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Podcast: What’s next with the Gen 7 car, splitter, overtime line, debris cautions and more

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A new location for the overtime line. The elimination of the splitter within a few seasons. A visor camera for every Monster Energy Cup driver in the field.

During his guest appearance on the NASCAR on NBC podcast, senior vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell laid out what could be in store for NASCAR’s premier series in the coming years – namely a focus on adding technology to its next model.

O’Donnell said NASCAR would be meeting with team owners in the next 10 days to begin working on the long-term strategy for the Gen 7 car, which could make its debut in the next two to four years.

“Marrying up the OEMs, the race teams and that new generation of drivers and making sure that whatever we put on the track puts us in the best position to succeed,” O’Donnell said. “That’s from an economic standpoint and technology and what’s some cool stuff we can put in the car, and what do these young drivers get enthusiastic about and feel good about what they’re racing.

“That’s the biggest focus now is bringing all those parties together to talk about Gen 7 and where we want to go collectively as an industry. Maybe not so much how much are we spending on spindles, but what is the coolest technology we can put in that car to showcase to the fans is the avenue we want to go down.”

On the future of other competition topics:

–The overtime line likely would move from the backstretch to the start-finish line for overtime finishes next season. O’Donnell said there “aren’t a ton of (positives)” from the current location of the line, which was the source of controversy at Daytona and Dover. “So if we can get it back to the start-finish line and make sure fans get that one full lap, that’s a direction we want to go,” he said.

–O’Donnell acknowledged a general dissatisfaction with the splitter, which has drawn negative reactions from drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. for causing extra damage on spins through the grass.

“We know the fans hate it,” O’Donnell said. “(On the) Gen 7, you can bet we will not be idiots. If we can get rid of the splitter, we would do that.”

Driver biometrics, a digital readout visible on cars that indicates their positions on track (a la the IMSA and IndyCar Series) and real-time speeds from the pit lane also should be available with the new model.

“All those things should be a cool display we have in the car,” O’Donnell said. “Instead of teams spending money on spindles, can you shorten up the pay scale on that and put it toward digital stuff that’s fan-facing.”

–The debut of a visor camera that was used at Sonoma by Danica Patrick and at Daytona by A.J. Allmendinger should become more widespread. “You hear from teams, ‘I’m not going to wear that because of my digital dash (possibly revealing information),’ ” O’Donnell said. “For us, there’s a bigger benefit for the fans. Going forward, there are a couple of things to get through, but we’ll expect 40 drivers to have that on and have that perspective.”

–After once considering the use of RFID chips to monitor whether five lug nuts are attached on each pit stop, O’Donnell said NASCAR might use a crew’s pit guns to determine if wheels properly are secured.

— O’Donnell said NASCAR was mindful of complaints about a late debris caution at Michigan, and then praise about the long green-flag run that ended Sonoma.

“I think there was fair criticism after Michigan,” he said. “For us, it’s about putting more process in place when those cautions are called and being as transparent as we can. We’re looking at do we display whatever (the debris) was on the (NASCAR) hauler.

“That part or piece might not always be there if someone hits it, but we recognize we’re a big-time sport, a lot of eyeballs on the sport, so we’re utilizing as much technology as we can, and having people weigh in on that decision going forward. I think you saw that in Sonoma and will see that going forward as well. Being as transparent as we can and explaining why we did something and why we made a call. Or if we missed something, being open about that as well.”

–O’Donnell said NASCAR might start its second and final stages under green rather than under yellow, counting the caution that divides the segments in the previous stage.

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