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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 22, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We're going to start with an update on the 2007 Drive For Diversity class, and then we're going to have an update on the Car of Tomorrow, and finally an announcement, a much anticipated announcement, I hope, regarding the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Following the three presentations that we're going to have, we'll have a general Q & A, a general question and answer. There will be people out in the audience with a mike and I'll tell you about that when we get there.
And then we're also going to have three separate opportunities at separate stations, one over here and two over on the far end, as well as demonstrations on chassis certification, which will be sort of around the corner here.
So to get the program underway, please welcome managing director of public affairs for NASCAR, Marcus Jadotte.
MARCUS JADOTTE: Good afternoon. The drive for diversity program is entering its fourth season as NASCAR's leading on-track diversity initiative. The program, managed by Access Marketing and Communications, gives minority and female drivers an opportunity to compete in NASCAR's developmental series.
Malcolm Calhoun, vice president and general manager of Access Marketing, and Guy Morgan, are here with us today from the program. Thank you, guys, for being here.
In 2006, eight drivers combined to give the Drive For Diversity program 11 wins and nine poles. It was the program's most successful year to date on track. The drive for diversity class of 2006 also totaled 36 Top 5 finishes and 68 Top 10 finishes in 119 events.
In addition, D For D driver Pete Hernandez was honored as NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Diversity Driver of the Year for his success at Stockton 99 Speedway. Pete tallied three wins, ten Top 5s in 18 races, including a victory in the final feature at that historic track, closing the place out in style.
One of the best stories of 2006 was that of Mark Davis, who's also in the audience with us today. Mark put together an incredible season. As a 15-year-old, he began the 2006 series in limited Late Models at Hickory. He won six of 16 starts there and then moved on to Late Models for the remainder of the season. Mark didn't disappoint at that level, either. He went on to finish the season with 17 Top 5s and 20 Top 10 finishes.
Mark has advanced from the program after signing a long-term contract with Gibbs Racing and will be in the Grand National Division in 2007.
Mark Davis epitomizes what the D For D program is all about. The goal is to continue to identify young talented drivers like Mark and to allow them to compete for an opportunity to showcase their skills to NASCAR teams and fans.
Providing those opportunities for drivers is how we define success in the program. Congratulations, Mark. We look forward to seeing you grow in the future.
The Drive For Diversity program has grown in each of its first three years. In 2007 will be no exception. For the first time in the program's young history, several D For D teams will compete in the NASCAR Grand National Division, as well as a Whelen All-American series. It's a natural progression that will help young drivers develop their talent and climb the NASCAR ladder system.
Before I introduce the 2007 class, I'd like to recognize the sponsors who have been critical to the program's success. They are Sunoco, Goodyear, Kodak, Sony, Craftsman, Checkers/Rally's and Domino's. I'd also like to recognize the team owners who have made a commitment to the program in 2007, Richard Childress, Armando Fitz, Jay Frye, Sean Holly, Bill McAnally, Joe Nava and Jeff Spraker.
Now the 2007 Drive For Diversity class. The first driver is Chris Bristol from Columbus, Ohio. Chris is entering his second year in the program after spending two years with the Joe Gibbs/Reggie White development program. In 2005 Chris made history when he became the first African-American driver to win at Hickory in the speedway's 55-year history. Chris is driving in the Grand National series this season for Fitz Motorsports.
Next is Michael Gallegos of Woodridge, Colorado. Mike is entering his third year in the program. In 2006 Michael earned a pole position at Carraway Speedway, the first in the program's history. Last year he finished 7th in the NASCAR Auto Zone Division Midwest series point standings. Mike will be driving in the NASCAR Grand National Division West series for Performance Motorsports.
Next up is Paul Harraka from Fairlawn, New Jersey. Paulie is entering his second year in the program. He is a 13-time Go-Kart national champion. Last year Paul teamed with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Ricky Rudd to win the Robopong 200 at New Castle Motorsports Park. Paulie will be driving in the NASCAR Whelen All-American series for Bill McAnally Racing.
Next up is Jessica Helberg of Rohnert Park, California. Jessica is entering her second year in the program. She was the first female driver to win an Open Outlaw Division main event at Silver Dollar Speedway and was named the track's Rookie of the Year in 2003. Jessica will be driving in the NASCAR Whelen All-American series for Richard Childress Racing and Bill McAnally Racing.
