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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 27, 2009
JIM HUNTER: Good afternoon, everyone. In regards to Sunday's late race incident at Talladega Super Speedway, it's extremely unfortunate that a few fans suffered minor injuries. No one wants anyone to get hurt while attending one of our events and our thoughts are with each of the fans injured this weekend.
Safety is, and always will be, NASCAR's No. 1 priority, and we are glad that each of the safety devices at Talladega yesterday worked properly, including the roof flaps and the catch fence. As most of you know, we are constantly evaluating safety initiatives. It's something we do every day we are at the racetrack, and it's something we do every day at the R&D center.
We tried letting the competitors police themselves when it comes to blocking and bump drafting. After reviewing all of those procedures, we might have to start making some judgment calls of our own and penalize, issue penalties for drivers who blatantly block and abuse the bump drafting.
We are going to take whatever measures we need to in order to ensure the races are as safe as possible for everyone.
And with that, we'll open it up for questions. We've got our vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton with us, and we have got our Sprint Cup Series director John Darby with us. Thank you.
Q. I guess this would probably be for Robin. From what Jim is saying, does that mean you attribute the accident on the last lap to blocking, and if so, what types of penalties would you be considering? Are we talking points penalties or would it just be position maybe on the track?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think what happened, guys are racing for the finish, and it's obvious they are doing whatever they can do to get to the start/finish line.
I think from a goal standpoint, you're looking at intentionally -- issues during a race as it relates to blocking or being aggressive driving and take it to a different area of the racetrack; say it was the backstretch, those are more easily identified, and I would say that they would be more along the lines of a procedure penalty during the race or the event itself.
Q. Do you consider last night then blocking or aggressive driving?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think it was a combination of both. They were in-bounds, or above the yellow line, and I would say that Carl was doing everything he could to try to maintain the first place coming across the -- coming across the line, and the guy was trying to win the race was running second. That's what these guys do.
Many times they come together trying to win a race, whether it's Martinsville or Talladega. I would say they both have some ownership in it.
Q. I imagine this is either for Mr. Hunter or Robin or both: I'm a little puzzled, the focus you all are talking about is the decision-making on the part of the drivers, rather than the safety of Talladega itself and restrictor-plate racing, specifically. Do I infer from your owning remarks and Robin's response that NASCAR sees no reason to look at other options for making the racing at Talladega safer for drivers and fans alike, and that what you are saying here is that this is the fault of the drivers?
JIM HUNTER: Let me go back. This is Jim Hunter.
Q. Of course, yes.
JIM HUNTER: Let me go back to what I said in the opening statement.
We will take whatever measures we need to in order to ensure the races are as safe as possible for the drivers and the spectators. I don't recall trying to blame anything on anyone.
Q. If I could continue, how can you say that each of the safety devices worked properly if fans ended up being injured? And quite wonderfully, no one was hurt seriously; I'm sure that's not a risk NASCAR wants to take twice a year at Talladega.
JIM HUNTER: I think you're absolutely right. One of our primary goals over the years is to build a restraining fence that keeps the cars and parts and pieces out of the spectator areas. And nothing is bullet-proof from yesterday -- from what we saw yesterday, the fence, the retaining fence did what it was supposed to do; it threw the car back on the racetrack. There was some debris that went in the grandstand that, fortunately, did not invoke serious injury.
So we will analyze the fence and make sure that it did what it was supposed to do. We think it did. If there's something that we come up with, as we analyze this accident, we will certainly put it into play. We will make it as safe as we humanly can.
Q. Regardless of the cost?
JIM HUNTER: Yes.
Q. The video seemed to indicate on the 99 wreck that the situation was exacerbated when it sort of got punted extra by the 39 car; but, it also seems in the video that the 99 car lifted up from the rear after it got turned around to allow it to be punted by the 39 car. Robin, specifically, does the Car of Tomorrow have aerodynamic differences from the old car that need to be looked at to help keep it on the ground? And even more specifically, will the rear wing be looked at as a possibility of causing some uplift in the car when it gets turned backwards like that?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, there was a lot of effort put into this before -- before this car took to the track. Actually, this car is better than the previous car. And what you saw, if when you look at the 99 car, the roof flaps deployed as it got turned around, and the car started to set back down, and then the 39 hit it.
