Impound procedures remain a work in progress
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR is overhauling its impound rules.
The procedures were implemented for Nextel Cup races this season as a cost-cutting move and were used at more than half of the events.
An impound weekend typically featured Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and a Sunday race. Following qualifying, cars were impounded and could not be altered until the race without penalty. Teams that opted to work on their cars before the race were forced to start at the back of the field.
At non-impound races, cars could be worked on after qualifying and before the race.
"This all boiled down to the balance between the show -- the garage area -- and the racetracks," NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday, two days before the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It just didn't fit right for right now."
The offseason change relieved teams from the need to have race and qualifying setups on cars.
NASCAR officials had announced plans to use the current impound procedures for most of the 2006 Cup schedule.
But the sudden impound changes are likely related to the ongoing negotiations between NASCAR and its television partners.
NASCAR's current TV contracts expire at the end of the 2006 season, and it has been in negotiations with several networks on a new deal. The networks in negotiations have indicated a desire for increased on-track activity that could be broadcast.
"In the overall scheme of things, it didn't fit the way we thought it would right now," Helton said. "We just wanted to back off that and take a look at it from a different angle. We just haven't found the right balance yet."
Wallace getting comfortable
Veteran driver Kenny Wallace replaced reigning Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch in the No. 97 Ford last week on short notice. Wallace finished 16th in place of Busch, who was suspended by Roush Racing for the final two races of the season after a run-in with Phoenix police two nights before the race.
Now, with a full week of preparation, Wallace expects better results.
"My goal is a top 10," Wallace said. "I'm not trying to sit on the pole and bite off too much. I don't have that much pressure on myself. What I want to do is have a good showing and run real competitive, but a top 10 is my goal."
Wallace, a younger brother of longtime NASCAR star Rusty Wallace, has 309 Cup starts with 27 top-10s, the last one at Bristol in 2003 while driving for Bill Davis Racing.
Don't call the No. 12 Dodge that Ryan Newman is driving this weekend an Intrepid, even though its a year-old body style. The templates for the old cars are good through the end of 2006.
"It's a Dodge," said Don Miller, president of Penske Racing South. "Dodge isn't making Intrepids any more."
This year's NASCAR Dodge is the Charger, but Newman and Evernham Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne both are driving the year-old models in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 Nextel Cup race.
"We've had trouble all year long with our [new] Dodges on the mile-and-a-half tracks like Homestead," Miller explained. "They are real pitch sensitive at certain speeds in certain circumstances.
"When you go to pass someone, dart under them, it's liable to go anywhere. We tried the 2004 and it doesn't do any of those things."
Miller said he hopes the problem can be solved over the winter.
"We're trying to resubmit a nose for 2006 and NASCAR's working with us," he said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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