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NASCAR Set To Announce Plans For Nationwide COT

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 1 2009
NASCAR is reportedly close to announcing future plans for the Nationwide Series. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

NASCAR is reportedly close to announcing future plans for the Nationwide Series. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Newton, Ia. – NASCAR is expected to notify Nationwide Series teams as soon as next week if the Car of Tomorrow will make its debut on that circuit at Talladega in April or the July race at Daytona next season.

Three days after gathering with Nationwide Series team owners at NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, N.C., series director Joe Balash sounded upbeat about the implementation of the Car of Tomorrow into NASCAR’s junior circuit in 2010.

“We thought it was a very good meeting with the team owners,” Balash said earlier today as Nationwide Series teams continued preparations for Saturday’s inaugural U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.

“We had already been out in the garage talking to the teams about different scenarios. One of the things we talked about was superspeedways and road courses. We got to our meeting and got a lot of great feedback from the owners.

“We‘re still evaluating the information we received at that meeting. We’ll probably have something out before Watkins Glen [next week] with what that rollout schedule is going to look like.”

Input from several team owners led NASCAR to delay a proposed Nationwide Series COT test at Talladega in October and push it back to early 2010.

“It was interesting to see that everybody seemed to have an equal voice in the room,” Balash said. “A lot of the larger owners kind of deferred to the needs of the rest of the owners that were at the meeting, as far as what we looked at for the plan to roll out the new Nationwide car.”

Retired Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace, who fields two cars in the Nationwide Series, was also pleased with the outcome of this week’s brainstorm.

“The meeting with NASCAR went really well,” Wallace said. “Basically, the consensus is it’s too soon to try to get the car ready for a Talladega test this year or to even race it at Daytona in [Feb.] 2010.

“But we decided that we’ve got to get it on the race track by the second Daytona next year. At least we’ve got a goal and know what direction we’re going in. That’s the goal right now.

“It was a give and take and when we left everybody seemed to be happy. They said nobody can get totally happy. But I didn’t see anybody unhappy.”

Balash said NASCAR will gradually phase the COT into competition so teams have ample time to implement the conversion cost into their budgets.

“A lot of the teams have started the process and bought chassis,” Balash said. “We’re always looking at the costs that are involved in the series with everything we do, whether we’re with the existing car or the new car.

“We understand that there’s going to be some costs involved converting from one car to the other. But I think spreading it over multiple seasons we’ve kind of lessened that burden over one season.”

Balash said a published report where NASCAR might limit Nationwide Series teams to eight chassis is still under consideration.

“That was a suggestion that came up as part of the meeting,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate that with the rest of the information we saw.”

Former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, now a car owner and driver in the Nationwide Series, admitted that the conversion will be a drain on his organization. But he’s willing to try and make it work.

“It will be an extreme hardship,” he said. “As (Joe Gibbs Racing team president) J.D. Gibbs said, teams like their’s can react to whatever NASCAR would implement. Obviously, a team like ours needs time in the offseason to prepare simply because during the week of the races when we leave the shop, we have no one left at the shop to work

“Whatever obstacle is given to us, we’ll have to respond in whatever way we can at that point in time and properly try to position ourselves where we can be ready with at least one effort or two to see if we can get a ticket to the dance.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 1 2009
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