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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 23, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Okay, as advertised and promised, we have NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton to come in and talk a little bit about the test here at Charlotte, the transition from the wing to the spoiler. Robin, we've had several drivers in already today and so far the feedback has been very, very positive from those guys. From a competition standpoint and looking at how the test is going so far, what are your thoughts about it?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, like some of the drivers, hopefully most of them have been positive. But it looks like the test is going fairly well. It looks like -- we had made a gear adjustment for Charlotte based off of last year's information to try to cut some of the rpm back, and because of what we learned today, we're already readjusting and going back and putting in last year's gear ratios, which should help a little bit of rpm and get the rpm up, and drivers will like that a little bit better.
But all in all it's been pretty basic, pretty straightforward for single-car runs, and at some time maybe before 6:00 some guys will start to run a little bit closer together and for sure tomorrow they will.
Q. Robin, coming up we have Martinsville, then a little faster at Phoenix and then on to Texas. I guess everybody is thinking there will be virtually no effect this week. But what about sort of the in-between track at Phoenix and then Texas? What do you expect the difference to be with the spoiler going on?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The difference between the spoiler? As far as what, the handling or the exact measurements or anything like that? It's hard to say. You know, we only had 93 races on the wing, and we're historically a spoiler sport. You know, I don't think you can anticipate everything that you may see with the races moving forward.
It'll be up to the teams to make their adjustments around that. A lot of the veterans have a lot of experience with cars that have higher drag and higher downforce, and whether that experience from four, five years ago translates and gives them a leg up on the competition when we get to Phoenix or Texas remains to be seen. It's hard to say at this point.
Q. I'm a little bit confused. Kurt had said that the rpms were down 200, from 9,400 to 9,200, so now you're going to change the gear to bring them back up to about 9,400?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah.
Q. Will they be able to put that new gearing in for tomorrow?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: They're going in now. Yeah, many of the teams have called to home base, and there's gears that are being transported currently. Some of the speed you see now out there are teams that have already changed gears within the last hour or so.
Q. We talked to Bernie Marcus last weekend at Bristol about aerodynamics, and he said basically the Cup car was supposed to be like 40 percent downforce less than the truck, the truck being the baseline, and he said with this new spoiler combination it would be like 32 percent, so that's a pretty sizable increase in downforce for the cars. Is that what you're seeing out there is more downforce in the corners and more drag on the straightaway?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's a little more downforce depending on which wind tunnel you believe in and which teams are doing the tests. The numbers that we have heard are somewhere -- anywhere between 80 and 180 pounds of downforce, depending on what team or manufacturer you're talking about. But it is an increase over what the teams had last week.
Q. Will this be the final test allowed for spoilers, or are you guys open to possible additional tests at different tracks down the road?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I don't -- we're really not looking to have more tests. You know, the teams nowadays are better prepared. I think with the testing ban that has been in place, many of the teams have shored up their simulation and some of their off-site testing or testing at facilities or proving grounds to get their information. So really this should have a one-off deal to help them prepare for the rest of the big racetracks as they come up.
I think this is probably one of the most important tests that they've had in the last two years, and we don't anticipate another test at the mile and a half this year.
Q. Two questions: First, can you revisit your deliberations in 2005, why you decided to go with the wing? I look back in my notes and that's when you actually made the switch. Why you went to the wing, what benefit you thought it was going to bring at that time over a spoiler? Kevin Harvick was among those who said that you guys aren't really going to know how this thing is going to react until you get to Texas. Is there any concern of a law of unintended consequences that stuff might happen that you're not prepared for?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, it's up to the teams to be prepared. Any type of rule change is going to have some negative and some positive things on particular drivers and teams. We had reasons to go to the wing, you know, and some of those things may have not panned out. And quite frankly one of them is the fact that nobody really warmed up to it. They didn't like it. They didn't like the appearance of it, so they didn't embrace it.
We're fortunate enough that we have the ability that we can do whatever we want to do as it relates to the cars and aero balance and things like that, and through some of our conversations last fall with -- internally and some of the people that we talked to out in the garage areas, drivers and engineers and things, you know, we decided to work towards bringing the spoiler back and putting it in play.
Teams will adjust accordingly. It won't be the same for everybody, and it'll definitely be something that they'll have to work towards to get their handling packages correct around other race cars and other vehicles during the race.
