0

NASCAR NEWS: New gargae boss sought; drivers test new spoilers

Photo by Tony Gutierrez

Photo by Tony Gutierrez

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kurt Busch sees no problems with the rear spoiler that NASCAR is in the process of adapting to replace the rear wing, a move that could enhance the passing ability of cars this season while providing a more traditional look.

"This spoiler, it seems to add front downforce," Busch said Tuesday, after being one of the first drivers to try out the change. "Don't ask me how it does it. ... When you bolt something on the back of the car and it adds to the front, that's how space-age these cars are getting."

Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers and Busch did the first on-track testing of the spoiler, each running several laps with the aluminum spoiler instead of a rear wing during their Goodyear tire test at the 1 -mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway.

"I really liked it. I liked the way the car drove, it drove a little bit different on the corner exit than I think the wing did," Biffle said. "I don't want to jump to conclusions (but) it may have had a little feel like the old car possibly in some scenarios. ... It seemed to drive good."

The two-day tire test is scheduled to conclude Wednesday, when the four drivers will likely do some laps together with spoilers in place.

Three years ago, NASCAR phased in a new model of race car that replaced the spoiler with a wing. The new car has been used full-time since 2008, and fans have complained it has made the racing boring.

NASCAR last May began a series of town hall and individual meetings with teams, and one of the constant cries from participants was a need to alter the car design.

"I think we're stirring up the pot, but it's in a positive direction," Busch said. "It seems like a positive reaction has been made already, and just driving it the first time today, I don't see any problem in at all. I hope that it creates the aesthetic view that the fans want to see with the spoiler back on the decks of these cars."

Stewart said the balance of the car didn't change dramatically with the spoiler, which is a good thing.

"That means you won't have to reinvent the wheel necessarily," said Stewart, who is going into his second season as a driver-owner after finishing sixth in the championship chase last year. "There's a lot more expensive changes to do than that. It's really not that bad."

NASCAR plans an informational meeting for teams in mid-March with an open test March 23-24 at Charlotte.

No race has been selected for the spoiler debut, but the package could be in place for the April 18 race at Texas.

"I think it's going to be more receptive to the fans," Vickers said of the look of the cars. "It looks a little cooler, a little more retro."

---------------------

AP SOURCE -- NASCAR LOOKING FOR NEW GARAGE CHIEF:

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR is interviewing candidates for a new Sprint Cup Series director, and current garage boss John Darby will train his replacement before moving into a managerial role.

Several people familiar with NASCAR's restructuring plan told The Associated Press that Darby will move into an oversight role at the research and development center. The people all spoke on condition of anonymity because NASCAR will not announce its planned changes for 2010 until Thursday.

There is no timetable for hiring a new director of NASCAR's premiere series, and Darby will fill the role as long as it takes to hire and prepare a replacement. Then he will transition into a new position that oversees the officials in all three of NASCAR's national series, as well as focus on the technical aspects of the sport.

Darby replaced Gary Nelson as director of NASCAR's premiere series following the 2001 season, and is currently responsible for overseeing technical inspections, rules changes and enforcement in the Cup Series. He's highly respected among competitors, and his no-nonsense approach helped rid the garage of the widespread cheating that plagued the sport from its 1949 inception until the past few seasons.

"John worked really hard at a time when the sport was shifting to more templates, more rules, having to enforce those rules, and that was very hard to do because it was a mind shift and a shift in how things were being done," veteran driver Jeff Burton said Tuesday. "I think John handled things very well. It was a very difficult task, and it will certainly part of his legacy."

The news surprised many in the industry Tuesday who were gathered for the annual preseason media tour. Team executives were heard asking others "you hear about Darby?" and longtime owner Richard Childress said he didn't want to comment until he had a chance to speak to NASCAR.

The restructuring is part of several changes NASCAR plans to discuss Thursday during its stop on the media tour. NASCAR is also in the process of replacing the current rear wing with a spoiler, possibly eliminating the yellow out-of-bounds line at Daytona and Talladega, and giving drivers more control in policing themselves on the track.

It's part of a concerted effort to listen to feedback from competitors and fans as the sport faces decreasing television ratings and attendance, as well as economic difficulties that have handcuffed many race teams.

Kevin Harvick, a veteran Cup driver who also owns teams in the Nationwide and Truck Series, said the changing landscape of NASCAR will make it difficult for the next series director.

"That's a hard job because of the balance between trying to protect the integrity of the series for NASCAR -- and now, the fans have such a strong opinion of what should and shouldn't be changed -- so it's a hard balance on the competition side of knowing when to change things," Harvick said. "I imagine it could wear you out pretty fast."

Harvick said current Truck Series director Wayne Auton was his recommendation for Darby's replacement, and NASCAR could also choose to promote Nationwide Series director Joe Balash. NASCAR, however, is looking at candidates from outside its organization

"It's a hard job, it's a thankless job," Burton said of Cup Series director. "Someone is always (complaining) about something all the time. You do one thing, it makes one guy happy and 20 others mad. It's one of those jobs that's hard to win in."