Next up is Jesus Hernandez from Fresno, California. Jesus is entering his third year in the program. He had two wins in three poles at Hickory last year. Jesus will drive in the NASCAR Grand National series Busch East for Ginn Racing.
Next we have Pete Hernandez from Blue Island, Illinois. Pete won three races and had ten Top 5 finishes at Stockton 99 last year. Pete will drive in the NASCAR Whelen All-American series for Spraker Racing.
Next up is Lloyd Mack of Los Angeles, California. Lloyd is a two-time national Go-Karting champion and a World Karting Association champion. Lloyd will drive in the NASCAR Grand National Division West series for Starr Motorsports.
Ladies and gentlemen, our class for 2007.
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome our president, Mike Helton.
MIKE HELTON: Thank you, Jim. From the outset nearly seven years ago from Gary Nelson began the Car of Tomorrow project for NASCAR, it was a safety initiative, and because of that, we've been very detailed along the way, very methodical, and have taken no shortcuts. And as we incorporate the Car of Tomorrow into the NEXTEL Cup Series this season, we expect that car to be safer. But we also expect it to produce the close competitive races that NASCAR fans have come to expect, and we also know that it'll help control car owner costs in the long haul. All of us at NASCAR are very proud of the effort that the R & D team here has accomplished in this particular project.
At the moment our vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, and NASCAR's director of cost research, Brett Bodine, will revisit some of the specifics about the Car of Tomorrow with you, and also our managing director of research and development Mike Fisher will be available after the press conference to show you those of you that would like to see the chassis certification area in the bay behind the stage here.
I'd also like to recognize NASCAR NEXTEL Cup technical director Steve Peterson, whose safety efforts on behalf of NASCAR and the industry go back well before even the start of the Car of Tomorrow project, and we're proud that Steve was recently awarded the SAE, the Society of Automobile Engineers Motorsports Achievement Award recently, and Steve will be available during the breakout session after the press conference.
With that and to move things along, I'll give you Robin Pemberton.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Thanks, Mike. A year ago at this same venue NASCAR announced its schedule for the Car of Tomorrow project. During this time we have received considerable input from manufacturers, teams, drivers and other experts in the industry. Over the past year, we have tested in the wind tunnel and have had track tests at Daytona, Bristol, Martinsville, Lowe's, Michigan and Talladega Superspeedway. Along the way, we have learned a lot, and we have been able to take what we have learned and implement those ideas into the final design of the car.
There has been much written and said about the Car of Tomorrow over the past year. Change has a way of creating a great deal of discussion, and that's healthy for our industry. I'm personally very proud of what this team has accomplished along with the help of race teams and manufacturers.
Our goal today is to provide you with the latest information on the Car of Tomorrow and clear up any misconceptions you may have. The latest update to provide you with is the chassis certification process that has been underway here at the research and development center since late last year.
With the standardization of the Car of Tomorrow chassis, NASCAR has been able to implement a new and more defined certification process that can reduce the need for track-specific race cars. Last year NASCAR provided teams and chassis manufacturers with blueprints to build their Car of Tomorrow chassis. Once their chassis were completed, they submitted them to NASCAR for certification here at the R & D center.
There are two parts of this certification process. Part one, a thickness gauge certifies that all metal thicknesses are compliant to NASCAR specifications; and part two, a coordinate measuring machine certifies the proper location of frame rails, chassis tubes and suspension points.
Between these two devices more than 220 measurements are taken. Once a chassis passes both inspection processes, NASCAR fixes nine radio frequency identification RFID chips onto the chassis. These nine location points ensure that the chassis has been officially approved by NASCAR.
All of this information gathered during this certification process is entered into a database by NASCAR officials. This information will be available at the track and at the R & D center.
When the car gets to the racetrack, NASCAR's inspection team will verify the authenticity of the chassis by scanning the RFID chips. Each of you will have an opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at this process a little later this afternoon by Mike Fisher.
With input from our four manufacturers on the location of the front air intake, the Car of Tomorrow provides manufacturers with a greater branding opportunity. The Chevrolet Impala SS, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion and the Toyota Camry Car of Tomorrow models all feature their own unique look and identity. From the very beginning the Car of Tomorrow has been all about safety. Building a safer race car is the number one reason this project was started, and NASCAR believes that we have accomplished that.
