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France: NASCAR To Apply Brakes To Chase Change

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 26 2015

Brian France kicked off the annual NASCAR Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour on Monday by talking about change. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Touting NASCAR’s march towards innovation while balancing that with the cost and the benefits to the individual teams and to the sport, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said the rules for the cars would always evolve, but there would be no change this year to the Chase format.

“It (Chase format) is overwhelmingly popular with the most important stakeholder – our fans,” France said on the opening day of the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. “The research and data that we’ve gotten in over the winter not only suggests that, it determines that loud and clear. They liked the fact it tightened up competition. They liked the drama down the stretch. They liked the emphasis on winning. And one of the things that they told us they really liked is the idea that we weren’t going to change anything. They strongly suggested that we didn’t, and we’re not going to.”

It’s different, however, when it comes to developing the rules for the race cars. In fact, France noted that developing the rules package was the sanctioning body’s most difficult job because of balancing safety with cost and numerous ideas, agendas and opinions.

“We try not to do too many in-season tweaks to any rules package because of safety and cost,” France said. “(However) there is no final (rules package). It will always evolve. The reason for that is because the teams are always trying to gain an advantage. Our job is to make sure the playing field is level and more teams have a good shot at competing at a high level. Giving that it always changes, that means we have to change, too. Circumstances change. Tires change, tracks wear down differently and we change tracks from time-to-time. So there are even variables outside what the teams do that will always keep us looking ahead.”

France said NASCAR hoped to have its 2016 rules package ready for the teams in the spring and if that was accomplished, it would be an historic event for the sanctioning body.

When it comes to innovation, France said he wanted technology companies to view NASCAR as a “relevant place” to market their products.

“We want them to feel comfortable here,” France said. “Maybe that hasn’t always been the case. Now and into the future, that is very important for us.”

Perhaps NASCAR’s greatest technological advancement being instituted this year is on pit road. No longer will an official be assigned to each pit. Instead, approximately 46 cameras mounted atop an oval track’s grandstand will send video back to NASCAR’s pit road officiating trailer. Forty-three of the cameras are trained on pit road and each camera captures two pit boxes, thus providing backup capability. Computers analyze the video to make a call. That call is then reviewed by an official since extenuating circumstances may exist where the call would need to be overridden.

The penalty data will be sent to teams, NASCAR’s broadcast partners and fans.

This year also will be the first full season NASCAR officials will use tablets to digitally log inspection data at the track and at the sanctioning body’s research and development center. NASCAR Executive Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said that would allow the officials to follow trends and help develop rules as they move forward.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 26 2015
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