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Earnhardt slams NASCAR UPDATE A day after Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said NASCAR needed a sense of urgency to improve the racing, NASCAR President Mike Helton didn’t sound so urgent and said “there is not going to be a major change to this car.”  NASCAR introduced its new car for about half the races in 2007 and has used it full time since 2008.

“There’s always going to be debate on what you would do different, just as there was in previous models of cars that we raced,” Helton said Saturday outside the Sprint Cup hauler in the Michigan International Speedway garage. “We will always have that. The consensus right now ... from our perspective is we’ll look at things that we can do different, do better with the teams and we’re working with the teams.

“I don’t know if that urgency is a term that I would use, I think, realistically and reasonably, because we’re also in a period where urgency can create more havoc or more expense that we don’t need. And, oh by the way, I [believe in] the argument that the racing we’ve got on the race track now is as good as we’ve had in a long time and a reaction from us could interrupt that.”

08/15/09 Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday that NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow” needs a tune-up.

Earnhardt, who was in Atlanta to promote the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, said the car, which is now the exclusive vehicle on the Sprint Cup circuit, is safer than the previous car, but it’s not providing the close, competitive racing that fans have come to expect.

But he said the problem can be fixed.

“I feel like we can take this race car and make it provide [exciting] races,” he said. “If I can be honest, I feel like NASCAR has seemingly been reluctant to let this car evolve more freely.”

With the old conventional-style car, teams were allowed to modify the way the bodies were attached to the car and make changes to the chassis. But since the introduction of the new car, NASCAR has held a hard line, refusing to allow teams to alter the cars. Those who have tried have incurred stiff penalties.

Earnhardt said there’s plenty of expertise in the garage to make the COT a better race car, but nothing’s being done, not even by the engineers who work for NASCAR.

“[NASCAR officials] don’t seem as willing, even themselves, to produce a better race car that will put on the type of races that we all wish to see,” he said. “I feel like in a way we are holding ourselves back. We’re short-changing ourselves. “We have the technology and the people to build a car that will make for exciting racing — dramatic, side-by-side racing — that will sell tickets, excite fans and thrill people, but we have yet to pursue and try to obtain that.”

Earnhardt said one change that has been made recently — restarts of races with the leaders side-by-side at the front of the pack — is a positive move for drivers and fans.

“I really, really enjoy the double-file restarts,” he said, adding that even though some people suspected the drivers themselves wouldn’t like the format, the opposite is true.

“We’re just as hungry for some drama and excitement in our races as everyone else,” he said. “We’re as concerned about the health of the sport as anybody. It’s our livelihood.”

Earnhardt also said he’s coping fine this year even though his on-track results have been disappointing. He’s 25th in points with just one top-five finish.

“I’ve got a lot of good things going for me,” he said. “And I don’t feel like this is what the rest of my career is going to be like.” ajc.com
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