Pocono, PA - NASCAR President Mike Helton
announced Friday that the sanctioning body will tweak some of its timing
and scoring procedures beginning this weekend to expedite and simplify
alignment procedures during caution periods in its three national series.
"We need to rethink our procedures and policies that are forwarded to the
competitors but are simple enough for the people to follow," Helton said
during a press conference at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. "The best thing in
sports is to keep it as simple as you can keep it so that everybody can
follow it, and you spend a lot less time explaining things."
The process will be simplified going forward with NASCAR relying solely on
the electronics that are used in the system to determine the positions of
the cars on the race track. The positions of the cars will be based off
the previous timing and scoring loop they passed on the track prior to the
caution and no additional visual aids will be used to further examine the
The exception to that procedure will be in the closing laps of the race in
which visual indicators such as video can be utilized if needed to
determine the running or finishing order. Those laps will be in the "no
red flag zone," which is the area in which NASCAR will not issue a red
flag to ensure a green-flag finish. That lap number is pre-determined and
announced in the drivers’ meetings each week, and usually falls around the
final five laps.
"I will also tell you that the two incidents that I can think of quickly
this year – the end of the Nashville Busch race and the Talladega Cup race
– that finished on a caution and we used video to help us to be sure about
the finishing order," Helton said. "We will continue to do that at the end
of the race, particularly at a place like Talladega where a lot of things
can happen between loops.
"If we feel like we need additional loops for the credibility of freezing
fields, we’ll do that. We put in nearly $1 million over the winter in this
current system buying decoders, installing loops, adding more personnel to
the timing and scoring staff," Helton said. "So we’ll do what’s necessary.
… but we’ll still have the human element of us running races involved. But
the electronic scoring is what we will become dependent on [beginning]
In addition, the procedure involving the first non-lead lap car getting a
lap back as a result of the caution – more commonly known as the
beneficiary or lucky dog – will begin immediately rather than moving the
car to the tail end of the longest line as the field is preparing for the
restart. This move also will eliminate one of the caution laps and
ultimately shorten the length of the caution period.
The "freeze the field" procedure was implemented during the September
event in Dover last season in an effort to better ensure the safety of the
drivers during a caution period.
"With the electronics we now have at our access today, we think that
should be a more efficient use and a more efficient way to do things,"
Helton said. "I hope it will eliminate the possibility of another 24-lap
caution like we did in Dover last weekend. We agree with everybody that
Here is the complete transcript of the remarks by NASCAR President Mike
Transcript: NASCAR President Mike Helton at Pocono Raceway
MIKE HELTON: We thought it might be a good idea to stop by and talk about
Dover last weekend a little bit and to tell you that in particular the 24
lap caution that occurred is unacceptable. And I think everybody in the
industry agrees that it's unacceptable. We'd admit that to you.
We can't go back and change that. All we can do is work through it and go
forward with every effort possible to avoid that happening again.
I could sit here and explain why it happened. I could sit here and tell
you the process of what all happened in that 24 lap window, but it has no
merit. The ultimate point that we'd like to get across to you is that it
is unacceptable. We all agree on that. We'll do whatever we can to
hopefully avoid that ever happening again
To that point, what we will begin doing this weekend in NASCAR is to
depend on the electronics that we use to determine the positions of the
cars on the racetrack.
I would like to point out that the long caution in Dover was not
necessarily an element of freezing the field or racing back. That was a
series of circumstances that occurred after or at the end of green flag
pit stops where the last car that had not pitted had assumed the lead, and
that particular vehicle was the one that caused the caution at the entry
of pit road, and then there were several incidents throughout that caution
period that continued to extend that, most of which was explanations of
why we did what we did.
To that point, though, if I could go back to last fall when we announced
racing back was going to be eliminated, and that we would freeze the
field, and remind everybody we did it for a real solid, sound, even today
absolute good reason, and that was for the safety of the competitors on
What kept us from doing it long before that was the complexities of being
able to do that correctly and fairly. As we announced last fall, we were
going to do away racing back, we admitted there was going to be some
As '03 unfolded, we realized you cannot be manually fair to the sport and
try to freeze the field. Even before the conclusion of the '03 season, we
were in discussions with different groups on how to electronically assist
us in doing that. We landed in the course of those conversations with AMB,
which was a current partner working on scoring and timing issues, to
develop a multi loop system for us that allowed us to electronically
technically freeze the field, if you will, when the caution come out,
beginning with the race in Daytona in February.
