NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 9, 2017
WAYNE AUTON: Good afternoon, everyone. We are finally excited and just cannot even see our face here how we are finally really just get to introduce our flange fit composite body to the NASCAR XFINITY Series. This is something a lot of you have had a lot of questions about all season, but today we're here to officially announce that the flange fit body is a significant advancement and will help maintain a level playing field and contain costs for our owners and our teams in the garage area, the cost and labor as compared to current steel body, and it's a whole lot easier for the teams to be able to repair these. If you get into a wall, i.e., at the tracks that we're going to announce here in just a second, you have the opportunity during practice to bring the car in and basically put a new body back on your car. It's an exciting time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. We can't say enough about XFINITY being our series sponsor.
The drivers that we have in the series as you heard today earlier about William Byron, that's what the XFINITY‑‑ where names are made, and the names are being made to get up into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The development of the flange fit composite body has been a collaborative effort between NASCAR, our team owners, our team crews, and our OEM partners.
The body will be optional for the following three tracks, upcoming short tracks for 2017. We will start out with Richmond. We'll then run four weeks later at Dover, and then we will also finish off the season at Phoenix International Raceway, a cutoff race into the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs this year in 2017.
We're also excited to announce that starting in 2018, it will be an option at all tracks except superspeedways. We're still finalizing the plans for those tracks. Our goal is to have it mandatory across the board starting in 2019. As I said, this is an exciting time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. I know there's been a lot of talk out there about this finally getting on the racetrack, and we're excited and can't wait to get to Richmond. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Wayne. I'm going to let Brett talk a little bit about the details of this project and how it all came together.
BRETT BODINE: As Wayne mentioned, the development of the flange fit composite body has been a very extensive collaborative effort from day one between NASCAR, the XFINITY Series teams, and our OEM partners. We got utilized input from the industry every step of the way, including the timing of the rollout and rules governing the new body. We had a very good team technical group that we worked with along with the entire XFINITY garage area through our team technical meetings that were monthly, and that work was unprecedented in the amount of communications that took place.
The body is composed of 13 separate panels that attach together on flanges. These panels are made of a strong composite laminate blend built to with stand the high speeds of NASCAR racing. Several body panels have security features to prevent the teams from tampering with them to gain an advantage.
We've developed some different processes on this body, the way the flanges mount together with interlocking pieces, and externally on critical areas of the body, we have a security pattern, and these are additional tools for the officials to use through their inspection process.
Teams purchase the body panels from a third‑party vendor, and they cannot manipulate the shape. These panels have to be used as produced, as manufactured. They've been working on these cars for several weeks, months, and we anticipate a large majority of the garage ready to go with new bodies at Richmond. We're thinking we're going to have an extensive participation using these bodies at Richmond. Looking forward to seeing them on the racetrack. It's been a long process to get to this point, and as Wayne said, we're excited to introduce this body in the XFINITY Series.
THE MODERATOR: The details of the flange fit composite body will be posted in the NASCAR XFINITY Series rule book today at 4:00 p.m. eastern time via a bulletin, and with that, we will open it up to the media for questions.
Q. This is for either Wayne or Brett: Using it in three races, optional three races this year, optional in the majority of the races next year, with the three races you're running this year, why not go ahead and run it in all the races other than the speedway races next year? Why is it optional in '18?
WAYNE AUTON: The collaboration that we have with our teams in the garage area for financial reasons, the teams that we've worked with, which were all teams in the garage area, getting feedback from them, was that they have some steel cars left and they'd like to use those cars at some of the races going forward. We will match the cars with weight or aero to make sure that the cars are as equal on the racetrack as we can, and that just came from the garage area that they would like to see us run them, as we call it, side by side for these three races this year.
We're very proud that the NASCAR R&D Center did on this work with our third‑party vendor. We're very proud of how the teams bought into and asked us to really pursue this project, which we've been working on for over a year now, and now it's finally come time to get it on the racetrack here in a little bit over a month, and we're excited about that.
But that came from the teams, that they would like to see if some of our lower budgeted teams had the opportunity to use up some cars that they've already got in stock in their garages.