One of the things that attributed to this is generally when the car turns around, it's got a car that -- the cars behind it are not still accelerating and trying to keep their speed up, like as the 09 did trying to obviously get around the 99.
So it probably didn't scrub as much speed off, it came around, and quite quickly, and didn't scrub as much speed off as it needed to. But the roof flaps deployed, and the car started to set back down, and as the 39 came into the picture, you know, it punted the 99 car, and that's what got it up into the fence.
Q. So are you satisfied right now that because it was sort of a one-, two-punch like that, that nothing necessarily needs to be looked at about the rear wing or the initial -- in the one-, two-punch, the one punch, as it were, the initial lifting of the car, are you satisfied that things will pretty much stay status quo about that?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, things will not forever be status quo. We will continue to look at things, but this car is better suited than the old car is, and you know, we will continue to look at things. And, quite frankly, these situations that come up from time to time are a one-off, and things that you don't necessarily foresee, and they are hard to re create.
So we will take this and we will evaluate everything the best that we can. But to go back to the original part of your question, there was a lot of emphasis, a lot of thought, a lot of work that went into this car, where it's got better lift-off speed, tire lift-off speed than its predecessor, and that is all taken into account.
Q. You said that you guys would take "whatever measures we need to ensure the races are safe." Would that include changing the racetrack, perhaps looking at changing the configuration or banking at Talladega, or is it limited to just the race cars?
JIM HUNTER: I don't think it's limited to just the race cars. I think the racetrack itself is a fast racetrack. It's a smooth racetrack, and it's certainly wide, wider than any other racetrack we race on.
So from time to time we have to pave the racetrack and do other things at the racetrack. Like we have made a lot of improvements in the catch fence from where we started out years ago after Bobby Allison's accident there, and we will continue to look at everything.
Q. Dale Earnhardt, Junior said after the race that he wished that drivers could get away from each other a little bit more, but the only way that would be possible is if they were not running restrictor plates, and I assume that's not possible if the banking remains at 33 degrees. Could you look at changing the banking so you could take the plates off?
JIM HUNTER: Well, I'm going to let Robin or John answer that question. But I'm going to precede it by saying that the banking at California is lower than Talladega, and the racing at California, for an example, has been criticized by most of the members of the media.
JOHN DARBY: I don't believe it -- I think it's very easy to understand that part of the function of the speeds and having to use restrictor plates at both Daytona and Talladega is because of the amount of banking in the tracks.
Flattening the racetrack, sure, that would put us in a situation where you could run without restrictor plates, but I don't see that as a real viable option.
I think we know -- I think we understand today that the speed of the cars remains safe. I think the safety efforts that's been made, not only to the cars, but the tracks that surrounds the races at Daytona and Talladega, have proved effective, and they will continue to be improved as we go forward and as we learn more.
I also believe that it goes without mention that the most exciting races that we have today are both at Daytona and Talladega. That's a big part of our sport, and those two tracks have been a big part of our sport for many, many years.
I think there's more value in continuing the efforts, our safety efforts at those tracks, than turning those two very historical, very exciting racetracks into flat parking lots. I don't understand that thought process.
The speeds at Talladega are equal to many of the racetracks we race at from coast-to-coast. Talladega and Daytona are not the only racetracks that we have wrecks. Talladega and Daytona are not the only places that we have multiple-car wrecks. But I think for some reason, there's always a temptation to sensationalize the wrecks at Daytona and Talladega way beyond what happens at Lowe's Motor Speedway or Atlanta Motor Speedway or any of the other tracks that we race on.
So, you know, it's always easy to fix a perceived problem by running away from it or throwing it under a rug, but I don't think that's the case or our approach in this situation. We'll continue on the path we are doing and continue to make the gains in safety that we have over the years.
JIM HUNTER: I might add that there have been multiple changes in the size of the restrictor plates over the years, both for safety and competition reasons.
