Helton expects testing ban to save millionsUPDATE 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. 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." Boston Globe
NASCAR President Mike Helton speaks with the media about the 2009 testing policy.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
11/15/08 NASCAR considered implementing a limited testing policy for 2009, but after considering the impact the downturn in the economy may have on the sport next year, decided to suspend testing at most tracks, NASCAR President Mike Helton said Friday.
That means no preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway or at Las Vegas Motor Speedway or Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway.
“There’s a lot of variables that went along with this conversation,” Helton said. “One of them was the typical preseason testing that goes on at Daytona getting ready for Speedweeks.
“The ultimate decision was that the best-case scenario for this decision was 'no' means 'no' and would be applied across the board for an entire season.”
NASCAR announced Friday that there will be no testing at tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Truck, Camping World East and Camping World West Series events. The sanction agreements signed by the track operators forces them to abide by the testing rule, Helton said, and will allow the sanctioning body to enforce its rules. “Beyond [those sanctioned tracks], it’s more challenging if not impossible to have an enforcement element that we can lean on or utilize,” Helton said. “That’s basically where we’ve always gone, limit it to the tracks that we have relationships with.”
Helton said that the rule will save “tens of millions” of dollars for the industry. Sprint Cup teams had 15 days of testing this year at specified tracks where Cup teams race and could test at any track where the Cup series doesn’t race.
“With the economic conditions turning the way they have turned recently, not just in our industry but worldwide, we began to think a month or so ago differently about testing as we were considering different options and different topics to look at in an effort to help the economic part of the sport collectively,” Helton said.
Helton said many of the particulars of the policy, including whether teams would be allowed to use telemetry on the first day of practice at a track and then qualify the following day, will be finalized in the next few weeks but that there was an urgency to announce the decision.
“The hope is and the thinking is that this unplugs one element of the ’09 season,” Helton said. “And if you look back the last few years, this element has been only a portion of the whole season. There was limited testing already, limited access to tires, limited number of race tracks that we raced on that you could go to.
“This policy already had limitations to it. We are simply removing the last portions of those limitations. … We feel like we can do that [and] we can accomplish giving the teams a tool to work with from a resource aspect and not take away from the races on the race track.” As far as the competition, Helton didn’t buy the theory that the new policy will make the strong teams stronger.
“You can make that argument, but I think there is another side of that," Helton said. "You still, in order to utilize engineers and seven-post machines and all of that, you’ve got to have good data. And the best data you can get is going to the race track and getting it.
“I think you can also make the argument that maybe it closes that gap. The decision was based on having to come up with a test policy and, oh by the way, we’re going to go into ’09 with some challenging economic circumstances.” Scenedaily.com
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