News & Media


NASCAR approval for new drivers a long process

May 17, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Bodine heads credentialing committee, tasked with checking out all new drivers

When Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen decided earlier this season that he wanted to race in NASCAR, he had to do one thing every prospective driver must do to get approval: He had to submit a resume to NASCAR's driver credentialing committee, chaired by Brett Bodine.

Bodine is director of cost and research at NASCAR's research and development center in North Carolina. But he also keeps a detailed database of drivers who have interest in racing in one of NASCAR's three national series. And Bodine admitted he rarely gets a resume like the one Raikkonen submitted, but it's still his job to make sure Raikkonen would be comfortable racing in the Truck Series.

"The guy's a world champion Formula 1 driver. I don't know if there's many credentials that top that, you know?"

--BRETT BODINE

"The guy's a world champion Formula 1 driver," Bodine said. "I don't know if there's many credentials that top that, you know?

"Certainly where he wanted to start racing was fine with us. He wanted to start in the Trucks at Charlotte, and that's a great place for him to get started. That's what we approved him for. It's all based off his previous racing experience. And everybody gets their start in different ways, and that's where he's going to get his start."

But approving drivers with less stellar resumes is the trickier part. Bodine said a number of factors come into play.

"A driver's race experience is the key," Bodine said. "The kind of cars you race, the kind of tracks you're racing on, how fast do you go? The quality of the field. All of those things weigh into what that experience is worth.

"So for a young man or woman who comes out of Legends cars up to a world champion, they all have race experience and you just have to look at each individual resume independently."

The committee is made up of series directors and vice presidents, and Bodine will bring up candidates for debate once he's satisfied that the driver in question has done what he claims to have done.

"I do a tremendous amount of research on drivers I don't know much about or haven't heard much of," Bodine said. "Obviously, first-time drivers or drivers who have not raced within NASCAR, I'll double-check their resumes to make sure they're accurate. And I'll be honest with you, I've found resumes that weren't exactly right. That's my job to check up on them and make sure their information is correct."

And it's up to the committee to determine the best starting level for each new driver. In addition to having three series requiring varying amounts of experience, Bodine said NASCAR approves drivers based on track size and speed. So a driver might have the correct experience level for short tracks but not superspeedways.

"When a driver sends in a resume, not all the time do they know where they want to go race," Bodine said. "So we basically will place them. Maybe they have a series picked out, but they may not know where we're going to allow them to start. We kind of determine all of that for them.

"Some drivers ask for a series and we won't let them in that series because they don't have enough experience. We've had drivers that we've upgraded to other series or bigger race tracks and they've gone up there, not performed to our liking and we've pulled them back, made them go backwards and start over again."

Bodine said safety is ultimately at the heart of NASCAR's approval process.

"We're all about making sure the driver can compete safely and comfortably at the level we have them placed," Bodine said. "Not only are we protecting the driver from themselves, but we're also protecting the other competitors."