NASCAR brass gives its drivers directions on how to race
BY TINA AKOURIS Sun-Times Media September 14, 2013 7:24PM
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France listens to questions during a news conference at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. NASCAR added Jeff Gordon to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field Friday, a stunning and unprecedented step in the fallout from at least two attempts to manipulate the results at the season-ending race at Richmond last weekend. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AT A GLANCE
What: GEICO 400 When:
1 p.m. Sunday Where:
Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet
Tickets: Call (888) 629-7223
Radio: 95.9-FM, 98.3-FM
Updated: October 16, 2013 6:56AM
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and president Mike Helton think their latest trick should fix what has been a drama-filled week, as the sport kicks off the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship with Sunday’s GEICO 400.
France and Helton met with drivers, owners and crew chiefs Saturday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet to announce new rules that will go into effect starting with the GEICO 400. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president for competition, was also at the meeting.
France said the main thing the three of them tried to get across was that drivers and teams are expected to “give a 100 percent effort to complete a race and race as hard as they possibly can” and that races not be “artificially altered.”
NASCAR also handed down new rules on spotters. Only one spotter per team is allowed on the spotters’ stand, two analog radios and scanners are allowed, no digital radios are permitted on the spotters’ stand and a video camera will be installed on the stand. Pemberton said the camera will allow NASCAR officials to monitor the spotters’ actions during a race.
Helton gave examples of on-track behavior that is unacceptable under the new rule.
Those examples include: if drivers offer a race position in exchange for a favor or some other benefit; directing a driver to give up a position to benefit another driver; intentionally causing a wreck or a caution and going to pit road or the garage area on purpose so another driver benefits.
“These are just examples,” Helton said. “It doesn’t mean that if it’s not on this list that it’s OK.”
Some reports indicated France was quite angry during the meeting, referring to stories that appeared in various media this week that said NASCAR was “rigged” after the Richmond race on Sept. 7.
France and Helton have reiterated that they want the sport’s credibility back. The fines and punishments levied against Michael Waltrip Racing, and the alleged radio chatter between Dave Gilliland’s team at Front Row Motorsports and Joey Logano’s at Penske Racing seemed to mar the beginning of NASCAR’s playoffs.
“We had a very frank discussion with the drivers,” France said. “I didn’t talk to any of them afterwards, but I could see as we were walking through that this is what they want. They want to have clarity.”
Paul Wolfe, the crew chief for defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, said the meeting cleared up a lot of ambiguity.
“I think it got everyone’s attention,” Wolfe said. “Everyone should have a pretty clear understanding of what that [line] is now. A lot of it is just common sense.”
Since Wolfe and Keselowski are part of Penske Racing, they are also affected by NASCAR’s ruling Friday that put Penske Racing on probation until Dec. 31.
“I don’t get many thank-you notes (from the drivers),” France said. “But I believe that they understand what they want to get back to. It’s to not worry about anything but winning races and doing your best.”