Along the way, we have also discovered some of the unique features that will enhance competition and give teams an opportunity to be more cost efficient. To bring you up to date on these items, the person who was the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver to wear a HANS device and he has been heavily involved in the sport's safety initiatives as a driver and a team owner, director of cost research, Brett Bodine.
BRETT BODINE: Thank you, Robin. Undoubtedly, the Car of Tomorrow is a safer race car, and here's why. First, we have expanded and strengthened the roll cage by building a double frame rail on the driver's side with steel plating on the outside of the roll cage door bars to help prevent intrusion during car-to-car or car-to-wall impact. Dimensionally the greenhouse is two and a half inches taller and four inches wider with another one inch in width achieved by widening the tread width of the car on the left side. All of this provides for a safer and roomier driver's compartment.
Through extensive testing and research, we've shared technology with a new partner, Dow Automotive, to develop an energy management material that is installed between the roll cage door bars and door panels to attenuate the energy upon impact. This video clip demonstrates how this energy management material works. Let's see that one more time. Carefully watch as the material absorbs the impact.
The relocation of the driver is another key safety feature. The driver has been moved to the right of the current location closer to the center of the car and further away from effects of a left-side impact. While safety has been the primary reason for the Car of Tomorrow project, over the past year by working closely with the manufacturers and teams, NASCAR has discovered some unique, adjustable aerodynamic features that tested in the wind tunnel and tested on the track have documented as having the capability of enhancing competition and performance on race day.
The first of these adjustable elements is the rear wing. For years teams have been working to get proper downforce and aerodynamic balance with their cars. As we continued our development of the Car of Tomorrow design, we discovered the rear wing would provide teams with an adjustable aerodynamic feature that would also reduce the turbulent air behind the car. Also with the introduction of NASCAR's patent pending side force generating end plates, the teams are able to tune the amount of side force in their cars.
The combination of the adjustable wing and end plates have proven to be a major aerodynamic component of this car. This tuneability can mean a lot of different things to the teams. The rear wing provides teams with flexibility in tuning their cars for different tracks and tuning their car to fit different needs of their drivers.
Come by the Car of Tomorrow media station following this presentation. We'll be glad to go over for you the different adjustments and combinations that teams can make with the rear wing.
The second of these adjustable aerodynamic pieces is the front splitter. The front splitter through its adjustable range of four to six inches in length provide the teams with another element to achieve the aerodynamic balance that their setup, their driver or the racetrack's changing conditions might call for. With the adjustable front splitter and rear wing, along with a more defined body and chassis inspection process, teams will not need to build specific race cars but will still provide their drivers with a competitive race car.
This in turn should be more cost effective for our teams and provide very competitive racing for our fans to enjoy.
The Car of Tomorrow ushers in a new era for NASCAR, focusing on safety. It also has resulted in a development of a race car that places the emphasis on the true heroes in our sport, the drivers. We look forward to visiting with you later this afternoon. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Brett. Please welcome NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thank you, Jim. Before I get started, I wanted to remember a couple of people we lost in the last few weeks that are very meaningful to the NASCAR community. One is Bobby Hamilton, Sr., and of course Benny Parsons last week, and our prayers go out to the families today.
With that, I want to start out by letting you know or reminding you that many of you in the room and I talked about the subject of the Chase back in July at Daytona. What I told you then, we were midway through our third year, and that at the end of the third year we were going to look at all the options we think can make the Chase even better.
One of the things I mentioned to you is the Chase in our view then and now worked and did the things that we wanted to do. If you remember, we didn't have a post season before the Chase, didn't have a regular season for that matter. We didn't have the close finishes in terms of more drivers going down to the end with a real opportunity to win the championship, didn't create the magic moments in sports that you really want to be able to create by having those situations where everybody is so competitive racing for the title.
So we believe the Chase accomplished the original goals, made racing more competitive, made every race at the front end of the season, where in the post season the final ten races mean more, and it created more excitement.
So there's no question about it that we think the format was very successful. But like anything else, we wanted to give it a little time and look and see if there were things that we could do to enhance it a little bit more. And the key issue for us, it remains today, is this intersection, as I call it, between winning and consistency.
You see, in our sport -- let me just say one thing. I don't like and no one likes when a driver gets out of their car and says I'm happy to have had an eighth place finish. No one in NASCAR thinks that's a neat thing to hear.
