photo credit: Ron Olds
Transcript interview with STEVE O’DONNELL
Q. How would you evaluate what we saw out there?
STEVE O’DONNELL: Well, I would say if you look at the first stage, certainly saw almost two different races, kind of Stage 2, Stage 3. What we said from the beginning was we wanted to see the best cars still win. We wanted the ability — and this is an actual fact, but if you look up in Turn 2 or Turn 3 during a run and wanted to see the leader and the ability for second or third to be in that shot and have the ability to pass. We saw that. You certainly saw the last stage, 100-hundred lap green flag run with no cautions, top four within 2.5 seconds, so directionally I think better for sure, but not satisfied. We can — I’m a race fan first, and liked what I saw, but I think there’s also more to come hopefully.
Q. Did that resemble what the data — based on what you guys tried to forecast?
STEVE O’DONNELL: Yeah, I think you never forecast a caution-free race other than the stages, and that’s what you had. You had cars sticking together for a longer period on a restart, and then what we really wanted on an intermediate track was if you had a long green flag run, the ability to make a pass during that stretch versus, two, three, four, almost what you saw in Stage 1 versus the second and third. I think it was good to see directionally that guys to come up through the pack and make a pass for the lead. But still work to do. It’s early. Three different winners, three races, so we’ll take this one and head to Phoenix.
Q. What would you want to see that would make you satisfied?
STEVE O’DONNELL: You know, I think it’s not really up to me, right, it’s the fans. You want higher ratings and you want more butts in seats ultimately. You want rivalries out there and drivers getting after it, and I think what happens in that situation is you have more passes for the lead, and you have cars closer together. So I think we’re on the march to do that. I think we saw some of that today, but we can continue to improve upon it.
Q. Did you think it might be better if they had a little bit more throttle response?
STEVE O’DONNELL: We’ve got to go back and look. I think the 2 car had throttle response and the 22 and some others, so it’s going to vary by driver, and I think every driver is going to have a different opinion, and that’s what makes it racing, so we’ll see.
Q. You mentioned that there’s more work to do, more things to improve on. Has that happened just by going to different tracks or by the teams’ package? How do you see that developing?
STEVE O’DONNELL: I think over time. We’ve said from the beginning that this is going to be a season that we’re going to analyze. We’re not going to every race say, was that a good race, was that not. I know fans do that, but for us directionally are you improving upon where we wanted to be, and if you look at last year versus this year, I would say we are. Was it tremendous improvement? Probably not. But again, as a fan you want to see lead changes. We saw that today, and I think if you would have looked in the past with no cautions, we would have seen someone check out all race long and we wouldn’t have seen a lead change.
Q. Were you surprised no cautions?
STEVE O’DONNELL: I was. You know, you go back even before the race, and I think even some of the media and it probably came from the garage, we’re going to wreck the entire field, this isn’t going to be a race. Didn’t happen. Some said NASCAR’s goal is pack racing. Not the case. Our goal was to bring cars closer together, have more lead changes, but again, was surprised. I think if we had more green flag restarts I think you probably would have seen one or two wrecks, but we’ll see. It’s early, again, and I’d rather err on the side of not wrecking cars and having some lead changes versus having that happen through accidents.
Q. There were penalties on guys behind the wall today with their hand on the side of the pit box. Can you explain why that is? Is there something that you guys saw that — where you’re like, we’re just not going to get into body parts?
STEVE O’DONNELL: No, that’s the way the rule is written, so we made that call. We’ll go back and continue to look at it, but under the rule, that’s the call that we needed to make.
Q. Any sense of relief that after the first stage things did get a little bit better?
STEVE O’DONNELL: I think that’s fair. You look at it, and I’ve learned a long time ago to — I think Mike telling me, hey, let the race play out, and that’s what happens. You never know. I was certainly glad to see that drivers were able to come up and make a pass for sure and thought Stage 2 and 3 were much more the direction we wanted to see for this race.
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