Q. Is there any concern about the vendor being able to produce the amount of materials that you guys need?
BRETT BODINE: No, actually the rollout process, we've kind of managed that from the beginning to make sure that the teams got equal distribution amongst all the teams. We started off with one body per organization, and then we went into one body per car number in these stages, and we are currently getting ready to distribute the third body to each car number, and by the 29th of this month, we will have four bodies to each car number via this controlled distribution.
Q. With the inspection process, does this change in essence the templates that you're using? Will there be more templates, less templates than what you currently use when you run these cars through inspection? Can you talk about that first off?
WAYNE AUTON: Sure. The process that we did starting out with the teams was the one thing that we wanted to keep in mind was the cost containment as much as we could, so the same templates that we use on our current car are the same templates we'll use on the flange fit composite body car. This way the owners and teams do not have to buy any new templates. So when you see this car roll out on to the racetrack, it'll look identical to what we have today, other than, as Brett mentioned earlier, these side panels on these cars‑‑ there's 13 pieces to the car, and those parts cannot be touched. They have to be as manufactured. And there's where some of the cost savings come in. But we can use the same templates that we've had for the last four or five years with the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage.
Q. Also you made the comment earlier about if a car hits the wall they can come in and‑‑ the way you kind of described it was take the body off and put one on. Can you further describe‑‑ if I'm the driver and I hit a car and bring it back, what suddenly happens? Are these pieces going off or you're individually taking off the whole thing? How does that work?
WAYNE AUTON: Let me start it off with our damaged vehicle policy has not changed. That stays the same even using the flange fit composite body. What I was referring to is practice time.
Q. That's what I meant, yeah, for practice, I'm sorry. If I wreck in practice, what's the process there?
BRETT BODINE: Yeah, so an incident in practice, say you damage a right rear quarterpanel. It can be easily unbolted from the other body panels and from the chassis and another one can be bolted on in its place. And not only at a race event weekend, but that is how we envision this repair process taking place after an event. The turnaround time for a team that might have received damage at an event should be significantly reduced by the fact that these panels can be unbolted and a new one put on. Also, the panels can be sent back to our supplier, and these panels can be repaired at a much reduced cost versus buying a complete new panel, and they can be put back into service at a later date.
We envision that possibly teams could get away with less cars in their inventory because the turnaround time to do repairs will be substantially less.
Q. Wayne, you said if this happens in an incident, the damaged vehicle policy remains so it's not like I can take a panel off and put a new panel on on pit road because that would be disallowed with the current rule?
WAYNE AUTON: Once the green flag falls for the race, the damaged vehicle policy has not changed. You cannot come in and add new parts to the car. You can try and fix on the car with tape just like we do current day. But during practice is where I was referring to that if you get in the wall‑‑ as long as you don't get into the frame or suspension, you can basically have a brand new car ready to go back out for qualifying or for practice, but during the race, the damaged vehicle policy stays the same as it is in current day.
Q. Two of these races that this is taking place are playoff races; I know typically the preference is not only to have rule changes or some things different in the playoffs to affect that, so why is everybody comfortable with running this car for two playoff races, especially the last race before the Final Four for the series?
WAYNE AUTON: That was with a collaborative effort with our teams on the racetracks that we picked. We looked at different models to roll this out, preferably in 2017. Number one, we wanted to get it on the racetrack. We've worked for a year to get the body finalized. We're at the point now that teams are putting race cars together. They're getting to do some aero testing with them. So we feel confident that whenever they go into these three races, that we've got two of them, as you said, being in the playoffs, that you won't see a significant difference in the competition. We think it'll bring the competition closer together, and that was just a collaborative effort of the teams on the type of racetrack that we wanted to start them on, and working with our third‑party vendor of when parts could be ready for teams, as Brett said, we very much controlled how the teams got their bodies starting out and how we let them get the second body, the third body, and then the fourth body if teams wanted them. But that was a collaborative effort with the teams on the racetracks that were selected.
Q. I'm just wondering, aside from the cost savings and the shortened repair time, which are obviously pluses, is there any sort of competitive advantage to use the flange fit composite bodies over just the regular steel bodies?
