NASCAR not making any big changes for 2012 season

5:34 PM, Jan 26, 2012   |    comments
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Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Unlike 2011, NASCAR will not make any major alterations in its rules for the upcoming season.

Officials from the sanctioning body, including NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France and president Mike Helton, held a press conference Thursday to address the "state of the sport."

Last year, NASCAR revealed a host of format changes, including a revised points system for all three of its national touring series, as well as a new rule which prevented drivers from competing for a championship in more than one of the three series. Other rule modifications included two "wild card" positions for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format and a new qualifying procedure.

NASCAR made such drastic changes to help improve track attendance and television ratings, which had both slumped in recent years.

"We're very pleased with how all those changes played out," France said during his opening remarks.

The 2011 season in NASCAR's premier series -- now known as the Sprint Cup Series -- featured the closest battle for the championship. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended the season in a points tie (2,403 each), but Stewart captured his third title by virtue of his five wins -- all of them in the Chase -- compared to only one for Edwards.

"The way to top that is to have three drivers or four going for the championship if that's possible," France said in regards to the upcoming season.

One significant change for 2012 is the electronic fuel injection systems, which are replacing carburetors in the Sprint Cup cars. Electronic fuel injection has been a project that NASCAR has worked on with both McLaren Electronic Systems and Freescale Semiconductor the last several years.

NASCAR also worked with Sprint Cup teams to test the technology this past season.

"We're pretty confident in what we've chosen; it's been tested pretty carefully - that we will be in good shape," France said. "If we're not, if there's some change, then we'll look at that. But we're pretty confident that we've got the right package on that."

France mentioned the electronic fuel injection systems could be used in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in the future.

NASCAR is preparing for the debut of the new Sprint Cup cars next year. Earlier this week, Ford unveiled its 2013 Fusion model. The other three manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Dodge and Toyota -- are expected to unveil their models later this year. Private test sessions for the car are planned throughout this season.

"I think the optics of the 2013 car will be very significantly recognized and very popular, and the effort with NASCAR and all of the manufacturers collectively working on this together, the four manufacturers in a room with NASCAR and NASCAR saying we would like for you to help us design this race car in a way that you would like it, that was a bit of a surprise to them, for us to be that open with that process," Helton said.

NASCAR announced on Wednesday it is doing away with undisclosed fines. During the past couple of seasons, Sprint Cup drivers Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman had been secretly fined for comments they made that were considered detrimental to the sport. NASCAR's policy in not publicly announcing fines had recently received criticism, mostly from fans.

"In terms of going public with it, we didn't have a real strong position on that," France said. "We feel like that's something people think is a good thing. We were happy to do it."

Officials further addressed the new rules package for restrictor-plate racing this year, beginning with the February 26 season-opening Daytona 500. The revised rules are intended to scale back on the two-car tandem style of racing that has been featured at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway the past couple of seasons.

NASCAR is banning driver-to-driver radio communications while they are on the track for restrictor-plate races. However, team-to-team communications for these events will remain allowable.

"I think we have some confidence that the tandem racing as we saw the '11 [season] conclude with won't be a part of the Daytona 500," Helton said. "We're not going to write a rules package that prevents the drivers from racing close to each other. That's NASCAR racing the fans expect. So we think the Daytona 500 will be more in line with the fans expectations. You'll see more than likely cars push each other, but that was happening in 1959 and 1979."

After Sprint Cup teams tested earlier this month at Daytona, NASCAR made some modifications to the cars, particularly the restrictor plates and the front grilles, for the Daytona 500 and other Speedweeks events.

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