That's the electronics that we have been using throughout this season
where, when the caution comes out, the computer, the software, once the
button is pushed, aligns the field based on the last loop that the cars
had crossed over prior to the caution. Through the evolution of that
electronic process, we gained more and more confidence to the point that
I'd point out in Dover last weekend, as an example, I think we might have
had 10 cautions. We had the one long one that started this conversation
today. The others averaged six or seven laps, which have been fairly
standard this year.
Through the freezing of the field, not racing back program, we began some
new elements of leaving the pit road closed the first time the pace car
went by, the free pass car that is determined to get to move up a lap
after the caution comes out. Those processes and procedures have we think
added to the number of laps that can occur under a caution, so we're also,
in addition to depending completely on the electronic system beginning
this weekend, we also announced in a drivers meeting that instead of using
the pace car as the determining vehicle that opens up pit road the second
time it comes by, we're going to yield to the leader, the race leader,
when the caution comes out. As he comes by the pit road the second time,
unless circumstances prevent it from happening, he'll be the trigger to
open up pit road.
What that means is that is not always going to benefit the number of laps.
But in a place like Pocono, as an example, if a caution was to come out,
and the leader is at the tunnel turn, he comes by the opening of pit road
before the pace vehicle can pick him up. So the first time he come by pit
road would count as the first time. Everybody here still has ample time to
slow down and close up, which is the reason we started that. But it would
help us possibly eliminate one lap on the front end.
The other thing that we're going to do different beginning this weekend is
once we determine who the free pass vehicle is, which is instantaneous now
electronically, then that vehicle will be moved up as the normal process
of the caution pit road pit stops are occurring, instead of waiting till
everything is over with and then doing that right before we go back to
green, and in essence adding a lap to the caution period. So we're going
to try those two procedure changes this weekend to help expedite cautions
But the biggest thing that comes out of this conversation is that the
evolution of the electronic systems that we developed over the winter with
AMB and put into play early this year have gained enough confidence
internally that we feel like we can eliminate the human element that led a
lot in part to the extended caution last weekend, and depend and score the
race and determine who's in what position, in what lap they're in,
Now, we'll keep the redundant systems, which includes a complete human
manual system to score races in the event of what failures can or may
occur. But with the electronics we now have at our access today, we think
that that should be a more efficient use and a more efficient way to do
things. Again, I hope it will eliminate the possibility of another 24 lap
caution like we did in Dover last weekend.
Again, that's unacceptable. We agree with everybody that it's
unacceptable. We'll go to work to try to eliminate the possibility of that
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. When you acquired all this technology in the off season, why did you
not publicize that?
MIKE HELTON: To get the bugs out of it. Quite frankly, it was new to us.
If we went into great detail about the equipment itself, the software,
what it was supposed to do, it gave that equipment authority automatically
and probably prior to when we wanted it to have authority. So the idea was
to install it, use it, get the bugs out of it, be sure of it, be confident
with it before we would tell the world about it.
Q. Instead of using a red flag, could you use yellow to determine the
MIKE HELTON: Yes, we could. Now, the ideal situation is not to have a
situation where it's that confusing anymore. If we depend on the
electronics that we have confidence in, we should be able to eliminate
But the sequence of what happened in Dover, there was occurrences during
the caution that extended it. I don't know that there was a point last
week in Dover's incident where a red flag would have helped that. But
that's a possibility.
If I may, I will take the opportunity to say that the dependency on
electronics to determine the frozen field, the running position, the
running order, the lap that a particular car may be in, is fairly common.
What we're saying today is that we're telling the competitors this weekend
that that is what we're using.
We could still be in a debate with a competitor on where they think they
should be, but the electronic system should ultimately prove itself. We'll
have those conversations and debates in the truck after the race is over
with, not as the events unfold and up and down pit road.
I will also tell you that the two incidents that I can think of quickly
this year, the end of the Nashville Busch race and the Talladega Cup race,
as those two events finished on a caution, we also used video to help us
to be sure about the finishing order. We will continue to do that at the
end of the race, particularly at a place like Talladega where a lot of
things can happen between loops.
If we feel like we need to add additional loops for the credibility of
freezing fields, we'll do that. We put in nearly a million dollars over
the winter in this current system buying decoders, installing loops,
adding more personnel to the timing and scoring staff to do this.
So we'll do what's necessary to do it, and to do it as right as we can.
But we'll still have the human element of us running races involved. But
the electronic scoring is what we'll become dependent on this weekend.
Q. What things in the past were relied on to make decisions with?
MIKE HELTON: What this sport used to run on, that's basically people
seeing what they saw on the racetrack and saying, "Here's what I saw."
