|JIMMIE JOHNSONIn favor of testing|
Testing nearing finish line
NASCAR says ban will go into effect in Jan.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - In a cost-cutting initiative reflective of the nation's economic climate, NASCAR officials yesterday announced a ban on testing that is expected to provide a savings of a reported $30 million-$40 million.
Effective Jan. 1, NASCAR will no longer permit testing by its teams at sanctioned tracks that stage Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series races, as well as Camping World East and West events.
While NASCAR has been perceived as a prosperous sport that enjoyed unbridled growth over the last two decades, it was not immune to the economic concerns of its teams, sponsors, and manufacturers.
"I think this decision is symbolic of NASCAR working with the industry," said NASCAR president Mike Helton. "Particularly the team owners and the crew members and coming up with a procedure or a policy that allows teams and crews and stakeholders in the sport to make decisions for themselves as to how to go forward, but in the meantime protect the quality of what goes on the racetrack because, at the end of the day, you don't want to cut into the muscle."
According to car owner Rick Hendrick, some teams spent "as much as $700,000, $800,000 to $1 million a team, depending on how much you test."
Although his track stood to lose revenue produced by test sessions, and the opportunity to publicize upcoming races, Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, applauded NASCAR's decision.
"Anything we can do to save money in this sport is going to be a good thing," Gappens said.
Even if it came at the expense of publicizing one of his two Sprint Cup dates?
"That's one of the side effects," Gappens said. "We did take advantage of testing to publicize events. If you look at all the [
Two-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson opposed the testing ban, saying had it been put into effect this season his team may not have had the opportunity to recover from its sluggish start.
"I think it's a mistake," said Johnson, who spent four of the first five weeks outside the top 12 in points. "I think teams need a chance to work on their cars, to improve their programs, to put on a better show. If we had this rule at the start of this year, with all the development work that needed to be done with the car, not only for the No. 48 team but the whole series, I don't think we'd be where we are today."
Johnson needs to finish 36th or better in tomorrow's Ford 400 to become only the second driver (Cale Yarborough 1976-78) to win three consecutive NASCAR titles. Johnson, however, will first have to overcome a poor qualifying effort that left him 30th in the 43-car grid behind the
"I do understand and recognize that we need to cut expenses," Johnson said. "I feel a good compromise would be to allow the teams to run data acquisitions on Friday [of race weekends]. We can get it off the cars, we can adjust the schedule, and make it work and let the teams have a chance to collect data to make these cars better."
Helton indicated NASCAR would take that suggestion under advisement while continuing to allow Goodyear to conduct tire tests, "to be sure that we've got the right tires at race time," he said. Helton rejected the notion of creating a separate tire test team, saying he preferred the competitors to participate in those tests.
"We have been working with Goodyear to try and spread that out and make it fair," Helton said. "I think we still are best served by the active teams and drivers in the garage area doing the tire tests, because those are the ones who will be using the tire, and they're the ones who know, hopefully, how to put the tire through the proper tests to come up with the right answer when it comes time for us to have the tire on the racetrack."
Tomorrow's race will mark the last for Tony Stewart in the No. 20