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January 30, 2014

Wayne Auton

Chad Little

AMANDA ELLIS:  We'll go ahead and get started with Wayne Auton and Chad Little, our remaining directors of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  Do we have anybody that wants to start?

Q.  Sure.  Could you each comment on the qualifying procedures announced last week, I guess, for your series?  I guess this is the first time we've been able to hear from both of you?
WAYNE AUTON:  I think it's great.  All the feedback that we've gotten from competitors, and I guess we're the first in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the first out of the box to try it.  At Daytona, it's a lot of strategy.  That is the cool thing I think about it.  Well, we're going to see with the crew chiefs, lot of phone calls made from them of what we can and cannot do when the cars are rolling, or setting in a pit stall.
We'll set them up as we'll get all the cars to inspection.¬† Set them on pit road the way they randomly draw.¬† In the morning, our normal deal, one hour before practice starts.¬† We'll take them out and put them on pit road, two in a pit box.¬† When the tower announces that qualifying session has now begun, at racetracks a mile‑and‑a‑quarter and under, they've got 30 minutes to make a run.
We'll take the top 12 fastest cars, take a ten‑minute break, and let them adjust on the car, very minimal adjustments and let those 12 cars go, and they go for the pole.
We'll set the 40‑car field for the 40 cars that are eligible for the race as soon as the first session is over.¬† Then we'll take our top 12 and they'll go for the pole.
Then on racetracks a mile‑and‑a‑quarter and above, we'll go for 25 minutes, then take the top 24 cars, they'll make a run.¬† Take a five‑minute break, adjust them.¬† Go back out, make a run, and then after that completion of that five minutes, we'll take the top 12 cars and they'll go for the pole.
So a lot of strategy, especially going into Daytona.¬† I think Chad will probably say the same thing.¬† What we've heard is when am I going to go?¬† Am I going to go look for a cloud?¬† Or do I go in a 45‑car pack or 40‑truck pack, whichever he's got.¬† So we'll see how it works out.
I'm excited about it.  We tried some stuff back when I was a Camping World Truck Series Director at Talladega, but multiple trucks on the racetrack at Pocono especially.  Instead of taking two hours of qualifying, we qualified Pocono 42 trucks we had up there that year in 45 minutes.  So this is just another way of doing it.  It's awesome to see.

Q.  With the Cup series announcing their new changes today how come the Nationwide and Truck Series haven't followed suit?
WAYNE AUTON:  I think any sport you look at you've got your Major Leagues.  Our Major League is the Sprint Cup Series.  I'm tickled to death how the 2013 season came out in the NASCAR Nationwide Cup series.  I really like what we've got.  If you go to Homestead, you have four championships up for grabs, if you think about it, you have a drivers championship, an owners championship, a Rookie of the Year championship, and a manufacturer.  I think the rookie championship was pretty well locked up by a great season by Kyle Larson driving for Turner Motorsports, but then we had three championships that came down to the last lap.  Nobody knew who was going to win.
I think we went back and looked 13 times during the race at Homestead our owners’ and drivers’ championship were tied.  So I'm pleased with what we've got.  2013 was a great season.  Hope we can match it in '14.

Q.  In this qualifying situation, up to this point, cars or trucks went through the inspection process, went out on pit road, sat in line and went one by one by one.  Do they still go through the inspection process?  Do they still go out on pit road and is that where they stay throughout the entire qualifying process?
CHAD LITTLE:  Still go through technical inspection like before and then they're impounded on pit road.  When the track turns green they have 25 or 30 minutes depending on the track size to put in as many laps as they want and then there is a break and we'll transfer the fastest 24 or 12, depending on the racetrack and they'll be allowed to make some minor adjustments in between the break.  Then we'll do our final adjustments after qualifying is over.

Q.  During the process, does that mean you are then going to need 40 inspectors on pit road watching each truck or car throughout that entire process to ensure that they don't do more than what they're allowed to do?
WAYNE AUTON:  No, we'll put whatever the amount of cars and trucks we have at the racetrack.  Seeing Chad and myself are the first two to try the new deal at Daytona.  We're excited about that part.
We'll put the cars and trucks on pit road, two in a pit box.  If you want to make multiple runs, you come back down pit road and stay out on pit road actually out toward the grass.  If you are done making your qualifying run, you pull back to your assigned pit stall you were in.
We will have two cars or two trucks per pit stall, whichever it is.  No adjustments can be done, period, during the initial run.  The only time you can make adjustments is whenever there is a break.  If you decide that you're done completely and you go back and break the barrier of the pit wall in toward the garage, you can't even go to the next round.  So you are done qualifying at that point in time.
But as long as you stay on pit road out against the grass, you can make multiple runs.  If you pull back in your pit stall, you're done making multiple runs for that one.  But if you're in the top 24, top 12, you can continue on.