On the other hand, there are 43 teams that compete on the same field at the same time and we only have one winner. So when you went eighth, you beat 30 other drivers on a given weekend. So obviously our sport is different.
With that in mind, we want to make sure that the balance is right. In our view, the balance is slightly not where we want it to be. We want to enhance and emphasize winning even more. And with that we're going to make two important changes. I'm going to walk you through both changes right now.
One is the point system itself. We're going to add an additional five points per win, which raises the total from 180 to 185 points per race. Remember, three years ago, we also added five points, so that's ten points in three years if you look at it over the last several.
Five bonus points can still be earned for leading a lap, so race winners can earn a total of 190 points. A driver if he does everything right, wins the race, leads the most laps, he can walk away with 195 points.
I want you to know, though, that we did study a number of different scenarios. We looked real hard and we took a lot of suggestions. We looked at ten points, 25 points, 50 points. We looked at what that might do.
What we found is that back to that intersection and how delicate it is between the balance between winning and consistency and how clear we've got to be and careful we have to be to get that just right. So we believe adding an additional five points strikes the best balance between winning and consistency.
But only if you go a little further in our view with the format itself does it really pay an additional dividend. Again, under the previous system -- I'll go through this one more time real quick, the maximum number of points a race winner could earn was 190 points. Today race winners earn 185 points for a win, plus an additional five points for leading at least one lap. The additional five points can be earned for leading the most laps, bringing that total, again, to 195 points.
Now, like I said, the five points is one thing or the ten points if you want to look at it over the last few years, but back to putting the emphasis more on winning, we also wanted to go a step further in the format of the Chase. We're going to do two important things here. First, we're eliminating the 400-point cutoff. Now the top 12 drivers will qualify for the Chase. That's our wild card provision that didn't come into play frankly in the last three years anyway, but we think the fields are deep enough and we think this will enhance the competitive environment.
It does what we really wanted to do. It provides a driver who gets hot late in the year who may not quite be in the Top 10 -- let's take Tony Stewart, who just missed the Chase, got hot late in the year, he obviously would be very affected under this new format.
Second, it maintains competition tore the drivers trying to stay in the Top 10. You see, when we go to New York, we'll only, as always, have the Top 10 on the stage. So two people who qualify for the Chase may very well miss the New York awards ceremony and that important status of being in the Top 10. We think going into Homestead that can give us two things for drivers and fans to get excited about, the championship and staying on the stage.
All 12 Chase drivers will have their points totals reset at 5,000 points after Richmond, the 26th race. Chase drivers -- here's our second change in the format. Chase drivers will then be awarded a ten-point bonus for each win during the regular season. So drivers now will be seeded for the Chase based on the total number of points that they've earned, and seeding automatically rewards the drivers with the most wins, and I'm going to walk you through that.
The chart on the left shows the actual standings going into the Chase last year. Under the adjusted system, all drivers have their points system totaled to 5,000 points, then we'll add those ten points per win for the regular season.
Now, look at the column on the right. Casey Kahne would have received an additional 15 points as a result of his five regular season victories, seeding him first in the Chase. Both Kenseth and Johnson had four wins in the regular season. But Matt would have been seeded second because he had three second place finishes compared to Jimmie's two second place finishes. That's important because we want every lap to count more. We want every finish, every position to mean more, and we think this is one step in going there, getting there.
Kevin Harvick had three regular-season wins and we would adjust his total to 5030, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, all had two regular-season wins all 5020, seeding them fifth, sixth, seventh place respectively. Likewise Kyle Busch, Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, each had one regular-season win, would seed them eighth, ninth, tenth positions respectively.
Mark Martin and Jeff Burton without any regular season wins would start the Chase with 5,000 points and be seeded 11th and 12th.
You can see that one of the little things or big things, they all go to one area, it's trying to make winning the more important focus and the more important. We're really excited about the changes today because while they may not be radical changes, they are symbolic, and they are not only symbolic, we think they are going to achieve our goals and the new system strikes what we are trying to do, arrive at that intersection with a perfect balance between winning and consistency. I know it's going to provide better competition.
Before wrapping things up, let me say that, and you've heard me say this before, that change is important. No one knows more than me or believes in change more than me and I think -- you've heard me say this before. I think you make changes when you have momentum, when you have wind at your back, and this sport has momentum.