As a matter of fact, we have changed the size of the plate during the course of the race weekend before, and we make it clear, we have different-sized plates with us at every event, and we make it clear that the final plate size is not officially determined until the conclusion of the final practice.
Q. Just to clarify, is it fair to say then that improving safety does not include separating the cars or bringing speed down; you guys are all comfortable with the way it is now at Talladega?
JOHN DARBY: My point is, you could make that statement or make that suggestion at every racetrack that we race at. If we flattened Lowe's Motor Speedway and reduced the speeds to 70 miles an hour, sure, you could make an argument it would be a safer racetrack.
But at the same time, we are in the racing business, and a lot of what the sport surrounds is professional drivers controlling cars at high speeds. So that thought line or that thought process, sure, it's like telling you that the sky is blue if it's not cloudy, but that's not part of it.
Q. Today Lowe's Motor Speedway held a ticket promotion in which they priced a thousand tickets based on how many cars were involved in the biggest Talladega race wreck; because you had 14 cars involved in the largest race yesterday, tickets were priced at 14 dollars each. Wonder what you think about the promotion, is it fun marketing or something that may send an inappropriate message, given yesterday's events?
JIM HUNTER: To be honest, we would rather not dignify that type of promotion with a comment.
Q. Does anyone else have a comment?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No.
Q. My question is for either Robin or John. You've said a couple of times that the roof flaps deployed; are you satisfied they deployed in the order they were supposed to? My understanding was the direction in that Carl's car was turning that the right one is supposed to come up first, and then the left; it seemed like the right one was delayed, the left came up first, and then the right.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It really -- what order they come up in really is not significant at all. What it does is it just breaks the air flow over the car and reduces the lift.
So anything, any type of air disturbance can cause one or the other to happen, but that's why they are there; it's two different angles, so it's not an issue.
Q. And also, in the Nationwide race on Saturday, were you guys satisfied with the deployment of the flaps on Matt's car when he turned?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: When Matt's car turned, actually it turned -- it was in a clock-wise -- and what made that car turn over wasn't air: It rolled over, because it was on the left side tires. That car really never left the ground until it started to roll, and I don't believe his flaps came up until he was either sideways or almost upside down.
And so Matt's situation was way different than what the 99 was. Matt's was a car that rolled over due to centripetal force and other things and the way it was spinning. So those flaps not deploying when it turned sideways was not an issue, and that's not why the car turned over.
Q. I'm probably a little confused about this whole thing. If the flaps worked, how concerned are you that the car still took off? And I don't want to be speculated about it or anything else, but if Newman's car wasn't there, where do you feel like Carl's car would have hit the barrier?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It probably -- you know, Carl's car probably would have been on the ground before it even got to the barrier. If you look at the video on that thing, that thing was well on its way back down to the ground nearly as fast as it went up, so it would probably have got -- it would have got to the barrier, and maybe not even to the catch fence at all. There's a great chance that it would have been on the asphalt or the pavement before it even got to the barrier.
Q. And since the thing transpired the way it did, you could see on the video that part of the windshield was ripped away; part of the roof was ripped. Did anything in that accident compromise the integrity of the roll cage?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We had a group of guys over at Roush Fenway this morning looking and evaluating the car, and their feedback was that everything -- everything worked according to plan on that car. The most important thing is keeping that cube, the seats attached, the belts, all of that, all of those things in the cockpit. The report back was very positive.
Q. My question is for Robin or John. I know it's more of a track issue than a NASCAR issue, but are you satisfied with the height of the fences at Talladega? I'm not positive if Carl's car could have gone over the fence, but obviously that's a most horrendous scenario. Do those fences need to be higher? And possibly does Talladega not need to sell tickets or put fans in those first 20 rows of seats?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'll answer that. I can't answer the question as far as where you sell your tickets at, your seats.
But I think when you look at the fencing, those are things periodically that we look at on the safety side that we upgrade. And until something like this happens, then you evaluate where you're at.
