, leave little room for innovation, which means all the cars are essentially all alike.

Now it’s looking like the latest new component – electronic fuel injection – is about to go down the same road as the Car of Tomorrow. Teams, it seems, will end up being able to receive the electronic data from competitors, meaning that if a team were to get an edge, it won’t get to keep it for long.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he’d like to see teams be able to keep their data to themselves.

“I’d rather not have that,” he said of the proposed sharing of information. “It would of benefit to be able to see that. But, I think it is a slippery slope.

“With the fuel injection, it brings in the ability this year to be able to see data that we’ve never been able to see before. I think we should ease into how we use that date, and how NASCAR allows us to use that data kind of slowly not to upset the culture of the sport, or how things have worked in the past.

“I think if we take this new door that has been opened to us and abuse it, it might not be good for the sport. I think it’s better for competition for everybody to have a few secrets.”

On the other hand, Jimmie Johnson seemed pretty pleased to have had a look at Tony Stewart’s EFI data from Las Vegas, where Stewart motored away from Johnson on several late-race restarts.

“I’ve got a clear direction of where to work,” Johnson said.

Opening the Sprint Cup drivers meeting at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to the public seems like a fan-friendly idea, but it looks like it’s really just another sign that the original purpose of the driver’s meeting has been lost over time.

Just a few years ago, drivers meetings were held in cramped quarters, with only a few NASCAR officials and the drivers and crew chiefs in attendance.

Then media and other guests were invited. It’s been quite a while since there was a true discussion in those meetings about how races were run and officiated.

“It hasn’t been for a long time a true drivers meeting in the true sense of the word,” Matt Kenseth said. “Nobody is going to raise their hand and ask a question in that environment, not anybody these days anyway.”

Kenseth said that if a driver has an issue today he tries to resolve it in a private meeting with NASCAR officials.

“It is different but it has been like that for a long time,” he said. “They have been letting more and more people in and I remember when we used to do it my first couple years in the series we did it in the scoring stand at Charlotte and you could barely get the drivers and crew chiefs in there.

“That is all it was. It was never a media event or fan event. It was a drivers meeting where there was a forum with discussions and stuff like that. We haven’t had that in a long time.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed with Kenseth, saying he had difficulty following the basic instructions given in the meeting last week at Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t see those video screens,” he said. “I really couldn’t pay attention to what was going on. So, the meeting to me didn’t serve its purpose.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 16 2012
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