Exploiting the ‘gray area’ gone

In the early days of NASCAR, crew chiefs, team owners and drivers would find advantages to winning races. The rule book governing the realm of NASCAR was small. Many devices and tactics were devised to slide by officials overseeing the field.

One such driver and owner was Junior Johnson. Johnson was one of those that felt the “gray area” of the rule book could be exploited until caught or re-written by officials. An instance described in a book was when Cale Yarborough would start the race, he’d be all over the racetrack until his first pit stop. The team would take off the old tires and put on four new tires and the rest of the day the car was a rocket. Little did people know those four old tires had steel bands welded around them and they were poured with lead and they weighed a hundred pounds apiece. All of a sudden, he’s 400 pounds lighter. They (NASCAR) finally caught on to that when it took three crewmembers to get them over the pit wall.

Today’s NASCAR rule book has little area to be exploited by crew chiefs and teams. Officials want parity between teams and drivers to display their talents on the track.

One new area that will debut at the Daytona 500 is the issuing of front hoods and rear decklids made of carbonfiber. These new parts are manufactured by an independent company. These new parts will make the cars lighter and faster, but the ability to quickly repair a car will be gone due to the inability to manipulate these parts.

NASCAR officials are limiting the innovation of the sport by handcuffing a teams ability to design better parts and strategies. Officials are not the sport’s innovators, but the sports hinderance. Brian France, NASCAR CEO and Mike Helton, NASCAR President voiced their opinions about the future of the sport being revolved around safety and fan development.

* SPRINT UNLIMITED: Fans will decide the format of the exhibition Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway. The Feb. 15 race will allow fans to vote on three major elements via NASCAR.com and the use of the NASCAR Mobile application. Voting for each element will close at different times on race day.

Fans will vote on how the three segments of the race are broken down, the starting order and the final segment restart order.

For the final segment restart order, fans can decide between the fastest lap during the first two segments, most laps led during the first two segments and determined by mandatory pit stop results.

* NAME CHANGE: Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske have both tweaked their team names headed into the 2014 seasons.

Ganassi has dropped “Earnhardt” from the formal name of his organization. His team will now be known as Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, the name it used before a late 2008 merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Penske, meanwhile, wants all of his teams to be called Team Penske. His NASCAR organization had used Penske Racing, while IndyCar had been Team Penske.

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com