NASCAR have confirmed the penalties that will be available to officials in the event that teams are deemed to have attempted to gain significant aerodynamic advantage by brute-force adjustments to bodywork during a race.
Toward the end of 2014, many teams were attempting to achieve extra downforce by bending the sheet metal comprising the underside edge of the car's bodywork to increase its ground effect, a process that became known as 'flared skirts'.
Although all cars are inspected prior to the race to ensure they comply with technical regulations, the process of pulling out the side skirts of the car during the race slipped through the regulations which allowed for deformation of bodywork as a result of collisions and other racing action during the running of the event itself.
But in 2015, NASCAR officials will watch for teams attempting to pull out the side skirts during pit stop and order them to reverse the alteration before they are allowed to go back out on track. Officials will also direct teams to repair any damage to the side skirts sustained through on-track contact. The new regulations will also apply to any damage or other alterations to the fenders on the cars which might also produce an advantage.
“Some teams would say it is a much bigger advantage than others but certainly it contributed to the downforce on the cars,” said NASCAR executive vice-president Steve O'Donnell last month. “It was one of those things where it was happening prior to the Chase, and we felt as though our rules were in place and we needed to have that play out instead of a rule change mid-Chase.
"We'll judge what a racing incident is, based on our video and what we see,” explained NASCAR senior vice-president of Competition Robin Pemberton. “We have the ability to make them fix it."
The new provisions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rule book fall under section 10.7.1 relating to race violations.
"When the observed vehicle is determined to have an unapproved mechanical adjustment(s), modification, or failure(s) by the NASCAR XYZ Series Managing Director, a directive is given to the Crew Chief for his/her vehicle to report to their assigned pit stall to perform a satisfactory repair to all applicable components before the vehicle will be released back into competition. All repairs must be satisfactory to the NASCAR Officials," reads the new sub-item 10.7.1.1 in the rule book.
Other changes to the rule book direct cars to stay on the low side of the track while preparing to make qualifying runs, and introduces sanctions up to and including the deletion of qualifying lap times for "any Competitor that intentionally impedes or interferes with another competitor's qualifying attempt, or otherwise engages in any unsafe act while on the racing surface (including pit road) during a Qualifying attempt."
Tommy Baldwin Racing sold to Jay Robinson
Jay Robinson has bought up the assets of Tommy Baldwin Racing, and will take over the entry for the car under the new Premium Motorsports banner, with the car number changing from #36 to #62.
Reed Sorenson was the team's regular driver in 2014, but Brian Scott will take over the seat for next week's Daytona 500 before Brendan Gaughan steps in for the majority of the 2015 season. Zach McGowan will serve as the team's crew chief.
"We are very excited to have Brendan drive for our team this year," said Robinson. "He has a wealth of experience and I consider him to be the perfect driver to build this team around."
Both Scott and Gaughan are currently contracted to run a full-time campaign in the Xfinity (previously Nationwide) Series with Richard Childress Racing, with Gaughan starting his season with the March 1 Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
BK Racing names driver line-up
JJ Yeley and Jeb Burton have been named as BK Racing's Sprint Cup Series drivers for 2015, with Johnny Sauter set to join them for the Daytona 500.
"I am looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of my BK Racing Toyota Camry," said Yeley, who will compete in all 36 races of the year. "I filled in for the team at the end of the 2014 season, and I'm glad to be given the opportunity to come back again for another season. I am ready to get the 2015 season started and head to Daytona International Speedway for some restrictor plate racing."
"JJ has been a great asset to the BK Racing team," team owner Ron Devine commented. "He has been involved in the motorsports industry for several years now, and has the knowledge and skill to help build this organization."
Meanwhile, Jeb Burton - son of Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton and nephew of retired Cup driver Jeff Burton - will be taking the wheel of BK's #26 car for the season, marking a rapid rise from the Camping World Truck Series for the 22-year-old.
"We are very lucky to have a great, young talented driver like Jeb Burton in one of our NASCAR Sprint Cup cars," said team co-owner Anthony Marlowe. "It was important for us to find full-time anchor drivers for this season that are experienced and team-oriented.
"Jeb's success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series along with his family's history in the sport makes his emergence into Cup a great story," continued Marlowe. "The story, which also includes having a strong shot at winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year in 2015, has already proven to be very marketable. I look forward to seeing Jeb behind the wheel ... I think he is going to do great in the Daytona 500."
"I am so thankful for the opportunity that BK Racing has given me," said Burton himself. "It has been a dream of mine to race in the Daytona 500 ever since I was nine years old and I stood with my Dad in victory lane. I remember thinking to myself then in 2002, I would like to win the 500 one day. Now I have a chance at making that dream come true.
"I am looking forward to making the 500, providing the best possible finish I can by running and racing hard every lap this season," he added. "I also look forward to competing for the 2015 title of Rookie of the Year. Each week, I will be concentrating on finishing on the lead lap and learning as much as possible."
Joining them for the season opener will be Johnny Sauter who will be in the team's #83 Toyota for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, and also for "a select race schedule" thereafter according to Devine.
"We are very comfortable with our chances to race our #83 Dustless Blasting Camry into the Daytona 500 with Johnny behind the wheel. He has a lot of experience running upfront, a veteran in the sport and a loyal Toyota Racing driver," Devine said. "Regardless of the outcome of the Budweiser Duels, we look forward to working with Johnny."
"I am excited to be joining the BK Racing team for the start of the 2015 NASCAR season. I am thankful for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the #83," said Sauter. "We are going to get out there and give it our all and hopefully come home with a good finish for this team and sponsor."
Michael Annett, who raced for BK Racing in the Sprint Cup championship in 2014, had previously decided to leave the team and has signed for HScott Motorsport to drive their new second entry, alongside Justin Allgaier.