Q. Robin, a follow-up on your last answer: How big a change in the aero balance fore and aft is the spoiler making, or can they balance that out with the splitter adjustments?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It depends -- once again, it depends on which team does the test and what wind tunnel they use, because not all wind tunnels give you the same numbers. There's correction factors and things like that. Percentage-wise they're directionally correct.
The spoiler, as we have seen it so far, is a shift to the front. It is overall more grip, overall more downforce, but it's a slight percentage shift towards the front for more front downforce.
Q. How important is it for them to run in close quarters or in packs today or tomorrow, and if they don't or if they're still spread out in single car runs kind of, will you have to ask them or step in to get them to run closer together?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I will tell you this: It's important for them to get their cars right, because we throw the green flag and the checkered flag and hand out the check. However they want to get prepared to do that, that's what they need to do. Now, right now, guys are just getting their setups right. This is a typical practice that you would have seen any time in the last ten years. Guys don't go out and draft and do things unless it's very organized, and right now the guys are confident that their teams have done the right thing and done their homework.
I think you may see some guys get out there maybe later this afternoon and tomorrow. It might be an organization where Hendricks might get organized to have their guys do it or Roush or anybody else. But you know, at this point in time, the ball is in their court. They can work on single-car runs if they want to, but that's not how it'll be when it gets to race time. It'll be up to them to make those adjustments and make the call how they practice.
Q. So you don't anticipate another test at a track like this, but would it be possible to see a test at a place like Daytona where a lot more handling comes into play than it did at Talladega?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I don't think so. I mean, I think the things that we had learned at Talladega quite frankly when you look at the sheer numbers of cars that were there, they were so confident that there was less than half the cars there than what we thought were going to be there for the Talladega test, and the things that they learned, I don't think that -- there might be a couple of teams that would want to test at Daytona, but I don't think it's that important for them right now.
Q. Robin, has it been too early to tell, has there been any excessive tire wear anyplace on the rear or the front?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, everything seems to be pretty good right now. One of the teams out there that had a 40-lap run on tires and made a gear change, and basically that's over three quarters of a fuel run here at Charlotte, and there's no issues.
Q. As you said, there were 93 races with the wing. 46 of them were won by three different drivers, by three drivers in aggregate. Is it your general sense that this change might put more people back into the game?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I've been around long enough to know that there's not an answer for that. You know, the best guys are going to win, and whatever circumstances suit them and if they get into that zone, the best drivers and teams are going to win races. It may change and it may not.
Q. We know you have planned for this for a while here. Is there anything that surprised you today that you saw?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, not really. I mean, there's been enough testing that's gone on with tire tests at Texas early in the year and some other things. You know, once again, the confidence in the teams and their engineering, they show up at the racetrack and they're 90 percent ready. There's some guys out there that have only changed a couple of springs in five hours.
I think the teams, hats off to them, the teams have done a pretty good job of being prepared for this. Plus it's a good surface to test on; it's still got a lot of grip, it's still relatively smooth so it's easy for their simulation work to match up.
Q. And as a follow up, do you see maybe integrating testing? Again, the teams are just basically happy to have a chance to be here testing. Back at home in Charlotte, would there be an advantage to having a test here, or adding some testing for the teams?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We'll adjust all -- we'll answer the testing thing when it comes up. You know, right now the teams are in a mode that too much testing is not what they need. If they feel like they can go to a racetrack anywhere in the country that doesn't relate to -- even doesn't relate to a place that they run, they're happy with getting their information, putting a check in the box and just getting -- getting tools ready, tools meaning setups and springs and shocks and bars ready to go at a place that they race at. So it's not -- they're beyond testing at a certain facility, and a lot of the input that they get is when you go to a track -- you know, when the testing ban wasn't around yet, teams would go to tracks and they wouldn't test, they'd practice. They'd get ready to qualify and they'd get ready to race for that particular situation.
The difference that you see that may be going on here today is because of the limited testing at places. They're going through a test matrix and gathering information where they can try to apply it to so many different racetracks that we go to. So the test issue, it will always be debated, and it's one of the things that we address. It's a very fluid policy, and it's based on economics and the need for the teams and us to regulate the sport.
Q. Where do you guys stand in the flying car investigation, and might we expect some car changes in the next couple months because of that?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We're not quite done with our part of the investigation. Some of the things that you see with the larger fin on the deck and the back glass are based on tests that we have been doing right along that weren't in play in Atlanta. So we have already made adjustments post-Atlanta to help with the liftoff speed.
