Brian France aims to improve racing

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR is "repurposing'' its Research and Development Center to address aerodynamics and other issues that have impacted the quality of racing, particularly at 1.5-mile tracks in the Sprint Cup Series.

Chairman Brian France said before Saturday night's All-Star race that vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell has been charged with increasing the R&D Center's "focus on things that can make the racing better.''

The first change will come in the All-Star race, where NASCAR mandated the shortening of side skirts to create a greater ground clearance.

"Our goal is to always take moments with new cars and new opportunities to make the racing better,'' France said. "Obviously, we're focused on safety. That's a given. But we're zeroing in on if there's an aero issue. From time to time, there's going to be other issues that we're able to get at those faster.

"You're going to see the R&D Center take a much more active role in everything from performance on the track to innovation. So we're looking forward to that.''

France suggested there may be more changes to the cars in the coming months to make the current car more in line with the new car that will be introduced in 2013.

He said other innovations being investigated are ways to dry a track off 20 percent faster. That will make rain delays shorter and give tracks a better opportunity to get a race in on the scheduled day.

France was not concerned with complaints from fans or drivers about the quality of racing in a season that has seen more long green flag runs than normal.

"It's been a good, solid year,'' he said.

On other subjects, France is pleased with the visibility Danica Patrick has brought to the sport in her first full season -- fulltime in the Nationwide Series and part-time in Sprint Cup -- since leaving IndyCar.

"Most important, she's made improvements which was her stated goal,'' he said of Patrick, who is 10th in the Nationwide standings after a slow start. "That'll be what determines the impact in the end, how well she competes. Nobody knows that better than she does.''

France is optimistic about the chances of Darrell Wallace, a black driver who came up through NASCAR's diversity program, making his Nationwide Series debut on Sunday at Iowa Speedway.

"He's somebody with the most promising talent who is an African American to come through our diversity program,'' France said. "He has been dominant at the K&N (Pro Series East Series). He's winning.

"If not him, there's going to be somebody who is going to walk in the door and be a star, and it's going to be very good for us.''

France also announced that NASCAR will join the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL in Beyond Sport, a global organization that promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change.

But it was clear his primary focus was on changing whatever it takes to improve competition.

"Listen, we have a new car coming in '13, so we want to make sure we're as good as we can be in terms of the on-track quality of racing,'' France said. "We're putting more effort in to get that right, and we also get thrown curveballs like we have with tandem racing that fans didn't care for as much.

"So from time to time we have big things that affect the quality of racing. We just want to make sure we're able to get at those solutions faster, better. And our group is going to get that done.''