I think the fence was plenty high, but I do believe that we'll go back and we'll look at some other things. And whether it needs to be reconfigured or not, it's something that we'll get with the racetrack and ATC and all that to look at.
So you know, many of the racetracks in their fencing, there's not one design, because all of the racetracks are configured differently. They don't all have the same race cars or types of car that run on them. You can look at the different fencing that is around some of the open -- where some of the open-wheel cars run at, Kansas, Richmond, things of that nature.
So many of the fence designs are different, and you know, this fence at Talladega has been there for quite some time, and we'll just -- we'll evaluate it as they do the repairs.
Q. Second question, different topic. I think many people walked away from the race thinking it was the best race of the year, the race that had the most excitement, lead changes, passing and at the same time; and you had a lot of drivers getting out of the cars saying: This place really sucks and we hate racing here. How do you walk the fine line of, the show was great, but the risks still remain and the drivers don't really love it. How do you sort of balance that out?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's a fine line and it's tough to balance out. But you know, our series is 22 different racetracks, and we have run on everything from a half-mile, road courses, Super Speedways with restrictor plates on them; speeds from 100 miles an hour to well over 200 miles an hour.
Not every driver likes every racetrack that we run on. Some of them hate the restrictor plate races and they hate Daytona and Talladega, and there are others that equally hate road courses just as much.
You know, we do the best that we can, and I feel like our guys do a great job with safety and making the cars as safe as we can, working with the facilities and making those facilities as safe as we can with SAFER barriers and things of that nature. We continue to improve on those.
Our seasons are long. We have run a lot of different racetracks, and not everybody likes every place that they race at, but that's part of our season and part of what makes it work.
Q. Different subject. About the yellow line, during the warning given in the drivers meeting about passing below the yellow line, I just wanted to get your take on the rationale behind simply warning the 83, and I think the 11 also went below the yellow line, and improved position over the 09 at one point during the race.
JOHN DARBY: That's an easy question, so I'll be happy to answer that.
The 83, specifically, what the rule says, is you cannot advance your position while below, okay. There was not enough conclusive evidence that although we won't deny that they were below the yellow line, but there isn't a rule that says you can't be below the yellow line. It's about the positioning of the car as it's making its advance.
It's very clear that the 11 came completely above the yellow line before he advanced anybody. And in regards to the 83 and the other car, it was pretty much a dead heat; so always will give the tie to the runner. But at the same time, it was close enough that we felt like warning the team just to put them on alert that they don't need to put themselves in that kind of a box was justified, as well.
The yellow-line rule itself has been very effective in controlling some of the huge wrecks we used to have. It's a very simple process, because if you look at the backstretch for Talladega that may be 15 lanes wide if you allow the competitors to use the skid pads and everything, the entrance to turn three is not; it's back down to three lanes. What happens is it becomes a big game of chicken from going from 15 lanes wide down to three, and nobody wants to give; and that ultimately created some very large and unwarranted wrecks.
The yellow-line rule has at least made the width of the racetrack consistent all the way around, so the competitors know how much real estate there is there to use.
The relationship of the yellow-line rule and what happened Sunday I think although it's been pointed at, I firmly believe in my own mind that if you move both cars up two lanes on the racetrack, the same wreck would have happened and the results would have been very similar.
Q. Can we clarify exactly what flew into the stands; what was it? There was some speculation from fans that were there that it was a sign, and that when the car hit the fence, the sign went flying out. Do you know exactly what piece of the car it was?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, I don't believe it was a piece of the car, but it has not been confirmed; or we won't speculate on what it was.
Q. A lot of times when we talk about NASCAR and their decisions, we don't get privy to all that NASCAR puts into their safety and knowledge of the car. And you were saying earlier that you felt that nothing that happened there was not the safety efforts not working and whatnot. Going over to Roush Fenway, what sort of things did you do leading up to this call and check on that we might not even know about?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: One of the things that any time that there is an accident, we go to the different teams and we look and take pictures and measure the movement of the restraint systems, whether it be the head surrounds and the seats, all of the roll bars and tubing and things like that. We do it on all of our series. And from the modified series all the way up to the Cup, and we do that to help all of our groups, not just the big three, to work with them and their safety
We have a group here, we have Tom Gideon that's here that took Steve Peterson's place this year. We have Mike Fisher and we have got a group in the back that goes and does investigation work that helps us make all of the right judgment calls. We do that on a regular basis if need be.