The investigation and the testing is ongoing, and when investigation gets done and we're happy with what our findings are, the development will continue to go on to try to help the cars react and do the things that we need them to do on race day.
Q. I've got a few questions. One, you talked about at Talladega last week putting together the parameters possibly for everything with the spoiler and everything. Have you come up with parameters yet for teams for what they'll start with on the spoiler and restrictor plate size at this point?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Off the top of my head, the spoiler will be 63 inches wide; I believe it's four inches tall; two-inch radius on the corners, top corners; plate will be 15/16, which is a 32nd smaller than what we wound up on the test with. And that's where we're going to start.
Q. And the 63, that's about an inch shorter, isn't it?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's an inch and a half narrower, and it is the -- the spoiler is straight across as it's measured in the middle. Maybe it's four and a half.
Q. And that's flat top?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, and it'll be straight across the top.
Q. I also just want to ask you about a couple things. Steve Phelps had mentioned something back in December about alternative fuels, and he mentioned at the time looking at some ethanol-based fuels. Can you give an update where you guys are in looking at that, and is that something we might see? Any idea when that might happen? And secondly, I know the expectation is fuel injection will probably be here next year. Are you still on target and plan for that happening?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We're still looking at the fuel and what ratio, percentage that we will use when we get there. That has not been locked down yet. We're still working with the teams and engine engineers. The fuel injection is -- I would say it's close to on target, and we've had some changes in the last 90 days, 120 days, and it's about -- really it's about trying to get a level playing field for everybody.
We've set out some parameters, come back, met with the teams and made some changes, and they're off testing. We should have some more answers in the next -- probably in the next 21 days or so. But I'd say we're on target hopefully for early 2011, but it remains to be seen. We can't do it and screw things up. But things are moving along pretty nicely right now.
Q. (Question regarding alternative fuel.)
ROBIN PEMBERTON: That depends. Our goal, when we set out, we were pretty aggressive with our goals, and everything was to happen in 2011, and where we land with the percentage of ethanol has not been determined yet. But we have teams that have been running on the dynos with some 10, E10 and E15 and all the way up to E30. But for the most part it's been E10 and E15. We'll let you know when we come to that. Right now there's a lot of work, so I can't sit here and put a date to it. That will be detrimental to the sport in general, so we're still working at it.
Fuel injection we'll start with Cup, yes, 100 percent.
Q. Toyota engineers suggested that taking the left-side skirt off this car, in a Keselowski-type situation in Atlanta, would change the liftoff of the car from 140 miles an hour to like 180, which is fairly sizable, and they said that was something that would be difficult to pass up, that that would make the cars a lot safer. Obviously there are two sides to the question. What's your take on that particular question, the left-side skirt?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Who gave you that information, Barney?
Q. No, Andy Graves, actually.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: (Chuckling.) That may or may not be true. Which way did they turn the car? They did the test, so ask them and let me know.
I'll let you know when we come up with the next package, and it'll be better for everybody. But if you're going to run off Andy's numbers, then you need to run off of Andy's numbers. I don't have Andy's numbers.
Q. When you started the Talladega test last week the spoiler was four and a half inches?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, now that I think about it, it was four and a half. We didn't cut anything off the center, so it's four and a half tall by 63. We only cut the ears off.
Q. And the deck lid fin is three and a half inches tall. Can teams mess with that at all?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes.
Q. They can?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: At the open tracks, not at Daytona and Talladega. And at the open tracks, the minimum length starting at the front of the deck lid moving rearward is 17 inches, and then they'll have the option of from there to the spoiler to work on the length, still at three and a half inches in height. And what I've noticed in the garage out there is everybody is 100 percent the biggest fin on the deck that you can have.
Q. One of the drivers said they brought three-and-a-half-inch and two-and-a-half-inch and two-inch. Can they make that --
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No. About probably 30 days ago there was talk of that, so that's probably where some of the information they got, but it's not happening.
Q. And you said that you increased the height of the rear window fin?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes. What you saw at Daytona is what you'll see everywhere starting at Texas.
Q. Starting at Texas, three and a half?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Three and a half.
Q. What was it?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It was three and a half at Daytona, it was two and a half everywhere else. Eventually we'll get it right.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, Robin, thank you.
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