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NASCAR maps out 11 goals

- jfeldman@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013
The 11 Initiatives Governance • Move rule-making from Officiating to R&D / Innovation • Enhance effectiveness of appeals process by redefining process and appeals board member criteria Rules • Simplify rulebook and increase objectivity by replacing written rules with CAD designs • Enhance parts approval by formalizing submission and approval process • Increase consistency of rule interpretation across National Series Penalty/Deterrence • Strengthen deterrence model to reduce inspection required to ensure competitive racing Officiating/Inspection • Increase use of technology on pit road • Maintain rigor of inspection while creating greater efficiency in the entire process • Improve efficiency of process by creating race team inspection scheduling system • Enhance effectiveness of inspection through data collection and trend analysis • Create unified inspecting and officiating model across National Series

NASCAR will focus on technology and transparency in its newest initiative, officials announced Monday.

Though was light on specifics, NASCAR set out 11 goals mainly dealing with rules and penalties.

The organization promised to remove antiquated regulations from its rulebook and clarify what is left primarily with math and drawings rather than text. Vice president for innovation and racing development Gene Stefanyshyn said the process will be a “significant undertaking,” but he hopes it will eliminate gray areas for teams and allow for greater innovation.

NASCAR also plans to objectively categorize potential offenses and their corresponding penalties.

“You are going to see in the rulebook: X infraction equals X penalty,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president for racing operations.

O’Donnell also emphasized NASCAR’s desire to change its appeals process so members of appeal boards are industry experts knowledgeable about the specifics of each case they review.

Monday’s announcement comes after a series of controversial rulings handed down by NASCAR. Last week, 31 cars were not penalized for failing inspection after their roof flaps had been tinkered with.

Plus, an appeals board significantly reduced penalties for Matt Kenseth after an engine-related infraction this season.

O’Donnell and Stefanyshyn spoke along with Robin Pemberton, vice president for competition.

They also discussed a desire to utilize emerging technology, both in the car and at the track.

From lights above each pit stall to track-specific phone apps, O’Donnell wants to help bring the trove of data NASCAR teams collect to the casual fan.

“Ultimately we want to put the fan in the driver seat seeing that data, seeing what happens throughout the race,” O’Donnell said.

The initiative was the result of an 18-month evaluation heavy on discussion.

NASCAR worked with McKinsey & Company, a major consulting firm, and automotive executive Brent Dewar while discussing potential areas of improvement with teams, fans, and broadcasting partners. O’Donnell said the working group even conferred with several universities about emerging technologies that NASCAR could take advantage of.

“We want to be a proving ground,” O’Donnell said. “No better sport is better positioned to really take technology and showcase it in front of some of the toughest conditions that exist in the world.”

The announcement represents one of Stefanyshyn’s first major impacts on an organization he joined in April after spending three decades at General Motors.

“This is the tip of the spear,” Stefanyshyn said. “This is just a starting point as we start our journey going down a path of innovation, bringing technology in, and making the sport youthful.”

As he continues to help NASCAR evolve, Stefanyshyn expressed a desire to increase the similarities between racecars and the models sold across the country.

“I think the car on the track needs to have some commonality with the cars people drive,” he said. “We need to move in a direction that the rest of the world is moving. To that extent, if we don’t, we essentially will disenfranchise ourselves with our next generation of fans.”

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