NASCAR officials this week announced plans to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.The racing series outlined an 11-point plan designed to reinvigorate its business by investing in research and development, employing at its core technological advances that will lead to a revised rule book and a more fan-friendly sport.Among other things, the changes will include:• Moving rule-making from officiating to research and development and innovation.• Simplifying the rule book, which would be available for reference in real time in an electronic format, by replacing written rules with computer-aided designs.• Increasing consistency with a standardized officiating corps for Sprint Car, Nationwide and the Trucks series.• Instituting a new process that will streamline inspections and the procedures to approve parts.• Implementing a system that will specify penalties for specific infractions.• Increasing the use of technology on pit road to give fans a more intimate race experience by enjoying data gleaned from pit road and during the race on their tablets or smartphones.This is no longer your father’s moonshine-era NASCAR running on dirt roads of the deep South.“In general if you look at it, it’s a little bit of a culture shift in how we’ve done business,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations. “Our goal is really to take a lot of the assets available to us, and really reinvest, and put even more money back into our R&D efforts. What that will allow us to do is get ahead of things in a much more advanced way.”The announcement was the culmination of a nearly yearlong review of the sports competition department.Officials plan for the changes to be in full effect for the 2015 Daytona 500, though some will be in force next season.The modernization plans are part of an effort begun in earnest with the introduction this season of the Generation-6 car, which is more closely identifiable to commercial passenger cars.NASCAR hopes the changes bring the cars even closer together.In order to revise the rule book, officials will be required to review the existing guidelines line by line. “Our objective is to have a plan that spans many years from short to long term and develop technologies that are going to be relevant to our fans,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR’s vice president of innovation and racing development. “The car on the track needs to have some commonality with the cars people drive. We need to move in a direction that the rest of the world is moving. If we don’t, we essentially will disenfranchise ourselves with our next generation of fans.”Another objective is to boost fan interaction.In addition to using data from pit stops, officials also want an inspection process in which fans can observe from the bay.“Ultimately, we want to put the fan in the driver’s seat,” O’Donnell said, “seeing that data, seeing what happens in the race.”
Front-running Johnson: Five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson retained his season lead with a sixth-place finish behind winner Brian Vickers at the Camping World RV Sales 301 last weekend. Johnson’s lead, though, is somewhat deceptive. If the standings were reset today, Johnson and Matt Kenseth, currently No. 6, would enter the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in a dead heat. Each top-10 Chase qualifier receives a base of 2,000 points after the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Sept. 7 with three bonus points added per victory. Johnson and Kenseth each have four victories. The series resumes July 28 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis with the Samuel Deeds 400.
Kanaan returns to Indy: Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan makes a triumphant return to the site of his emotional victory in May, teaming with Joey Hand of Chip Ganassi Racing for the Brickyard Grand Prix on July 26. “Any day that you’re invited to drive at Indianapolis is a good day,” Kanaan said. Helio Castroneves leads the series, followed by Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Mello and a mile high: The circuit takes its annual three-week swing out west, starting with the Mile High Nationals in Denver, where mechanical adjustments are needed to tackle the altitude. “You have to prepare yourself physically to be able to manhandle the Mountain,” said Spencer Massey, who will enter 91 points back of Top Fuel leader Shawn Langdon. “Our guys have built 15 different sets of rods and pistons just for this race.”
He said it
“I wear the cowboy hat because chicks dig it. That’s why I wear the cowboy hat.”
— Nationwide Series driver Austin Dillon on the priorities of fashion statements.