<
>

No major changes seen for CoT

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- No offense to NASCAR's most popular driver, but no major changes are planned to the Sprint Cup car for 2010.

President Mike Helton said on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway that the governing body is pleased with the progress of the new car and that there is strong support for leaving it alone.

"As you talk to the principals in the garage area -- the team owners, the crew chiefs, the car chiefs -- there seems to be in all these conversations a consensus around 'don't make any major changes right now because we don't want to tackle those, we've spent a long time now understanding this car and don't throw a wrench in all of that by making us start over,' " Helton said.

His comments came less than 24 hours after Dale Earnhardt Jr. urged the governing body to take a more urgent look at letting the car evolve move freely to improve competition.

Helton also indicated he doesn't anticipate a change in the suspension of testing for next season. He said the ban was implemented as a cost-saving measure during tough economic times and there are no indications that those times are over.

"The first thing we do is say, 'Why change it right now or do we need to change it right now?' '' Helton said.

As for the car, Helton believes Earnhardt's comments were more broad-based about improvements that need to be made for the sport in general. He said comments aimed specifically at the car had more to do with "frustration'' over being 25th in points.

He noted that Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin -- aren't struggling. Johnson is second in points, Gordon third and Martin 11th with a series-best four wins.

"So there's a frustration there that I think attributes to his comments and I think people see those,'' Helton said. "When he landed on the car itself being more specific about that, it's more like his dad would comment when he was having a bad stretch.

"He'd say, 'Man, I'd like to change something different right now because I'd like to change my own performance.' I think that is what he was talking about.''

Helton strongly contested Earnhardt's comment that before double-file restarts were implemented in June that "95 percent of the race wasn't worth the price of the ticket.''

"I make the argument that the racing we've got on the track is as good as I've seen in a long time,'' he said. "A reaction from us could interrupt that.''

Points leader Tony Stewart sided more with Helton, saying he was pleased with the way his car is handling.

Gordon somewhat sided with Earnhardt, admitting things could be done to make the car handle better in traffic and produce more passing up front.

But nobody was as outspoken as Earnhardt was Friday, when he called for the media to address stronger the need for improvements to the car and for drivers to be more vocal about it.

He did it at the track where, in June 2008, NASCAR held a town hall-type meeting with drivers, encouraging them to be less critical about the car.

"What I'm getting at is I think we need to open our eyes a little bit,'' Earnhardt said Friday. "Everyone. NASCAR could probably be a little more urgent in improving our product, where the ultimate result is great, exciting racing that the fans will enjoy, that the drivers enjoy, so everyone is happy.''

Helton said minor tweaks are being considered, many around weight distribution that teams have complained about. He said NASCAR is less inclined to make tweaks that would give teams more room to adjust the cars.

"One of the reasons there is less adjustability on the car, and a lot of it comes from aerodynamic adjustability, is in order to keep control of the cost teams have,'' Helton said. "There is as much support -- actually there is more support -- of keeping it that way than it is to letting it creep back out.''

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.