There’s a lot that’s new in NASCAR this year, so while at Daytona Speedweeks, we went straight to the source for insight into how the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season might look.
In an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com Thursday, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller talked through some of what fans will see and experience this year.
Excerpts from our conversation follow.
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FOXSports.com: Why so many changes this year?
Miller: “We’re always trying to come up with a rules package, and obviously we’ve worked on race formats to provide the most compelling racing. We learn from what we see, we learn from input from all the stakeholders. The rules and the formats and the different changes are all with an eye on providing better competition on the race track and a better show.”
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FOXSports.com: Why can't you set a rules package and leave it for several years?
Miller: “There’s a lot of evolution in the garage area as to how teams interpret and work with a given set of rules. And when we see things developing that we kind of need to keep in check, either to keep a level playing field for the competition or to work efficiencies in for the teams to where they’re not spending money on things that really have no bearing on the show, we will adjust to those things.
“Unfortunately, that typically means rules changes. But really, first and foremost, just to provide the best show that we can.”
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FOXSports.com: Is it safe to say you can’t keep the rules the same because the teams don’t keep the cars the same and constantly developing them?
Miller: “That’s certainly part of it. There’s no question about that. And pit road rules, restart rules — when we see people start taking advantage of things that are in the rule book in a way that we don’t think is where we want to head as a sport, then we’ll react to those.”
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FOXSports.com: Why are there always so many inspection issues before the Daytona 500?
Miller: “I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. No. 1, the event itself. It’s a big deal to win and to perform at the Daytona 500. Not that the other races aren’t. But first, just kind of the gravity of the event itself.
“Secondly, because they (the teams) had longer than they’re going to get again to work on these cars. They get a little bit of cabin fever over the winter and think they might be able to get something through (inspection) and kind of throw caution to the wind coming down here.”
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FOXSports.com: Out of all the enhancements this year, what do you see as the biggest upgrade?
Miller: “We’re really excited across the industry about the format change to the races with three stages, and the moments we believe it can create for exciting racing during the entire event.
“There’s a lot of things with the formats, where it jumbles the field up a little bit, and some of the cars that may have won the stage might have been on a different pit strategy that allowed them to win and they will be flip-flopped in the running order in the next stage. So a lot of variability — it has the potential to bring a lot of excitement to it.
“There will be times where it might not appear to be doing too much, but I think there will be other moments that will be big throughout the year that will reward us as a sport.”
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How much input did various stakeholders have into these changes?
Miller: “We’re actually refining that process on a daily basis as to how everything is communicated and how things are worked through and arrived at. When it comes to making the hard rules for the car and the rest of that, that’s our responsibility as the sanctioning body to do what we feel is best.
“Something like the formats was a really, really good collaborative effort among a lot of stakeholders — tracks, team presidents, drivers themselves, the broadcast group. It was a really diverse, really important group of people who collaborated really well to make the format happen.
“When we all look at each other and realize where we landed, and kind of analyze that process, we’ll probably be using that as a model moving forward to work on other things that might come up.”