Q.  So you can't start the session, make a couple runs and say I want to change a few things and make a couple more runs.  You can't do that?
WAYNE AUTON:  No, you can only make adjustments during the break.

Q.  So that wasn't totally understood.  It seriously wasn't.  The fans that I've had talking to me saying how much can they do?
WAYNE AUTON:  Now the adjustments they can make is very minimal.  The reason we don't need 40 inspectors, because nobody can be on pit road.  So everybody has to stay behind the wall.  Now what you can do in between during the breaks is you can plug in your oil heater, you can change the tape, you can check your tire pressures, and you can use the three holes in the back glass or like on the trucks in the bed, to make your adjustments during the break only.  That is the only thing you can do.
The only people doing that are the people in the top 24 mile‑and‑a‑quarter under, then the top 12, or the top 12 if you're at a Super Speedway.

Q.  That first time the driver's brain goes down he says finished my qualifying, that was a great speed, I'm number one and turns into the garage?
WAYNE AUTON:  He's done.  He or she is done.

Q.  He's 26th or whatever?
WAYNE AUTON:  Whatever it ends up being, yeah.

Q.  And they said it's everything but Eldora, right?  Eldora is different?
CHAD LITTLE:  This is Chad again, Chad Little.  We won't do it for the Daytona 500 with the Sprint Cup cars and Eldora right now with the Truck Series.

Q.  How have truck owners reacted to the qualifying?
CHAD LITTLE:  It's been really positive so far with the new qualifying rules both by the drivers, the owners and the fans.

Q.  Is there any impact on expenses?  Because you're obviously running more laps now in qualifying than you did.  Has anybody said the expense of qualifying?
CHAD LITTLE:  We're going to enforce the same pit entry, pit lane speed rules and pit exit and try to keep control over that.  That will be a big concern to us.  I think the expense if an accident occurs during qualifying is minimal.  No tires are allowed.  No cooling down, so it's a matter of managing your strategy.

Q.  How many team members can go to a car or a truck during that first session?  Can any of them go up to it or do they have to stay away and the driver stays out there in his vehicle?
WAYNE AUTON:  Once again, once the cars are on pit road, the drivers will be loaded aboard.  During the 25 minutes or 30 minutes, no one is allowed on pit road except the driver sitting in their car or their truck.  The only time anybody can cross a pit wall is whenever we're stopped and we get our top 24 or top 12, and then they can go out.  Those are the only one that's can go on pit road because that is the beauty of the impound and we've got to keep control of that.
This helps us have minimal inspectors.  This helps us with cost control.  No big changes can be done.  I've even heard the strategy of no tape on the cars from crew chiefs the first run, and then trying to keep the coolness down because we're not going to let them cool down.  You can't put fans on them.  So that is some of the strategy we're hearing.  We're hearing strategy on how they're going to figure out who is going to get the pole at Daytona.  That is the one I'm excited to see.
Now the one difference is, and I did mention this and Chad and I have been told, we've both agreed to help each other out with this.  When I'm qualifying, I'll be on the tower at Daytona because I don't race until the next day.  There are a lot of schedules that we have to automatically, as soon as qualifying is over, get everybody to the driver's meeting to help cut down and you're talking about costs.  That is one of the things that keeps the hours down at a racetrack for us, for the teams and for the racetracks.
So we've agreed that if Phoenix coming up, I've got to get to the drivers meeting and Chad's going to go to the tower for me so we can watch what's going on.  Like Chad said, make sure you leave pit road by the race event rules, how you exit pit road, enter pit road, the pit road speed.  IE, keep the speeds down on pit road and you don't have to worry about people being out there.

Q.  There was also some inspection right now or had been after qualifying.  Will there still be an inspection process after all qualifying sessions and somebody could lose their spot?
CHAD LITTLE:  It's going to depend a little bit on the facility.  But for the most part, the Nationwide and Truck Series impounds and once we're done qualifying and the vehicles are impounded, we do in minor adjustments and we get ready to race.  Sometimes we do a little bit more inspection after qualifying at Daytona and Talladega.  That may still occur.  It depends a lot on the schedule.
WAYNE AUTON:  What we will in the Nationwide garage, because we have the ability of qualifying at 1:05 on Friday at Daytona, we will run everybody back across the height station.  Hopefully we can help Chad out with his side whenever he goes at 4 o'clock or something like that.

