LONG POND, Pa. – Listen to Greg Zipadelli talk. See his hands move. Hear his voice rise and watch his eyes widen.
Forget about the two Sprint Cup championships as Tony Stewart’s crew chief. Skip the 50 career Cup victories – 34 as crew chief and 16 as director of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing.
When Zipadelli talks about NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, it is with the passion of the youngster who wanted to spend his life making cars go fast and drivers faster.
He’s been in NASCAR long enough – he arrived in Jan. 1998, the same month Camping World Truck Series driver Cole Custer was born – that Zipadelli remembers how Bill France Jr. ruled the garage.
Zipadelli has seen plenty of changes in the sport from the “Car of Tomorrow” to the the current model. He’s viewed the sport’s explosion, the impacts of the economic downturn and a push toward changing rules this season to foster better racing.
Teams have had three different areo packages the previous three races. They raced a low-downforce package at Kentucky, they used a package employed most of the year at New Hampshire and a high-drag setup last weekend at Indianapolis. They’ll race with their package used most of the year Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Kentucky Speedway saw a 132 percent increase in green-flag passes, 22 green-flag lead changes (up from 10 last year) and 11 cautions (up from six last year). Indianapolis saw green-flag passing down and drivers deriding the package.
NASCAR has yet to announce what rules package it will have during the Chase. Zipadelli knows which one he’d choose.
“I think in all fairness, the ’15 (rules package) is the best because everybody in this garage has spent their entire year, spending their money on developing it,’’ he told NASCAR Talk inside the hauler for Kurt Busch’s team.
“My feeling is they didn’t take enough (downforce) off of them to start because we’re going to continue to make gains and before you know it we’re sitting here talking bout the same thing. I’d rather see that (Kentucky) package with even more downforce taken off. I think you’ve got to take a big steps.’’
Zipadelli also takes a deeper look at the sport and says there are ways to make the racing more exciting for fans than changes to the car.
“I think a format change of some sort for the race … we’d reap more benefits off something of that nature than we would continuing to change rules and rules and rules,’’ he said.
Zipadelli says he’d start with when teams could pit during a race.
“You can only pit under green,’’ Zipadelli suggests. “You have to go to the back behind anybody, lapped cars and anybody that stays out if you pit. It just creates a complete different strategy. Maybe after a matter of a few years it works its way out. I don’t think so. I think it would all depend on when cautions fall.’’
Cautions are another area Zipadelli has an idea on what to do.
“I would be for an advertised four cautions throughout a race so we know,’’ he said. “I don’t like the debris cautions because it changes the outcome of the race, not that they’re doing it intentionally for that guy to suffer, but it does.
“So they advertise it every 50 laps or every 100 miles there’s going to be a caution, so that you know this, people are going to plan their strategy more.’’
Zipadelli also looks around at the circuits the series races and suggests adding a couple of more road courses – although that would be in place of other races instead of expanding a packed schedule that can prove grueling for those in the garage.
“No one has the answer or we would have fixed it,’’ Zipadelli said of ways to make the sport more exciting for fans. “I don’t think that it’s a simple spoiler adjustment and it’s not going to fit at every racetrack, which is OK.
“Everybody has to give. The teams can’t continue to just spend the money to go through all these rule packages and change all the things.’’
He reiterates he wants what will make the sport better.
“We will as a group and a company do whatever we can do to make the sport better,’’ Zipadelli said. “Absolutely, positively. We need to do it together. You’ve got to be on the boat. Everybody has got to be rowing in the same direction at the same time.’’