Motorsports, and I'm not going to get on my soapbox and tell you how
different it is than any other sport, and certainly in NASCAR with the
level of competition, particularly in the Cup garages, can offer up a lot
So what historically in short tracks today, the NASCAR regional series,
you don't have the electronics. You have a group of people that are
saying, "Here's what happened. Here is where you belong. Go on, get back
in line, let's go."
But the stakes that exist particularly in the Cup series, but all three of
our national series, but the stakes, at the level of competition, there
should be more proof of that. The electronics can now offer that. The
technology today, it will only get better, more sophisticated every year.
But what we have available to us today, we'll continue to explore the next
generation of those.
In the meantime, the human elements of visually saying, "Okay, this car is
here, this guy was on pit road, this guy went by this other guy, this guy
was at the end of the pit road," there will still be some of those
elements, like the paddle guy at the end of pit road deciding when the guy
ran the paddle and when he didn't. We also have video cameras down there
to help us with that.
But the electronic scoring eliminates the human eye of determining where a
car belongs. It now will depend on the electronics to say, "This is where
Q. The oil on the track and Kenseth's contention about the ambulance.
MIKE HELTON: The caution was brought out based on the 41 car, not on the 9
car. We called the caution based on the smoke and the resulting effects of
the 41 car.
I don't know exactly the timing of the 9 car spinning out in relationship,
but to clear this up, we called the caution because of the 41 car. The
spotters in turn four alerted us. We could see looking from the tower
ourselves, see the smoke in turn four. The 41 car comes by the
start/finish line smoking, and that's when the caution was called.
In exact relationship to where the 9 car was, it was only a matter of a
couple of seconds at most when we saw the 41 car and called the caution
because of what the 41 car was doing.
In relationship to Matt Kenseth being involved in that accident, coming
down to rest on the frontstretch against the pit road wall, he climbs out
of the car, he walks down pit road. In the meantime the folks from pit
road were following him, trying to get to him. They obviously didn't get
there quick enough, in his opinion. We realize he was frustrated.
We've investigated trying to figure out if there was a shortfall
somewhere. We have not found that. They were moving in the proper amount
of the command to go. Don't have an answer past the point that if it took
too long to get to him, we'll fix that.
Q. Question not repeated.
MIKE HELTON: If I recall correctly, we red flagged the race very quickly.
I don't know that it's fair to relate it to two laps. I also recall him
saying it took us 30 laps on the caution to get the scoring right. His
thinking, again, I think is driven by frustration more than anything. So I
don't know that it is fair to say it was two laps. But if it took too
long, then we'll fix that.
In relationship, we cannot find a fallacy there. The track did everything
they were supposed to do. The workers at the track did everything they
were asked to do when they were asked to do it. I think we all can agree,
at least I hope we can, that the response time and the quality of response
today is as good as it's ever been. We'll keep working on making it as
good as we can make it and as quick as we can make it.
Q. Are we going to actually have more wires around the track to possibly
track the cars better?
MIKE HELTON: Let me first of all clarify something. The current multi loop
system that I referred to that we began to use for positioning of vehicles
this weekend is the same antenna that's at the start/finish line is now at
multiple locations around the racetrack. It's the same thing.
For several years now, NASCAR has been using an AMB scoring system,
electronically, from the start/finish line. There's a little black box, in
addition to the data recorder, that we've been using on cars to record
that antenna signal at the start/finish line for I think eight or nine
The modern version of that box is a multiple reading box. It can read
multiple antennas. It gives us the ability to use what we now call the
multiple loop system, which means there's an antenna at the start/finish
line to support what happens there, but there's additional loops around
the racetrack that does the exact same thing that happens at the
start/finish line. That's what I was mentioning earlier. If we feel like
we need to add more of those to be more efficient, then we'll do that. So
it's possible that there can be.
You won't see wires because they're buried, but it's possible there could
be more of those antennas going forward. But currently we're in the
process of putting those antennas ahead of us. We've had them at every
track we've been to so far this year. That's part of the process. If we
need to add more, we'll add more. We've talked about the possibilities of
doing that to shrink the distance between those loops and everything.
Q. Question not repeated.
MIKE HELTON: No. We've had additional loops around the track all year
long. We froze the field in Dover last week with multiple loops. We pushed
the button and it froze the field electronically last weekend. Started
doing that in February in Daytona.
We used that multiple loop system at Nashville in the Busch race, we used
it at the Talladega Cup race. Those antennas have been here all year long.