We're in a very strong position we are still the number two sport on television. Promoters continue to enjoy great ticket sales throughout the year, and I know 2007 with all of the things that are going on that are to make for an exciting season: The entry of Toyota, the Car of Tomorrow; which you've heard so much about today; racing in Montreal, we're going to get a chance to satisfy our fan base in Canada; welcoming Sirius satellite radio into the family; and welcoming an old friend back in ESPN who helped broadcast the early races with NASCAR when they were just getting started in the '80s.
We are excited about the changes and we are excited about where we are at, and we know the Daytona 500 is just around the corner. So with that, thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: I'm going to ask some other folks to join Brian up on stage here: Mike, Robin, Brett, John Darby, Marcus, we're going to start our Q&A session, and I'd like for you what we'll do is we have three folks with microphones, Josh, Jake and Owen. Hold up your microphones, everybody, oh, they have little paddles, 1, 2 and 3.
So what we are going to do is if you'll hold your hand up, when you're recognized, if you will give your name and your affiliation, we would appreciate it. And we're going to go 20 or 25 minutes, and then we'll break out into individual groups. Let's start over here with an easy question.
Q. This is for Brian. Now that the coming of Toyota is at hand, sort of the reformat, what's been a lingering question, what do you say now that Toyota is here to the traditionalists, NASCAR fans and community who still want to go back and say, wait a minute, this is Detroit-based American manufactured sport, and also can you restate the positives of having a national manufacturer in NASCAR?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I would say a couple of things. I think we've had a long look at it of course, how they have competed in the Truck Series. And the key question is: Are they additive to the competition balance. In other words, are they helping teams? Are they in their research and development making the competitive product that we have attract better? And I think the answer to that is clearly yes.
The other question is: Do they fit the necessary car approach? We do things from a competition standpoint much differently than anybody in the world for good or for bad, and are they willing to look at how we approach things and conform to that, and they have.
So we are very pleased with everything Toyota has done. They have associated with a number of good things and that will serve the sport well. The international manufacturers, sure, they are a company on the move and making a cars and trucks in the U.S. and around the world, so we are happy to have a company such as Toyota in the sport.
Q. Brian, you have a zeal for taking the sport and exposing it to people who have not followed racing in the past. Now, in many pre-race shows and radio broadcasts, there's an overt political message. Is there a place in NASCAR for fans who are just -- who think abortion should be legal, and is it possible for politics to get in the way of business?
BRIAN FRANCE: You know, all I know is for us to stay on our goals, and that's being more accessible to the people who want to come in and watch NASCAR, such a fun sport, have the best product in the world on the race track, so there's room for everybody. This is not a political campaign. We are a sport.
And I've said this and I really believe it, for us to grow, not any given month or year, but down the road over a long period of time, we happen to have -- we have to get diversity right. We have to get a lot of things -- we have to constantly be appealing to everyone in America. We're an American sport and we should have -- appeal to everyone who wants to enjoy big-time auto racing.
Q. By adding two extra drivers to the Chase, are you concerned that you might water down the field a little bit, and do you think it might be confusing to try to explain such a format to casual fans you are trying to attract to the sport?
BRIAN FRANCE: Quite the contrary, I think it's easier, there's no 400-point formula, who is close to the 11th place spot. I think it simplifies that.
In respect to the first part of that question, when I was growing up, years ago, if you had 20 or 25 fully-funded, well-conditioned teams ready to race for the championship, that would be considered a stacked field. We're going into the Daytona 500 with as many as 40-plus teams fully-funded, looking to race the whole season and compete for the championship.
This is a very different time and a very deep field and we are going to have 12 -- I'm all of the confidence in the world it will be additive to what we are doing. Look at the last couple of years and the people who did not make the Chase; they are all deserving drivers. I think the 12 simplifies it, gives us a true wild card in the two, and gives us the other element that I thought, which is you go into the finale at Miami, knowing that they want to get on the stage, rather prestigious in our sport to do that, what the money is, and I think it will be additive and we are looking forward to it.
Q. Do you still get a million bucks for finishing 11th?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's going to be straight-up; you make it or you don't, no bonuses in that respect.
Q. One of the larger criticisms with the Chase three years ago was it sort of took away from what the leader did in the first 26 races, didn't even seem to enhance that even further; and secondly, what, if any, consideration was given to a bonus for finishing first after the first 26 races?