Also, many times we'll impound a car at the R&D center and invite car builders from around the area, all of the different teams, to not just look at their cars, but look at the competitors' cars to where they can each help each other as it relates to safety matters.
Q. Brad Keselowski had said he asked at the rookie meeting and that he thought what he would do in this situation, certainly not his fault something would fly into the stands, but talk a little about what he did. And is it that NASCAR is just inherently not going to be ever perfectly safe and that you guys will do the best that you can, and inherently there is a little bit of danger in the sport?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's automobile racing.
JOHN DARBY: Inherently driving down the interstate has a degree of danger.
But as everything in what we do in life does, our responsibility, understanding that any sports has a degree of danger to it is how you protect your participants and your fans the best that you can. And that's what we do and we do it every day.
Q. And about Keselowski in the rookie meeting, and then I'm through, thank you very much.
JOHN DARBY: You lost me a little bit on that one.
Obviously what Keselowski did on Sunday was win the race. He was in his lane and he stayed in his lane and he didn't change his lane and he was the first one to cross the start/finish line. I don't see -- I don't see a whole lot of room here to point a finger at Brad Keselowski for much of what happened in the incident; as the 99 was doing what he could do to protect the lead at that time, and maybe made a little bit of an error.
But at the end of that, what we all know is that two cars made some contact, and that resulted in the spin for the 99. But the incident surely was not caused from the 09 hitting or ramming or bump drafting or any of the above on the 99.
Q. Robin, the teleconference opened today with you guys intimating, with Jim intimating that the drivers need to be more carefully policed perhaps, and I was wondering if there was a specific driver that caused you concern and that you had spoken to or taken any action with any of them.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yesterday was -- nothing stands out. We didn't have any talks or anything with anybody. You know, we gave them the warning in the drivers meeting, in the pre-race drivers meeting, and that was it.
JOHN DARBY: And for the most part, yesterday was rather calm on the aggressiveness. There was a degree of some bump drafting and a good degree of pushing, but the bumps that maybe created some of the earlier incidents were more of the inability for a line of cars to slow down in time than it was aggressive bump drafting.
Q. And just as a quick follow-up, Carl got out of the car; he was obviously upset. He said: "What if the car goes up in the grandstands and kills 25 people, you know what I mean? Look, at some point they have to change this thing around." Have you had any direct conversation with Carl, and what do you say with drivers who are upset about having a restrictor plate race? Is there anything you can say other than basically shut up and race?
JIM HUNTER: We wouldn't say that.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, we wouldn't say that.
Q. Have you talked to Carl, though?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No. Haven't had an opportunity to talk to Carl.
You know, you look at the situations, and I think that -- I'm glad that Carl walked away from the accident with -- virtually without a scratch, and it shows that Carl had a normal Carl, good personality out, when he jogged across the start/finish line. We are just thankful that everybody was safe, and we will take what Carl says and we will listen to him, and that's just Carl's comment.
Q. You're not expecting to have a one-on-one with him to follow up on what he said?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'm sure at some point in time, Carl will want to come to talk about some different things. But our doors are always open. You know, this wasn't Carl's first race at Talladega, and you know, if drivers want to come in and talk about different things, they know where we are at, day-in and day-out, seven days a week.
Q. Probably for Robin or John. I think we are obviously focusing on what happened there right at the end, it seemed that the drivers' biggest complaint was the plates in general. In terms of being predictive, there's going to be a big one every time you go to Talladega. Is there anything with taking a plate off that can be done to eliminate -- I understand you are in a tough spot, too, because tight racing is what we all like about it, but is there anything else that can be done besides the plate to try and minimize I guess the possibility of the big one actually happening?
JOHN DARBY: Without getting too technically complicated, whenever the horsepower of a car has to be less than what the drag of the car is to achieve the speed, then competitors will do all they can in grooves to reduce the drag of the car to gain a competitive advantage over the other competitors.