We have used this in a beta program, if you will, but we have used this to
be confident understanding how it works, understanding how it's to be used
and officiated by.
What I'm telling you today is that that is going to be the determining
factor for freezing the field in determining the positions on the
racetrack this weekend.
Q. Newman, his pit road situations last week.
MIKE HELTON: With that being in the details of that 24 lap sequence last
weekend, I will tell you that we have 43 teams up and down pit road who
argue on behalf of their universe, which is 1/43rd of the field.
It's NASCAR's responsibility to police the sport with the entire field in
its vision. And we feel like, and we think, and we have confidence in
making this statement, that we have done that correctly most of the time,
the biggest part of the time, majority of the time.
We still believe we did a lot of correct things last weekend. But each
team is going to argue their universe, and they have their thought process
and vision based on their universe. But all of our timing and scoring
equipment didn't agree with Don. I'm not going to say "at the end of the
day" because I've been beat up on saying that.
Ultimately, there has to be an authority in sports. And actually in life
there has to be an authority, whether it was your parents when you were
growing up, the mayor of the city or the President of the United States.
There has to be an authority. But in sports there has to be an authority.
And in stock car racing, there has to be an authority. In NASCAR's form of
stock car racing, there has to be an authority.
What we have done over the past 50 plus years is try to operate with a
certain amount of benevolence to explain our decisions and our processes
and procedures. But if there's a little bit here or there that you can't
explain, it's just like your dad saying, "Look, it is because I said so,
let's get on and go on down the road." There has to be final authority,
and in NASCAR it's us.
We try not to abuse that, we try not to be arrogant about it, we try our
best to be as benevolent as we can so the entire industry understands what
we're doing when we're doing it. But if there's a gray area left, there
has to be an authority, and that has to be us.
Sometimes we have to go to an extent to prove that. Sometimes we have to
remind people of that. Sometimes we even have to remind ourselves of that.
But there has to be an authority, and that's us.
Q. How exactly do the loops work?
MIKE HELTON: Let me say this first, then I'll answer your question.
What David is working on now is a presentation that we're going to make to
the competitors in the garage area and very quickly after that
presentation make to you, the media, so that we can explain to you exactly
what you're asking. But I'll try to do this without the benefit of that
presentation at hand.
You're correct, the loop and the antenna is the same thing. We call them
"a loop" because it's a continual wire that goes up, loops around and
comes back down. It's got about 8 or 10 inches between the wires. We call
it a loop, but it's an antenna.
Every car in the field has a transponder on it that that antenna reads as
it goes over. The software that complements the multi loop system
identifies the position of each car on the racetrack after it has crossed
one of those antennas. So now the leader could be over at the tunnel turn,
and the 20th place guy could be crossing the start/finish line, and the
leader could have crossed the loop or the antenna back going into the
tunnel turn while the 20th place crossed the one at the start/finish line.
But the software using an internal timing code system records them
identically so that it recognizes the leader at an antenna back there,
while it's recognizing other cars as they're scattered across the field as
they crossed the different antennas.
That's a very rough layman's explanation.
Q. How many loops are here at Pocono?
MIKE HELTON: I'll have to ask you to get that correct information from
David. It varies from track to track. I don't know the exact number here.
Q. Doc may know.
MIKE HELTON: We have 14 here. Thanks, Doc.
Q. Question not repeated.
MIKE HELTON: What happens after you pass the loop and in turn the caution
comes out? If there's a change in position after of pass the loop, before
the caution comes out, what happens then?
What happens during the course of the race itself, we will use the
electronic scoring to determine where you were. So it's based on the last
time you passed the loop. So it doesn't matter what happened between the
Now, at the end of the race, as in the case of Talladega, when we finished
under caution and we went back to the TV cameras, because a lot of things
happened very quick in Talladega, we used a TV camera to help us confirm
or sort out anything that happened between the loops not between the
loops, but between the loop prior to the caution and the moment of the
So at the end of the race, we will continue to use video. When I say "the
end of the race," that's better defined as that window where we've said we
will not bring out a red.
Q. If someone passes someone after the caution, technically it wouldn't
have been frozen, you could make a pass after the yellow flag.
MIKE HELTON: Let me back up just a second. Let's keep in mind that this is
a sport, okay? Things happen very quickly. In officiating the sport, you
make decisions. They're human decisions, but they're decisions.
