Lengthy rain delays like the one that marred last year's Daytona 500 could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new track drying system NASCAR is close to implementing.
In a press conference Tuesday during the Sprint Media Tour featuring NASCAR CEO Brian France and president Mike Helton, the sanctioning body outlined the new process with a stated goal of reducing the drying time by up to "80 percent."
The new technology, which will do away with jet dryers, will reduce the Daytona drying time from two hours to roughly 30 minutes, while a short track like Martinsville could take just 15 minutes.
"It's designed to expedite, obviously, the removal of water using compressed air and heat," Helton said, "where the jet dryers were simply designed around blowing and depended more on hot air. The new system depends more on compressed air.
"Appearance wise it's considerably different. It's a gain of pipes behind a pickup truck that the air is being pushed through as opposed to a jet dryer."
On the topic of the new Gen 6 car, both France and Helton expressed optimism about a car that will bring back brand-identity to the sport with each manufacturer now having a distinct look. The hope among all involved is that the redesigned car will re-energize the fan base and provide more opportunities for drivers to race side-by-side.
France specifically said he will measure whether the Gen 6 car is successful by the number of "lead changes," how it races," and "how drivers feel about it."
As for an increase in lobbying by the teams and manufacturers for rule concessions brought on by the change, NASCAR is prepared for such a thing.
"There will be a little bit more of that, which we anticipate, to give the manufacturers the look that resembles their cars," France said. "Obviously we had to go away from the complete common template that really would have defined the old car. So that goes with the territory a little bit.
"But having said that, we're also working closer with them than we ever have, and they're really excited about that, and that's good for us and good for them."
Other topics of interest during the Q&A featuring France and Helton include:
- NASCAR is open to the idea of a fourth manufacturer entering the sport. However, France expressed concern whether there were enough teams to make this a viable option.
"My hope is, and I know there are a couple of big manufacturers, and there always are -- this is not breaking news -- there's always somebody who has an interest in at least understanding the NASCAR opportunity, and so my sense of it is over time that we will have a fourth manufacturer," France said.
"It would be very difficult for a car manufacturer to get enough quality teams to make their program work properly, but four is certainly manageable, and we would -- we're encouraged that at some point we'll attain that again."
- While acknowledging that were some "errors" with the Car of Tomorrow, France did credit the much-maligned car for improving driver safety and keeping costs contained.
"Obviously we got away from some things that historically had worked well for us: The manufacturer rivalry, which we're excited about; the relevance issue with the car manufacturers," he said.
"And then I think we put a lot more focus in the new car into the rules package surrounding the car that we didn't put nearly -- I can tell you we didn't put nearly as much science into the old car as we tried to achieve better racing."
- There is no consideration to introduce heat races to Cup events, though shortening a race is something NASCAR will continue to monitor.
- France expressed his enthusiasm for the Chase. And in particular, he is very pleased with the wild card system -- which he said was suggested by a driver -- and "likes the emphasis on winning" it creates.
- There have been no changes to the NASCAR concussion policy. However, the sanctioning body will continue working with drivers and encouraging them to be forthright about any possible symptoms, just as Dale Earnhardt Jr. did a season ago.