Less than two weeks after Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, expressed caution that the series would use the All-Star rules package again this year, NASCAR is looking at doing so in 2018.
Feeding off a rising tide of enthusiasm in the garage area for the package, Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that discussions about the package are ongoing with key industry stakeholders.
Miller told “The Morning Drive” that “I think we certainly … feel like it has a lot of potential for especially some race tracks.
“We did kind of have an industry stakeholders meeting after the All-Star Race and talked about a lot of different things.”
Among the topics of conversation was if to use the All-Star package in a NASCAR Cup points race this season.
“Before we totally commit to putting races on the schedule for ’19 … we all kind of felt it would be interesting if we could take another look at it somewhere this year,” Miller said. “Those discussions are ongoing. It’s certainly … a whole lot more complex than it seems on the surface with these teams and engine builders having these schedules and car builds and engine builds particularly down to a science. Anything we do to change that up effects a lot of things in the eco-system.
“We’re working with the industry to come up with a plan to potentially look at it again, but we don’t have anything etched in stone at the moment.”
As soon as the checkered flag waved over the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, conversation began about using that race’s rules package again in the Cup series.
After the All-Star Race, O’Donnell sat in the media center and addressed the new package:
“From an eye test, we were certainly pleased with what we saw. I think you’ll hear drivers say directionally there’s some things we can look at. We agree. But would certainly say we’ve got to take time to digest what we saw, look at a lot of facts, see where we go from here.”
The period of reflection might have gained more urgency following Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600.
In the 600, Kyle Busch was never seriously challenged for the victory. He led 377 of 400 laps, won each stage of the race by margins of his choosing and was passed only during pit sequences.
The rules package – designed to slow the cars, create additional stability and increase the drafting effect on the cars – drew mixed reviews from the drivers, but seemed to have support from the majority of fans.
Equally important, two Hall of Fame car owners supported using the package again in 2018.
“Anything that is good for our sport right now, which I think it would be, I’m for it,’’ Richard Childress said. “I’m putting RCR aside and looking at the sport itself. If everybody in this garage will do that … put the sport first and we all go out and put the best show for the fans in the stands, that’s what we’ve got to do.’’
Roger Penske said: “Directionally, I think it’s the right thing to do. What I like about it is we’re trying something.’’
“We all do believe this is something healthy for the sport,’’ said Ritchie Gilmore, president of ECR Engines last week.
NASCAR will implement a version of the rules package in the next two Xfinity races at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway. Both tracks also host Cup races during the next two weeks as well as later in the summer. Some engine builders are beginning to anticipate what it would take to use this package at the top level.
Pocono, Michigan, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are each raised as potential venues for the new package.
“I think that’s the feedback we’re going to talk about (this) week,” Gilmore said. “Where is the best place to do this, as far as scheduling. I think we all feel this is something we can do as far as reliability. I think the next thing is just scheduling.’’