BRIAN FRANCE: We looked at a lot of things. We wanted to make winning more important; we have done that. There's going to be some people that say we didn't go far enough and we should, you know, do this or do that. They are fair points because you know, unless you're looking at it the way we are, which is as balance of all 36 races to mean a lot, every lap to mean a lot; and at the same time, make winning a given race important. With all of that, and you look at the economics of all that, too, how that has to play out with well-funned teams, we think we've struck the right balance.
Q. I have three questions. Number one, how were the drivers introduced here chosen? And question number two concerning the Car of Tomorrow, is there any plan to include technology in Europe very popular among the racing in LeMans? And number three, concerning the points, a little bit confusing concerning the bonus points, the driver who has the most laps getting the same points as the driver who wins, why is that?
MIKE HELTON: The drivers who are introduced today were selected from part of a pool of drivers who applied for permits, about 500 applied last fall. That group was vetted through by access marketing and a resume committee that reduced that number by 20.
Those 20 drivers were then invited to test at south Boston in late October of last year, and they run a test in front of team owners and the owners then selected the drivers that they felt showed the most promise.
SPEAKER: The Car of Tomorrow technology, even though we have developed a total car for the NEXTEL Cup series, along the way it was safety initiatives that we're taking: The SAFER barriers, energy-absorbing materials in the cars, and HANS device, seats, things of that nature, all of those things that we learn here in the R&D center are going into our other series, not just the three national series, but the Busch East and Busch West, things of that nature.
So it's a total tear-up of the chassis as far as the Cup series goes. But the thing we have learned in the R&D center we are implementing those ideas to the other series.
SPEAKER: In regards to your question about the five plus five, for a good length of time in NASCAR points standings, every driver who led a lap would get five bonus points. And then whoever led the most laps in a race would get an additional five bonus points.
Obviously if you win the race, you have to lead a lap, the last one so the winner is always going to get the five bonus points for leading a lap, but the winner could also get five bonus, doesn't necessarily work this way but could get five bonus points for leading the most laps in a race.
Q. Robin or Brett, there's a lot of talk among the teams, some teams are much further along than others on the Car of Tomorrow, is there any concern that it is going to be a big gap when you get to Bristol with some teams really ready to go with the new car and some teams not?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, I don't anticipate a big gap amongst our teams. We've certified over 120 chassis through the R&D center and there's a lot of race cars out there that are being built for the Bristol test.
With that test, the teams that maybe didn't participate in last year's testing or in the development of the Car of Tomorrow throughout the project, they will be able to get their cars on the racetrack and get their drivers accustomed to driving their cars.
Q. For Brett, we know there have been 120 chassis, what is the template situation? Where are the teams on bodies of the cars and that part of the process? And one for Brian, the balance you talk about, was there ever any consideration to see if we let the balance get more toward winning for a while?
BRETT BODINE: The template inspection is also a huge portion of the Car of Tomorrow program. Realistically, the teams have had the teammates more multiple months now so that we have been able to construct body configurations within the new tolerances that surround the Car of Tomorrow.
Typically, annually, we sit down with all of our teams, actually in this building here, and we'll review the entire inspection process, which with the development of the Car of Tomorrow, the lack of change on the current cars going into 2007, we're just now approaching that, probably be here before we go to Daytona.
BRIAN FRANCE: And David, we did look at enhancing the win even more. We think the seeding is important, how we've gone about it.
But you have to remember, there's a lot of incentive now to win and there's plenty of incentive to win. Number one, there's more money, more prestige, there's more everything when you win. Secondly, you have to have that right balance. Winning the championship needs to be front and center, as well and winning a race needs to be there, obviously very important.
So the question is, do you have it right. What we don't want to do is do something radical where we go off in one area too far and not get the benefits that we are trying to get by adding the proportioned amount of winning in the first place. That would be the worst thing we could do in our view because we have a good system. I said on the podium, we don't do it because of lack of momentum or any lack of anything; it's because we do have momentum that does allow us to make the changes, and we think these are the kinds of thought-out changes that make sense.
Q. Back in November, you gave an interview and I believe it was during Texas race weekend where you said, I think the quote was: "We're set at ten races, ten drivers." I was just wondering, you appeared to be pretty set on that at that point. What happened that changed to you opening up to expanding the field?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we had a vision that we would have more than ten. We thought the wild card or 400-point position would come into play and it did not. In my view, I'm not sure we added teams in one respect because we already had the provision with the 400 points.
