Originally created 06/12/04

NASCAR president promises changes after Dover fiasco

LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR president Mike Helton on Friday promised changes to avoid a repeat of the caution-plagued race that slowed the field at Dover and upset drivers.

"The 24-lap caution that occurred is unacceptable," Helton said at Pocono Raceway. "We can't go back and change that. All we can do is work through it and go forward with every effort possible to avoid that happening again."

At Sunday's race at Dover, Del., leader Kasey Kahne skidded in oil left on the track by Casey Mears and crashed with 18 laps to go. Four cars were involved in that crash, which resulted in a red flag that lasted 20 minutes - the second stoppage of a race that lasted 4 hours, 47 minutes.

The biggest change for Sunday's Pocono 500 will be depending solely on electronics to determine the positions of the cars on the track.

Every car has a transponder that can be read by 14 antennas around Pocono Raceway. They identify the position of each car on the track and will freeze the field instantly under a caution.

"We feel like we can eliminate the human element that led a lot, in part, to the extended caution last weekend, and score the race and determine who is in what position, in what lap they're in, electronically," Helton said.

The antennas were installed on the tracks in the offseason, but officials still relied on spotters and video replays. Helton said the human system in the control tower will be kept in place in case of possible electronic failures.

Also, pit road will not open for the first time under caution until the race leader passes the pits for the second time. Previously, the pits were closed until the pace car passed the entrance to pit road.

NASCAR also will no longer set aside an extra lap under caution to bring around the car receiving a "free pass." The pass, which allows the first car a lap down to get onto the lead lap, will be enforced during the normal reshuffling of the field during pit stops under caution.

"We're going to try those two procedure changes this weekend to help expedite cautions in general," Helton said.

The race at Dover was slowed for 90 laps by 11 caution flags.


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