Friday, February 27, 2015

Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck: Teams 'pushing it' in pre-qualifying inspection

   Thirteen teams failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway and failed to post a speed during group qualifying. The problems transcended the series from struggling low-budget teams to those of Sprint Cup Series stars Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.

   The Cup series director, Richard Buck, addressed questions about the problems encountered during Friday's inspection process, in which every team made it through inspection but 13 could not fix their issues in time to participate in qualifying.

   Q.  Richard, was there a common issue with most of the cars, or what was the predominant problem for people being unable to get through inspection? 
    Buck: I think we saw different areas where the teams were pushing the limits to get through it.  We've got a new rules package here, and obviously the history of Atlanta and the grip is so important here, I think we've seen that with the test yesterday, teams getting to the limits, and we were open yesterday for all day on the laser inspection station and templates and such, and we had quite a few cars that came through.  We did see the area of the laser inspection station where teams were pushing it, and that's their job.  They're trying to get every bit that they can. We made every effort ‑‑ our goal was to make sure everybody has a fair opportunity to get through there, so our focus was to make sure that we ran ‑‑ were able to run every car across there at least once to give them an opportunity, and that's what we did. 

    Q.  Did you consider delaying the start or increasing the length of the first round even more, and then also, there were some people who said that you kind of stopped giving out sheets of paper as far as go or no go, and they felt like you were kind of more lax near the end or once kind of the qualifying session started. 
   Buck: Yeah, as far as the time goes, we worked with the teams, we worked with everybody.  Obviously we have partners with television and we're time certain, but we could see the trend starting to develop there, so our job was to try and work with the teams and allow them to meet the parameters, the rules that we have set in place, and so we were able to push it 15 minutes in an effort to give them as much time as we could, in answer to that question.

   In answer to your second question as far as slacking off at all on that, we don't do that.  We treat everybody the same.  There was cars that came through there two and even a couple cars that came through three times, effort.  Everybody got a fair shot at coming through there in a timely manner, and then obviously at the end, we saw the time frame and we were hustling and pushing.  I was pushing all of our officials, but that pushing on the officials was ‑‑ is pushing to physically keep the same accuracy when it was a mechanical job, but the laser itself, it's automated, so there's no ‑‑ there was no difference from the first cars that went through there to the last ones. 

    Q. What's the solution here, because obviously it's not something that you want or the teams want to have a situation like this.  Is it all on the teams to just have their stuff together the first time they come through? 
   Buck: That's a good question, and that's where we work with the teams on a daily basis.  We'll look at the process and try to understand it.  We put more cars through there today than normal, and in a timely fashion.  Last year about four races into it, we were putting a lot of pressure on the crew chiefs, we had a lot of work for them to get ‑‑ it was new.  We had the ride height rules, and we could see that process was strained, if you will, so we worked with the teams to adjust that, and we actually last year about, I think it was the third or fourth race in, we were able to work with our tracks and our partners and be able to extend that inspection time to allow them more time to get through there. 

   But it's tough. The teams have to hustle, the crew chiefs will tell you, they've got a brand new package here with new downforce and new driver combinations and new teams, and to put it all on them, the first one, it was a tough one. We'll look at it as we always do with a fine microscope and get input from the teams, and then if down the road, if we can and see the need, we'll make an adjustment. 

   Q. Can you explain the process of determining the order for inspection for everybody, because I know there's been a lot of questions about how do you decide who went first, who goes last?
   Buck: There's a couple of key things that we look at, and it's how to be as fair as we can through the inspection process. That trickles down, as well. It's a random draw. It's random, and that is your order on pit road for qualifying, your pit stall, and it also is your order for inspection. At 55 minutes after the final practice before qualifying, we put on the crew chiefs a tremendous load to put their setups on and be in line, but we stop the work for everybody.  It doesn't matter if you're last in line or first in line, at 55 minutes, to be fair to everybody, all work stops on the cars, we push them to the back of the garage, and inspection starts.  They may sit there for a while but they're not having that opportunity to continue to work on the car which makes it unfair.  That's how the process works. 

   We have each station that's timed.  It's about two and a half minutes per station, and we try to manage that dynamic, and if a car comes through there, the incentive today, unlike years ago where you could cut the line and keep the incentive, today it's to come through right because everybody gets one opportunity to come through the entire inspection process, and their job is to be right, and if they're not right at that inspection station, that's when they go in a holding pen if you will or a holding pattern and have to stay there until everybody else has the opportunity to come through to be fair to everybody.  Once that's through, then we allow them in the order that they were received to begin with, that's the order that they go back through inspection.

Travis Kvapil's race car stolen; Denny Hamlin's motorhome wrecked

   It's been an eventful morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway so far with one Sprint Cup Series driver's race car allegedly stolen and another driver's motorhome sustaining damage from a SUV that somehow rolled down an embankment and through a fence.

   Team Xtreme, which planned to field an entry this weekend with driver Travis Kvapil, reported a truck and small hauler stolen from its hotel parking lot in Morrow, Ga., this morning. Inside the hauler was the No. 44 Chevrolet Kvapil planned to run Sunday's Folds of Honor 500.

   The incident was first reported by TV station KFVS-12. 

   Without the car, the team was forced to withdraw from the race.

   Here are Twitter posts from Kvapil referring to the incident:

   Also this morning, Cup crew chief Rodney Childers posted a picture on Twitter of a white SUV that somehow rolled backwards through a fence, down an embankment and into a motorhome owned by driver Denny Hamlin.

   According to a team spokesman, the owner of the SUV thought he had put the vehicle in park. He had not and it rolled down the hill causing superficial damage to the motorhome.