BRETT BODINE: Actually the steel body probably has a competitive advantage over the flange fit because the teams hand manufacture those bodies, and they take full advantage of the tolerances that are allowed through the template inspection system. This body was built to the gold surface of the XFINITY body styling, and without being able to manipulate the shape of these panels, it would be less competitive against the steel body. But as Wayne said, the entire field will be running exactly the same panels, so that in turn should make the entire field more competitive against each other.
Q. Is there any risk of some of the bigger teams saying, okay, well, we're going to show up with steel body, and we may be able to gain something here when everybody else brings the composite bodies?
BRETT BODINE: There will be competition restrictions on the steel body versus the flange fit. Obviously we want the flange fit to be the body of the future and phase out the steel body. There will be weight and aero differences between the two to make sure that the flange fit body has a competitive advantage.
Q. If this goes well, can you envision using this in Cup? And also, can you kind of talk about how you determined who would make the bodies?
BRETT BODINE: To answer your first question, right now we're 100 percent focused on the success of this body in XFINITY. We'll certainly learn about the performance of the body and the durability, and certainly always look at potentially moving things into other series, but currently we are just worried about XFINITY.
The choice of the vendor, we did engage with several other folks in the industry, and we felt the vendor we chose was extremely capable and qualified to take on a project like this.
Q. And also, is there any difference as far as how the bodies look, as far as kind of manufacturer identity?
BRETT BODINE: The gold surface for the XFINITY Series was held, so as Wayne said earlier, on the racetrack you will not be able to tell the difference between a steel body and a flange fit body as far as the overall appearance. The same parts that are OEM specific remain the same on the flange fit body.
Q. Did you guys say that Five Star is going to be doing the body for the composite bodies?
BRETT BODINE: Yeah, that's correct. That's the vendor that we chose, Five Star out of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. Long history in motorsports and tremendous manufacturing capabilities, and that's who we chose.
Q. And Brett, since you've worked on the cost analysis on things of this nature, where is the biggest savings coming from? Is it primarily that you'll have less‑‑ the teams will have to hire less fabricators in the long run? Is that primarily where‑‑ just the hours of labor involved, is that where the cost savings comes from?
BRETT BODINE: The efficiencies of using a composite flange fit body really are across the board from potentially needing less chassis to do the XFINITY Series because of the turnaround time on repairs, to the actual amount of time it takes to hang a complete new body on a chassis. The repairs most likely can be done by the team instead of potentially having to farm it out to a body hanger that they do business with now with the steel bodies. There's a lot of areas that this cost savings of this type body will provide for the team owners.
Q. And from a percentage standpoint, what's the percentage that you believe that the teams will save over the traditional steel body?
BRETT BODINE: That's very hard to determine because you have the upper‑tier teams that do everything in house, and they value a body much less‑‑ much differently. They allocate much differently the cost of a body than a mid‑tier or a lower‑tier team. So that's a very hard question to answer. But we have had very good response from all the tears of the garage area, from the top to the back of the garage, on the cost savings that it's going to provide them.
Q. Let's say that a team wants to make a fix in practice, as you were talking about. Would they have to have brought that panel with them to the track, or will there be a supply of them that they can get, like tires, and say, oh, we need this one to repair our car?
BRETT BODINE: That's a good question, and currently I know Five Star is working with potential vendors that do‑‑ supply parts and pieces at the racetrack, but if I was a race team, I would be probably carrying around a few panels myself.
WAYNE AUTON: There's one thing that's very highlighted in the garage area. We're getting a car in a box. That's a good way to look at it. So they'll have extra parts on their hauler just in case they have the incident that we talked about earlier in practice.
Q. Have you guys done a wind tunnel comparison, and can you say how many times you've been to the wind tunnel with these cars?
BRETT BODINE: We did a wind tunnel test, and our concerns at that wind tunnel test were the durability and deflection of panels. We did not do a comparison to a current car. The race teams have done that themselves.
As we spoke of earlier, the extensive collaboration between NASCAR, the race teams, the OEMs, to work through this project, the teams really came up with what the competition parity tools that we were going to use and what those tools should be and what the difference in weight should be and the aero should be. From the very beginning, all the teams wanted to make sure that there was no chance that they would want to maybe run a steel body. They wanted to go all in on the flange fit body right away, so that's why we're making sure that the competition adjustments between the two are accurate and enough to make you want to run a flange fit body.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports