News & Media

Notes: Road caution, pit-road speeds increasing

June 24, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

Johnson says parity part of passing issue; Edwards not revealing contract talks

SONOMA, Calif. -- Because of changing elevations at road courses -- and to alleviate engine overheating under extended cautions -- NASCAR has increased caution-car and pit-road speeds by 5 mph across the board at all road courses that host races in NASCAR's top two divisions.

"With cars going uphill and downhill, plus the way teams have developed their cars and gear ratios, the speeds were too slow," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said. "Engines were overheating, especially with extended caution periods."

The change applies to Infineon Raceway, which is hosting the Cup series this weekend, as well as Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., site of Saturday's Nationwide Series event. The caution-car speed at both tracks will be 45 mph. Pit-road speeds at the tracks are 40 mph at Infineon and 35 mph at Road America.

The changes also will apply to Watkins Glen International and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, both of which will host NASCAR races in August.

Trying to save fuel while leading under caution late in last year's race at Infineon, Marcos Ambrose couldn't get his car re-fired after turning the engine off on the uphill stretch leading to Turn 2, but Ambrose's issue was unrelated to the reasons for the caution-car and pit-road speed increases.

Johnson: Parity the biggest issue

Jimmie Johnson isn't sure Carl Edwards has the comprehensive solution to the problem of passing at larger speedways.

Edwards said after last Sunday's race a 2-mile Michigan International Speedway that NASCAR should consider taking away downforce from the Cup cars when new models are introduced for the 2013 season. Edwards feels reduced downforce will facilitate passing and side-by-side racing.

Johnson isn't so sure.

"I know what he's saying," Johnson said Friday at Infineon. "I understand that the aero push and maybe not just the push, but the lack of grip as you're further back in traffic, it's due to aerodynamics, and the lead car has a huge advantage when it's on track. I'm not saying we can't improve it some, but I still think the majority of our problem in not being able to pass on some tracks will still be there.

"The lead car, you cannot change the fact that they are in the most stable air possible. Every position back, it gets worse and worse. From my experience and what I've seen over the years, when we have a new rule book or new rules in general, there is a lot of disparity in speed and so you have a fair amount of passing."

Now that NASCAR's current package has been developed and refined since the introduction of a new car in 2007, Johnson feels that parity is a huge part of the issue.

"We've been under the same rules for a long time and when you look at the qualifying and results and how tight the field is, you can't just go out there and pass people at will because everybody is running the same speed," he said. "Then you can say, well it's aerodynamics -- and that's a part of it.

"But, in my opinion, I think it's that the field is so equal that you need to be a half-a-second faster to pass someone and in any aero situation and any type of vehicle that you look at -- F1, open-wheel, in general -- all those things, you can't pass. You've got to be considerably faster to pass. No one is considerably faster than another car right now. We're all running a very similar pace."

Edwards keeps contract talks close to vest

If Carl Edwards is considering a move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing next year, he isn't talking about it.

Gibbs and Toyota would love to sign a driver of Edwards' stature, but Edwards, in the final year of his current deal with Roush, insists on keeping contract talks private.

"As far as my contract status, it's the same as the beginning of the year," Edwards told reporters Friday at Infineon. "We are working hard on it, and we do all that stuff behind closed doors. We are making progress and, hopefully, we will be able to tell you guys what my plan is soon."

Edwards wouldn't acknowledge whether he has had discussions with JGR.

"I've heard rumors about all different teams for the last two years," he said. "The thing I'm going to do is keep working on it and working on it privately. I think that's the best way for me."

Montoya staying put?

Another potential free agent, Juan Montoya, said he is on the brink of re-signing with his current team, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Team co-owner Chip Ganassi has been Montoya's car owner for the entirety of the driver's five-year NASCAR career, and also fielded the open-wheel car in which Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000.

"We're pretty close," Montoya said. "I think we're pretty close, yeah." Asked if that meant he'd likely be back with Ganassi's team next year, he said, "I would assume, yeah."

David Caraviello contributed to this report.