Q.¬† So your inspection process prior to qualifying might be even‑‑ I want to use the right word here ‑‑ more detailed?
WAYNE AUTON:  We're going to do the same inspections we did previous years for the qualifying inspection that we'll do this year.  Because a lot of races, we bring them on pit road, adjust them, put them back on the line and go racing.  So the same philosophy is still there today.  Just a little different format how we're going to be able to set our field.

Q.  Sometimes they play with the shocks or the springs a little bit?
WAYNE AUTON:  You've been hanging around a long time.

Q.  Given all the big changes that we've had over on the Cup side, can we anticipate any changes to how we decide a champion in the Nationwide and Truck Series?
WAYNE AUTON:  I'll speak for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.  All I can tell you is we are proud in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to be number two in Motorsports, especially in NASCAR.  Our Sprint Cup Series is the one that's highlighted.  They should be.  They're our Major League, if you want to put it that way.
We're very proud of what we had in 2013 when we went to the last race.  We had two drivers going for the driver's championship.  We had two owners going for the owners and our manufacturers' championship hadn't even been settled.  The most separation was two points in all three championships.  It came down to the last lap of the last race at Homestead, so we're very proud of what we've got in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
CHAD LITTLE:  I would agree 100% with what Wayne just explained.  The changes in the Chase format are reserved for the Sprint Cup Series, and we're really pleased right now with how things are going in the Truck Series as well.

Q.  They're making you guys play by our rules now.  Rookie of the Year, how many races do you guys count in your respective series?
WAYNE AUTON:  It depends.  The reason I say that is if there is a truck points, pick a series, which is one of the greatest things I think we did to help both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup series.  Pick a series.  It depends basically on how many races or what series points you're getting in.
If there is a contender in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but not receiving points in NASCAR Nationwide Series, they can run as many as they want to.  They have to reapply the next year.  They have to reapply.

Q.  For your points, how many races do they count toward?
WAYNE AUTON:  Seven.  If they help pick the NASCAR Nationwide Cup Series as their point series, they get seven events.

Q.  When they're doing the total at the end of the year, do they count your best seven?  I thought it was like best eight?
WAYNE AUTON:  To win Rookie of the Year?

Q.  Yeah.
WAYNE AUTON:  14.  It's 14 best finishes.  Had to look at Amanda there.  She's my expert on that.
AMANDA ELLIS:  I'll double check that.

Q.  The new rules in NASCAR 2014 when four drivers can win the championship in Sprint Cup.  This applies only for Sprint Cup not for Nationwide or trucks?
WAYNE AUTON:¬† Yes, that's for Sprint Cup Series only.¬† We're proud to be the number two series.¬† I keep saying this and going back to 2013 my rookie season in a NASCAR Nationwide Series.¬† We went to the last lap of the last race at Homestead to determine three championships.¬† There were only four you can win.¬† Rookie of the Year, driver championship, owner championship, manufacturer.¬† The most points difference between three of them‑‑ Kyle Larson had a great season.¬† You cannot say enough about the kid, won the Rookie of the Year before we got to Homestead, basically.¬† But it was only two points was the biggest margin between the other three, and it came down to the last lap of the race.¬† That was pretty cool.

Q.  What is new is the qualifying format in the series?
WAYNE AUTON:¬† Yes.¬† Depending on what size racetrack it is, we'll get all the cars through inspection.¬† Put two per pit stall, and once the tower calls it, qualifying session is open, have at it.¬† You can go wherever you want to go.¬† If you want to wait on a cloud‑‑ I'm excited about Daytona because I want to see what they're actually going to do.¬† They're going to draft.¬† I think we pretty much know that.¬† You better draft or you're going to be left behind.

Q.  What is the engine rule?  You have one engine for the whole race weekend in both series?
CHAD LITTLE:  Yes, both in the Truck Series we have one engine rule.  Now if you break an engine, if you fail an engine prior to qualifying, you're allowed to change it without a penalty.  But you're not allowed to change it because you feel another one is better in the trailer.

Q.  So when the engine is broke you can change it without penalty?
CHAD LITTLE:  If you break an engine before qualifying, you're allowed to change it and still qualify and earn your position.  You're not allowed to just change a motor because you feel you have a better one in the hauler.