If you watched the race yesterday, one of the things that you saw most of the day was a couple of cars teaming up and driving to the front. And as they team up like that, they double their horsepower, but they don't necessarily double their drag that each individual car would have, so that enables them to go through the their quicker.
The larger -- the more that they stay in a group and stay in tight lines, ultimately the better their performance is. So there's a lot to that. It's the most amplified at Daytona and Talladega, but we see grafting at Indianapolis, we see grafting at two-mile racetracks. The Truck Series, for example, that has even more drag than the Cup cars. You see them even drafting on the mile-and-a-half tracks.
You know, when you look at what a race car driver is charged with, he's charged with winning a race, and they will do -- the competitiveness forces them to do whatever they can do in the race cars to improve upon that, and that's basically what it's about. It's just the level of competition that all of our race drivers have, and that's part of the appeal of our sport.
Q. So are you saying that whatever sort of reflection, be it a plate or -- I'm not going to get into the technicalities of it, because I would just sound stupid, but drivers will find a way around it on the track?
JOHN DARBY: Basically we restrict the engines from 800 horsepower to 400, just to use round numbers, okay. We could develop a recipe to build an engine that was 400 horsepower without a restrictor plate, but you would still have the same situation as you do.
I mean, if 400 horsepower is what it takes to keep those cars at the speeds that we need them at, we could put six cylinders in them at 400 horsepower, and you are still going to have the same situation, because you don't have enough engine to push the drag of the car through the air.
Q. So blocking aggressive driving, would that be something at Talladega or Daytona, or all tracks across the board, policing it more?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We already police it at all tracks. We have made the call before for guys that were being aggressive. I think if you look at, is it Montoya and David Gilliland at Charlotte or somewhere last year, so we already do that.
Q. So would it be just all across the board, or is there greater emphasis that comes at Talladega and Daytona?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think a greater emphasis may come at Daytona and Talladega, because we have tried to let the racers take care of themselves. And when certain situations develop a pattern on a more regular basis, that's when we may have to step in and make some calls that we really would really don't want to put them in the position to have us make the call. We would rather the competitors take care of it on the track.
Q. The next plate race at Daytona in two months, will you have to have more officials positioned around the track or would they just have an extra duty or keeping a closer watch on things? How would that type of thing work looking at, say, Daytona in July?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's the same thing as what we do today, it escalates; as guys get more comfortable in how they handle their cars, you know, not everybody has the same feel for how you can push or bump draft, and you know, we'll just have to scrutinize that a little closer.
Q. And one other thing, you talked about what you've already done with looking at the cars and some of the discussions that you've had with the track and stuff; what happens now moving forward, is it just simple meetings at the NASCAR offices? Are there certain for lack of a better term, are there committees formed? I know you have certain people in positions to do that; do their focuses change a little bit or how do you move forward from this point on?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I don't think our focus has changed. To what you said, it's what we do in the R&D center. We may shift some resources from one area to another to try to expedite things a little bit, but that's basically it. That's what we do here.
Q. Any thoughts of modifications to the rear bumper to make drafting a little less easy, because the new cars, the bumpers line up so well, and have you considered the possibility of at Talladega of moving the flag stand to the other side coming out of turn four so cars might not get quite as big a run and you might not have the same sort of wreck that you had on Sunday?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I'll answer the card thing and maybe Hunter can touch on the start/finish line deal.
What happens, if you look at some of the other series that run, if the bumpers lining up are -- they get more opportunity for drafting or bump drafting or pushing a teammate along. When they didn't line up, what would happen is incidental contact would be -- the trail car would lift the back tires of the lead car off the ground and create more of an issue.
So that, we feel, is even worse. At least with the bumpers lining up and things, you know, everybody -- you're not getting the rear wheels lifted off the ground.
Hunter, you might want to weigh in on the start/finish line.
JIM HUNTER: Bill France, Senior and his vision, with the track being as wide as it is, being the widest on the surface, Bill France, Senior thought it would be great if we gave them an opportunity to go through the trial wall and race through the start/finish line down towards turn one, and that's why it is where it is.