What I'm saying to you today is we're going to be dependent upon the
electronic scoring system to record where cars belong on the racetrack
when a caution comes out. What happens after the electronic system has
made up its mind where you belong is not at issue. We'll debate that with
guys after the race is over with, if he thinks he passed so and so before
the caution came out after the last antenna. Look, it can happen. It's
possible that it's going to happen.
But what I'm telling you is to simplify running the races and be efficient
in the caution periods, and to deliver the NASCAR product the best we can
to the garage area, to the fans in the grandstands, to the promoters, fans
at home, media and everybody else, we're going to score the races
electronically. We're going to take the human element out of it. It will
take a human element to determine if someone passed somebody passed an
antenna before the caution came out. So it's very likely that that can
happen. But the garage area will know and will have to understand that
we're freezing the field based on what the electronic antenna has told us.
Q. Is there a standard distance for loop spacing?
MIKE HELTON: There is. It's whatever 14 into two and a half is. Actually,
I'll take that back. At Daytona and Talladega, we may have more than we
have here. It's not just a spacing as much as what can happen in time,
too. I think we have 18 loops in Daytona and Talladega. It does vary from
racetrack to racetrack.
Again, we're 12 races into using this system. In 54 years, it's not a lot
of time. We're 12 races into using this system. It will change. We may
come back here next year and have 20 loops here next year, I don't know.
We may come back here and have 14 again. I can't tell you that as we sit
Currently it differs from track to track based on the size of the track
and the speed of cars at the track.
Q. Is it an objective to have a GPS system down the road?
MIKE HELTON: We continue to work with different groups out there,
including the current knowledge we have of GPS, that gives us the best
possible scenario. I'm careful of how I'm saying that because I don't want
everybody to walk out thinking, "Well, NASCAR is hanging its hat on GPS
for the future." There could be something better than GPS, I don't know.
But what we do know from Sport Vision and the universe the GPS programs
they use to do the TV production stuff with is that if we were completely
100% confident that they did deliver a signal lap after lap for every foot
of the racetrack, we would use the GPS tomorrow. But there's some
idiosyncrasies in the GPS system that have voids in them that doesn't give
us that confidence. That's why we're using the loops in the ground with
the antennas on the racetrack.
But GPS would absolutely be a bona fide way of doing it one day when they
have all the idiosyncrasies conquered.
Q. Free pass car is the question.
MIKE HELTON: Currently, he is moved around the pace vehicle at the end of
the pit cycles. So the last thing that happens before we go to green is
sending the free pass car past the field. What we would do now is send
that free pass car past the pace vehicle between the first and second laps
of pitting. We'll move him past the pace car while the leaders are pitting
before he has to come back to pit. He'll still have to field with the lap
Q. Ryan Newman when he hit the pit road wall, judgment calls involved in
MIKE HELTON: I think most of the judgment that played in that moment was
who was on pit road, who had already left pit road, and where they were in
the cycle of leaving pit road, that played into that, if I understand your
Yeah, the judgment that came out at that moment was, number one, did we
need to throw the caution. The tires pushed up, all the water that came
out, we deemed it necessary to go to caution.
Q. Was the leader the leader when he hit the pit wall?
MIKE HELTON: I suspect that there should have been judgment on that call.
Q. A lot of fans get confused. We're all sitting in front of monitors,
TVs. You are, too. There's radios. What can you say to the fans watching
TV, just trying to understand all these things that you have to go
MIKE HELTON: I'm not sure that it can be. It's a fair question. I don't
have an answer for it, other than the fact that we need to rethink our
procedures and policies that are forwarded to the competitors but are
simple enough for the people to follow.
I think that's something that we are address as we speak, and we have all
year long, actually as we have done for the entire history of the sport.
Once we announced no racing back to the yellow, we've been challenged with
situations of, "How do you balance that?"
We still need to figure out how to keep it simple. The best thing in
sports is to keep it as simple as you can keep it so that everybody can
follow it, and you spend a lot less time explaining things.
Q. Clarification on when a car is going to be scored when it's passes the
MIKE HELTON: The software determines the frozen field based on where
they're at after they passed the last antenna. The moment the yellow comes
out, it's based on where they were relative to all the other cars when
they passed that last antenna.
I go back to, number one, why we did this. Remember, for 50 years we
didn't do it. That's one of the challenges we had when we decided last
fall to say, "Look, there's no racing back." It made all the sense in the
world to say that. It still does. There's strong, obvious reasons why we
did what we did.
Now the challenge is to police the sport with that as part of the
procedure. That's where we're going through the last seven races of '03
and the first 12 races of '04, is coming up with the right balance of
procedures and policies that fit in our product.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you
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