But let me say this about all of that, too. The seeding idea we think actually is a very clever way to, once again, talk about winning, put more emphasis on winning. We think the seeding idea, that idea came to me in mid-December, driving on my way to have lunch and I get a phone call, that's how free-flowing our company is, of ways that we can improve something we're working on.
So until we get all of the way through the process, with anything that we are thinking of, there will always be some room in my view to make smart decisions.
Q. Robin, two things about the Car of Tomorrow, do you anticipate a need to tether the rear wing for safety reasons, and with the front end splitter, if there's damage to that during the race, can teams replace that entire unit or positions or how is that going to work?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes, teams can replace the damaged part during the race just like now; you see cars knock the nose off, they can go and fix it. The tether on the wing, it's the same material that we use to tether all of other parts and pieces throughout the car. We have tethers on the front suspension, points trailing arms, rear deck leg, things of that nature.
It's something that's been in use for a number of years now and we continue to do it and add to the parts and pieces that you see, but the wing is not going anywhere.
SPEAKER: On the tether, if you get a chance before you leave here, if you look at the cars that the manufacturers had presented, you can see the tether is built into the wing and then runs out, and it is secured on to the deck and everything so that was a critical part. But the tether is actually built into the wing, constructed into the wing.
SPEAKER: If you stop over, we'll disassemble the wing over there. We have end plates on it and you can see how it's attached to the wing. There's two tethers and they go from opposite ends to crisscross in the middle of the wing.
Q. Brian, I'm wondering as you have more teams that are fully-funded if you will consider at some point expanding the field beyond 43 cars?
BRIAN FRANCE: Not something we've even discussed internally. We have obviously extended the amount of cars over the years, not in recent memory, but it wouldn't be possible on some short tracks frankly the way things are situated.
No, haven't given that any serious consideration yet.
Q. Back to the points Chase. The biggest thing we hear is making the fans obviously and with the fans comes everything else. If a driver finishes in 10th place but wins seven races during the year on race 27 -- how is are it the fans going to take it going from 10th to first and doesn't have to drive to get there?
BRIAN FRANCE: That's the balance we're talking about. Some are going to think we went too far and some are going to think we didn't go far enough. We try to think we got it just right. Our answer is, we think it puts more emphasis on winning.
The first year, no question about it. Wins are going to mean a lot more than they used to mean early on. And Kasey Kahne who limped in and had a 50-point deficit going into in the old format would have leaped ahead. That might have changed how he looked at running the entire Chase, by the way, who knows. If he had a point cushion and that kind of thing, those are the kind of -- this is the kind of intersections we look at all the time; that we get this just right, hope we did, we think we did, but that's the balancing act that we are going forward with.
Q. There have been some drivers that have said if you guys would give equal points from 30th on back, let's say that it would make for a much safer race because people wouldn't come back out with a damaged race car. Have y'all considered that?
MIKE HELTON: Yeah, we have and we have for some point in time. The question is, what's the magic number, is it 25, 32, 40? I don't know what that magic number to pick to start with. The argument about the race being safer, I don't buy that. The fact of the matter is that there's always a good deal of competition, whether you're 40th or 20th in our races.
And the balance that we've got that Brian has spoke to several times today about the championship and how valuable that championship is, by design, and it is by design because whether it's a race here at Lowe's Motor Speedway or Richmond, Virginia or Infineon or San Francisco or Fontana California, the fans, the promoter, the TV audience, the industry expects the same caliber of participation at each one of those locations for 36 times a year every time we go to a racetrack.
So that's why the championship and the balance that Brian keeps talking about is so critical to maintain the reward for consistency. So I don't think that consistency rewards 25th or 30th. I think when we have 43-cars fields and so many cars finishing races, that consistency reward goes all the way to 43rd.
Q. Brian, you made a couple of references to the fact that the 400-point situation didn't come into play. Is that an indication that those teams didn't deserve to be in it, and where did you guys arrive with the number 12, as opposed to 13 or 14 or 11 which you were looking at before?