Q.  What will happen in qualifying when you go one, two, and three, and the engine is breaking?
CHAD LITTLE:  It would be just like we are today.  You'd have to go in and change your engine to get ready for the race, and that would be an unapproved adjustment and you'd have to start in the back.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
WAYNE AUTON:  NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Trucks are identical in our rule changes.  Because we have so much crossover in engine builders in the garage it's easier for them to understand.

Q.  It's a little bit confusing (Indiscernible)?
WAYNE AUTON:  It's different.

Q.  There is another scenario in Sprint Cup with the four quickest drivers.  What will happen if they all retire in the race, accident, technical failure?
WAYNE AUTON:  There is a booth right over there that has Robin Pemberton and Richard Buck.  I'll pass you on to them to answer that question.

Q.  Have you heard about our race to excellence idea?  How we want to play off your STEM program?
WAYNE AUTON:  The science, technology?

Q.  Yes, we have these kids in the area and we want to make sure that we give them a proper education.  With this such a diversified field and such a diversified program.  How does this all affect the Nationwide Series?
WAYNE AUTON:  All the what?

Q.  Let's talk qualifying.
WAYNE AUTON: The new qualifying format, and I'm excited about it.  We'll get all the cars to inspection.  We'll line them up on pit road, two per pit box.  When the tower calls down for a qualifying session to begin, especially at Daytona.  I can't wait to see the strategy used there that the teams are going to have and then going from Daytona to Phoenix.
But basically once the tower calls down and says qualifying session has begun, then at Daytona we'll use it as an example.¬† It will be a 25‑minute session, and we'll take a break and take the top 24 cars and they'll run again.¬† We'll take the top 12 cars, and they'll run again and get the pole and we'll set the field.
Now the initial set‑up, we'll do the 40‑car field to make sure that we've got 40 cars eligible for the race?

Q.  Tell me looking at the Nationwide Series these guys have, I'm sure they'll need the experience of going through this a couple of times, just like the Cup guys and the Truck guys.  Do you get the sense that it's going to take a little bit of time?
WAYNE AUTON:  Well, from the phone calls that I've gotten back from the crew chiefs, they're all trying to strategize how they're going to play it right out of the box going out to Daytona since we're first on the racetrack to try it.
The strategy I think the crew chiefs will be putting a lot of pressure on themselves.  Do I tape up completely to run the first round to make sure I get a good fast lap there to be able to go to the second round, and then untape a little bit to keep the engine cool to go to the third round.  I think it's going to be exciting.
The one thing about it is they have to exit on pit road by the rules set forth by the race.  Pit road speed will be done.  Then the only time they can adjust on the car is whenever there is the break.  If you want to make a second run, you can.  That's what's so cool about this.  You go out and make a bad lap.  Leave it out on pit road.  You've still got 20 minutes to go, jumping out there and make another lap.  Now the strategy the crew chiefs are going to have to go, and the driver will have to make every effort to make that one good lap to go to the next round and get a shot at the pole.

Q.  With a lot of diversity as far as your series and young guys coming out and veterans still running, is there anything like this qualifying in any other series that they can pull from that they can apply?

Q.  How are they going to be affected?
CHAD LITTLE:  How are the younger drivers going to be affected?  I think it will be a level playing field no matter what their experience is.  So the younger drivers just coming in or the veteran drivers.  It's going to be a learning strategy for everyone.
You think about the drafting that is not only involved at Daytona, that is a given, but go to the bigger tracks and there is a little bit of drafting effect on a lot of our racetracks.  So strategy is going to play into it.  A clean lap will play into it.  Do I go early?  Do I go late?  And I don't think it's going to matter what the driver's background was.
I think the good qualifiers are still going to be starting up front.  The good teams, the good trucks or cars are still going to be the ones that qualify up front.

Q.  Can we expect in the Truck Racing Series the next years new companies coming in, new manufacturers?  What do you think about that?
CHAD LITTLE:¬† We had a new body this past winter as a result of the manufacturers, the OEMs all getting together with NASCAR and wanting to design a more street savvy vehicle, one that was more relevant to what is on the street.¬† I think they're really happy with what they have and how it looks.¬† That was the result of seeing the success with the muscle cars that we have had in Nationwide, and also the Gen‑6 in the Cup series.
So right now I think the Truck Series is very happy with the model that they have and the new body.¬† So we don't see any‑‑ we don't foresee any big rule changes coming, but you never say never.

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