CHARLOTTE – NASCAR will experiment with shorter garage hours but longer inspection periods this season as it tries to give Sprint Cup teams relief on efficiency, expenses and quality of life.
Though the schedule will remain virtually the same at Daytona International Speedway, Sprint Cup director Richard Buck said there will be changes the rest of the season. The initial inspection of a race weekend after the NASCAR garage opens is expected to be shortened from five hours to three, and there will be more time built into the inspection between the end of practice and start of qualifying.
Last year, prequalifying inspection often turned into a major scramble as teams struggled to pass the laser inspection station. NASCAR changed some procedures after 13 cars missed qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway because of inspection problems.
Buck said new methods (mostly involving the use of Microsoft Surface tablets) will make the inspection process more efficient with a goal of also allowing teams to spend less time getting cars ready on Sunday race mornings.
Trying to reduce the 12-hour shifts that have become commonplace in the garage is in response to teams that have asked for shorter days in hopes of giving crew members more rest and perhaps saving money by arriving later at the track.
“We worked really hard with the schedules to be able to tailor and tweak on the schedules to try to help understand the teams’ travel, so they can have some economics to it (and) quality of life,” Buck said last week during the preseason Media Tour. “So we’ve been able to employ some of the new methods we have with the Microsoft Surface and some of the time management and some of that stuff behind the scenes, using technology to make the inspections more efficient.
“Daytona will look relatively the same just because of the amount of equipment and the events we have going on surrounding it. The schedule is very similar. But going forward, we’ll start the season with a different window.”
The news of potentially fewer garage hours for team members was well-received by veteran Denny Hamlin.
Buck also addressed some other changes and topics related to officiating:
–For Speedweeks at Daytona, there will be a minor reduction in the size of the restrictor-plate holes, which will decrease by 1/64th of an inch to 57/64ths.
–After doubling the restart zone for many of the races in last season’s playoffs, the expanded box will continue to be used this season, along with additional cameras and a senior official monitoring restarts from the pits.
“We were pretty pleased toward the last part of the year with the restart zones and checking with the drivers,” Buck said. “They felt it got to a point where it was a level playing field for everybody. We felt that we could officiate it accurately at that point by adding the extra resources and restart zones. We decided where we ended up is a good place to start 2016.”