BRIAN FRANCE: The answer is, you're right, because it didn't achieve -- they didn't get within the margins -- but you're right, that doesn't change the benefit we are looking for, which is we want a wild card because we want a couple of drivers who know they are not in the top between but 11th, 12th, very close. Normally it works out in our looking back historically is those are drivers that are trying to get in the Top-10, and they are surging at the end, just about every year there is some version of that. We want to capture that surge, give that driver an opportunity.
And then back to your other question, 12 or more, that's a subjective number. We think we've arrived at a number that makes sense, that might have been a little too radical in our view. If you're going to make radical decisions, you either have to make them because you're forced to, which obviously we're not, or second, you have to be 1,000 percent certain that you're going to be successful or very, very close, very, very high percentage so. When you think about radical things, there are a bunch of proposals out there that we've heard, some more radical than others. We've got to have something that hits on what Mike said, making all of these races -- going off on a little bit of a tangent.
If you had too much on the win, let just talk about this for a second because we're going to be talking about it after we're done here. To Mike's point, if somebody got on a win streak early, Mike said, well, I'm going to take off the next four races, I've got enough points to do that, I can get in the Chase automatically or any of the other proposals we have seen, how would you feel if you're a fan, wanting to see that driver July, August, going into September, you wouldn't feel very good about that. So those are the kind of situations we're looking at when we make all of the decisions on the Chase or frankly any other decision we might have to make.
Q. When we went through three years ago and came up with the Chase, it seemed very awkward and confusing, how we got the message out to the fans, how do they understand it, it seems like it's going to take a little discussion to get by?
BRIAN FRANCE: Hopefully we have made it more simple to understand. Points has never been an easy thing for everybody to tabulate as you go along and try to sort out. Now it's 12. I think wins and the first 26 go to your seeding, that's consistent with about every other sport. Whether it's in the NCAA basketball tournament, NBA, any sport, you'll see wins typically have you seeded as you go into the post-season. So we think it's consistent. We think it's consistent, we think it's simplified versus the old system and we think it's the right way to go.
Q. Robin or Brett, comment on Kurt Busch's 120-mile-an-hour lap at Daytona with the Car of Tomorrow, and do you see a time where you might mandate wing angle?
SPEAKER: The wind angle at Daytona, Talladega will have a mandate. More than likely it will be zero. The 191-mile-an-hour speed, it was a flyer lap, it was in testing. We are working with the teams to develop what restrictor plate we will need to use at those race tracks and the gearing and things of that nature. Probably it drove very well, we wanted the teams in testing to probably run a lot quicker by themselves than what we would ordinarily allow to happen to get them used to the car and get them comfortable with it and be assured it will handle good.
So we will work through those processes through the summer when it comes time for Talladega.
Q. How willing are to you let these changes to the Chase last three years like you let the original Chase last, and how might the TV ratings after last year's dip affect what you might do with this Chase in the future?
BRIAN FRANCE: TV ratings, they are going to go up and down on cycles. We look at TV ratings with a longer view so that won't have any effect on anything we would do. If we could enhance competition, we are going to try to do that. You can see that we have made we think some good steps but they are careful steps and we'll take a look and see how they go. We have no timetable, you have to go obviously a year or two to get to the -- but we'll all say that it has some of the impact and benefit that we want and we'll see that as we go down the road.
Q. Can you talk about as the fans start to debate on this, when you decided the change had to be made and the process you all used to make the decision?
BRIAN FRANCE: It works like this, and I call out an initiative that I want us to study and look at and I'll appoint a couple of people that will be in charge.
But we actually have a whole lot of people, 12 or 15 or maybe even more that will be involved, and I chair the meetings as we go along through the process. Then we take a lot of outside views. We'll call track operators, or they will call us or we'll talk to drivers, fans. We listen to lots of the talk shows and read lots of things that are going on, so our view is, no idea should make it into the room for us to look at.
And then we'll run the models every way we can trying to come up with the perfect balance as we've said all day here to get the right outcome and have -- I think typically that process gets the best result for us and that's how we did this and that's how we have done the Car of Tomorrow or anything else that NASCAR looks at.
THE MODERATOR: Here is what we are going to do. We've got about 40 minutes to do one-on-ones, and we're going to move people over to the various stations so the one-on-ones can be conducted at these variations stations. The diversity is over here to your left. Car of Tomorrow is going to be over here towards the door, and Mike Helton and Brian France are going to be back to my left, over here to your right.
End of FastScripts