NASCAR To Revamp Much Of Officiating Process
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
During a press conference on Monday, NASCAR officials announced their future plans concerning the topics of crime and punishment. The upgraded methods in those areas will incorporate increased use of “emerging” technology and are, the officials said, aimed at “making the racing better” for teams and fans.
Attending the press conference/teleconference, which was held at the NASCAR Research and Development facility in Concord, N.C., were Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Operations; Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President, Competition; Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development.
“I think the vision for us as you look at the future is we want to position NASCAR ultimately for the future,” O’Donnell said. “The goal for us would be that as cars come off the manufacturing line in the near future, they certainly look like NASCAR from an esthetic standpoint when you look at those on track, but just as importantly the technology that’s in those cars mirrors what’s on track, as well, and we really become that proving ground from a technology standpoint.
“We want to be more nimble in what we do from a technology standpoint, be able to quickly react to the emerging technologies that are out there. And finally I think, and just as importantly, we want to be a proving ground. When you look at NASCAR we feel like no better sport is better positioned to really take technology, showcase it in front of some of the toughest conditions that exist in the world, and we think we’re poised to do that.
“These initiatives will be outlined and in place by the start of the 2015 season. Some of them you’ll see as early as 2014, but the majority you’ll see prior to the 2015 season.”
A press release accompanying the press conference said NASCAR has developed blueprints for 11 initiatives within the four key areas. They are:
· Move rule-making from Officiating to R&D / Innovation.
“We envision a world where the rules in the future makeup of the car shift over to Gene (Stefanyshyn),” O’Donnell said. “We’ve started that process. Obviously that’ll be a close working relationship with Robin and the competition folks. With that transition we’ll go from at track specifically, good cooperation and communication at track, but all of that will evolve and move over to Gene.
“And I think although it’s a bit of a culture change for NASCAR, when you look at the emergence of the Gen-6 car, we view that as a big success. We view that as the industry coming together, the teams and the OEMs collaborating with NASCAR with a long-term plan, so this just formalizes that process when you look at a Gen-7, Gen-8 and all the other potential technologies out there would come to be formalized under Gene and communicated at track obviously with some emerging trends we see at track.”
· Enhance effectiveness of appeals process by redefining process and appeals board member criteria.
“In the future we envision where the appeals process is clearly spelled out, where the people going into an appeal clearly understand what’s out there, what’s going to be discussed,” O’Donnell said. “And I think most importantly, the people that are on that appeals panel are industry experts, and I’d probably use our substance abuse policy as an example of that. If we had a case where we bring in people that are experts in that space to hear an appeal, that should apply today.
“I think we’ve put some people in some somewhat tough positions with the emerging technologies and the science behind all our parts and pieces in the car. We owe it to the industry to have industry experts sit in on that and make proper rulings in conjunction with a lot of the other things you’re going to hear today.”
· Simplify rulebook and increase objectivity by replacing written rules with CAD designs.
“The fundamental or foundational element of this,” Stefanyshyn said, “will be for us to migrate from a rule book which is largely text-based to one which will be math-based. When I say math-based, I mean they will be computer-aided design drawings or CAD drawings. I think this is absolutely critical. We know that all the OEMs, all the supply base, most manufacturers do have engineering drawings. Most of these are now in a math-based world. We need to migrate to that.
“The fundamental or foundational element of this will be for us to migrate from a rule book which is largely text-based to one which will be math-based. When I say math-based, I mean they will be computer-aided design drawings or CAD drawings.”
Access to the rulebook by fans is being considered.
· Enhance parts approval by formalizing submission and approval process.
“I think for us one of the things we’ve heard loud and clear from some of the teams is we want more transparency here, so we want to develop a process which is very transparent, structured so all the teams know where they play, how they play, how the decisions will be made, and we want to set up a regular cadence of meetings to be able to do this, and this will also include peer reviews,” Stefanyshyn said.
“We’re hoping what this will do, or we’re quite confident it will do, it will increase the level of communication, communication for everybody at the right time so they’re involved and they can see what’s happening. This increased communication will bring a level of everybody feels like they’re being treated fairly.”
· Increase consistency of rule interpretation across National Series.
Penalty / Deterrence
· Strengthen deterrence model to reduce inspection required to ensure competitive racing
“Our objective here is to make the race product better. Everything we’re doing is with that superordinate goal in mind,” Stefanyshyn said. “And those rules we think which are having people spend energy in non-value-added areas, we’d like to give them that time back to work on other things. So we want to remove the non-value-added activities, and we also want to provide assistance to those teams which are in multiple series.”
Officiating / Inspection
· Increase use of technology on pit road.
“As we go forward looking at what can the future be on pit road, we see an area where our fans can become much more engaged not only at the racetrack but viewing at home,” O’Donnell said.
“You look at the potential for all the data that comes out of those stops, what fans could potentially see at the track as they look at a pit stop with a number of our partners, when you look at HP, 3M, Whelen, you could envision some lights above each pit stall. You can envision some new technology that shows fans that exactly what’s happening during each stop. You could envision technology that allows us to communicate immediately real-time through apps at track or at home that enables fans to really be in the race and know exactly what’s happening during each pit stop.”
· Maintain rigor of inspection while creating greater efficiency in the entire process.
· Improve efficiency of process by creating race team inspection scheduling system.
· Enhance effectiveness of inspection through data collection and trend analysis.
“A lot of these changes that we’re going to put in play at the racetrack is in an effort to get the teams more practice time as it relates to their race setups,” Pemberson said, “and those and other benefits will be to have more flexible time if we get a rain delay or things like that, we’ll be able to get some of our practice time back. It’s in an effort to increase a lot of our practice time for the race setups.
We’ll also be looking at potential qualifying changes that will enhance that aspect for the fans moving forward.
“We’re going to create a data system at the racetrack to better keep informed of the trend and do trend analysis of our inspection process. It should lend us to be more efficient moving forward with the teams and with us as far as we get the data and process that.
“I just want to be clear, when we do some of these things, we are not going to inspect cars less; we are going to maintain a level playing field at all times. I think the teams have expected us to do that. Through the years we feel like it’s been fair and that teams expect us to keep law and order in the garage area.”
· Create unified inspecting and officiating model across National Series.
“Simply put,” Pemberton said, “the officials will be NASCAR officials. They will be no longer a Sprint Cup official, a Camping World Truck series official or a Nationwide official. We previously noted that we have similarities across all of our series, but they do have variables, and we think with the new technologies that are in place here at the R & D Center, the new technology that we will have in play at the racetracks, we will be able to move forward and inspect our cars properly with a common officiating staff.”One Comment