Racing beat

| August 31, 2006

Ganassi Racing crew members work on the Car of Tomorrow during a test at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Expect to see a few changes – some minor, some major – in 2007 Nextel Cup racing

They says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But when it comes to NASCAR, a little tweaking is always in order.

The Chase for the Championship has been a box office success, and the new Car of Tomorrow is ready to debut in 2007. Still, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France says there are more improvements in the works for what has grown into the most popular form of motorsports in the world.

“A lot of the things that we put into play a year ago, two years ago and three years ago are really starting to pay off for us,” says France, who recently delivered a State of the NASCAR Union address. “Things like the single engine rule. Things like our testing policy, the gear rule. We had 10 (different) winners in our first 16 races. It’s pretty balanced.

“So I’m liking what I’m seeing, and I think that’s a tribute to what we’re trying to really do, which is look down the road.”

And what is ahead down the road?

“We want to maintain safe, competitive racing, which is the heart blood of what we do, so these are the long-term things that we’ve got to put into place,” France says. “Things to ensure, not today, not next week, but two years, three years, five years from now that we get the kind of results on the track that you all think we should and certainly our fans think that we should.

“What I’ve always says about the Chase was that we needed a few years under our belt to see how it evolved, to change the strategy, see how the actual formula that we have, see how it really works, and now we’re in our third year, starting to get that sense, and my view is, we will make some adjustments going into 2007.”

France suggests some changes would include bringing more drivers into the Chase (there are currently 10) and possibly changing which events are part of the Chase for the Championship.

“We’ll be looking at, is 10 the right number, as an example,” he says. We’ll be looking at the 400-point margin. We’ll be looking at the final 10 races.

“I think we have the right mix, and I don’t think we’ll be changing that, but we’ll be thinking about the points structure; you know, should we add a little more to the win in the final 10. Just various things we think will build what we’re hoping for, which are big moments and a bigger stage for the drivers. That’s what the Chase has always been about. It’s about showcasing their skills.”

As for the Car of Tomorrow, France says it’s “97 to 98 percent” ready.

“There are a few tweaks that we’re making with various manufacturers and team owners to get the building of the car correct, the ventilation, exhaust, that kind of thing,” France says. “But the idea of the box in your car, it’s been through the wind tunnel as you well know, numerous times, been on the track now numerous times; the drivers are getting a great feel for it.

As successful as the sport has become in the last decade, France insists NASCAR will never rest on its laurels.

“We want to make sure that the next generation of fans get the same close finishes that we’ve seen this year, get the same balanced playing field where new teams can come in and compete and make a difference,” France says.

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