Yesterday was an exception, but there have been some unbelievable finishes.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how the roof flaps have developed over the years, and what the changes, if any, from the old car to the new style car?
JOHN DARBY: The flaps were the result of a series of testing that we went through --
JIM HUNTER: Let me interrupt here real quick. I remember we had to get the Talladega County Airport closed.
JOHN DARBY: So you're going to tell the real story. (Chuckling).
JIM HUNTER: I remember it Jack Roush was involved, as were some of the other car owners. And one of the first tests we did was put a car on a flatbed trailer and turn on a jet's motors and turn the car at different angles. That's one of the primitive, preliminary tests in the roof flap development.
Now, you can have it, John.
JOHN DARBY: Yeah, the original concept was to try to use the trunk with itself as the flap. It was too extreme and there was too much forces on the trunk and everything else that didn't work.
So with the help from a lot of the competitors and a lot of the people from the industry, we went more towards the flaps up on the roof, and they were pretty much remained the same design, since their inception, until we built the new car.
The new car has a larger flap. There's more square inches of door, if you will, in both the 30-degree flap and the 90-degree flap. The positioning is now mandated exactly where they need to be mounted in the roofs, so that all cars are the same. And that was just a position through wind tunnel testing that we found to be optimum so that the flaps would be lifted up quicker and sooner.
There is a series of new restraints or the flap doors that are inside the flaps that help it. And in addition to the roof flaps, there's other pieces on the car that assist the flaps, if you will, or enhance the flaps.
If you notice the much larger shark fin today on the rear window, on the left-side rear window, that helps to funnel the air to the flap to help lift it sooner as the car rotates. The roof rail's help. The side window, also. All of those, it's a whole package of things that use aerodynamics in our favor to help keep the car from lifting off, and even more so if it does get into a situation where it comes up definite, to help set it back down as quickly as possible.
Q. Were you surprised to see the car lift up in the air?
JOHN DARBY: "Surprised" I don't know if is the right word. If you could predict every spin of every car, the whole system would be very easy.
Although we can wind tunnel and we can test, and understand what -- how the air will lift the car, what you can't predict and what you can't test for is every single situation that the cars may be involved in when they are on the racetrack.
And yesterday's situation was very unique in the fact that the 09 car was in such close proximity to the 99 when the car rotated, and although -- although the flaps opened and everything deployed, the car was coming back down, there's a lot of the disturbance of the air that the 99 saw from the 09 car that probably was responsible for it starting to lift.
Q. I don't know if any of y'all heard these comments yesterday but Jack Roush talked about when Talladega and these tracks, Talladega and Daytona were made, Talladega in particular, 40 years ago, the aero packages of these cars were drastically different than the look of these cars today. That being said, is this whole game just a thing of just trying to fit a square peg into a round whole?
JOHN DARBY: When Talladega and Daytona were originally built, the cars they raced back then honest-to-gosh had lift instead of downforce. So the automobile as we know it through the design of it have improved even to the cars that we drive on the street today in regards of aerodynamics.
It was way up into the early 80s that the cars, all the race cars, the stock cars at all of the racetracks we had, the teams battled with lift issues instead of downforce issues. That was in the very early 80s where teams understood that wind tunnels could be used to their advantage and started constructing the cars a little differently as manufacturers of street cars followed that same trend line to gain efficiency in the automobile.
What we really realized is the efficiency of Detroit and the auto manufacturers that they made strides in making their cars more efficient with NASCAR or stock cars adopting those same trend lines and body styles over the years, we have received the benefits of that same evolution.
Q. The last part of that, he said to this degree, too, if a track was being built today and Talladega did not exist, would a track like Talladega be built?
JOHN DARBY: I don't know. It would be a huge undertaking for somebody, I don't speculate in answer to that question, because I know I sure as heck couldn't afford to built one.
JIM HUNTER: I want to thank everybody for joining us today and look forward to seeing a lot of you in Richmond this weekend.
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