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March 2, 2013

Steve O'Donnell

    THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon.  Thank you all for being with us here at Phoenix International Raceway.  We welcome Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president who is here to give us an update today. STEVE O'DONNELL:  I wanted to give everyone an update from last Saturday's accident in Daytona. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who were injured.  Most, if not all, have been released.  I think you all have heard from Halifax Health there are two remaining patients in the hospital but we're optimistic on their release as well. As everybody knows, safety is first and foremost not only for NASCAR and our racetracks, but getting that right and making sure our fans can enjoy the most safe and entertaining environment possible.  I think our history speaks to that. Moving forward based on what happened in Daytona, we met immediately with the folks at Daytona International Speedway.  We've had multiple meetings this week.  It's been a truly collaborative effort with the goal of doing two things:  obviously looking at what happened in this incident, but more importantly the go?forward plan of what we can learn and what we want to implement as we go forward. So a couple updates on where we're at to date. The 32 car and the parts have obviously been secured by NASCAR.  Unlike other incidents where just a car and a driver was involved, and we immediately bring that car back to the R&D center, in that case that car remained in Daytona.  The purpose of that was to allow the folks from Daytona and their experts to take a look at the car, see what if anything they could glean from that investigation and apply that to their initial thoughts looking at the fencing. The car is in the process of being brought up to the R&D center.  That will involve a couple of things that we're going to look at. The first step for us as we reviewed it prior to going to the R&D center, important to note that most of the safety elements in that car did their job.  The driver, as you saw, walked away.  The car, however, got up into the fence.  Our focus is going to be if the elements in the car did their job, what do we need to do to the impact to the fence, what happened once that car impacted the fence. Once the car gets up to the R&D center, we have a number of experts there that who will do a number of things.  First we'll bring in the race team.  That car was impounded.  The team hasn't had a chance to look at that car.  We want to bring in that team and talk about how the car was fabricated, what we can learn jointly as they look at the car and what we see as well. The next steps will be putting that car back together.  We'll use any and all technology we can, video, cameras.  The benefit to us in this situation is if you look at Daytona, all the camera angles, all the video technology that's out there, we have the most technology we've ever had to be able to apply to this incident.  So we're going to use that and apply that and hopefully learn from that as well. We'll go through each part of the car.  Want to look at how everything held up that was in the car, the cockpit, the tethers.  There's been talk if the tethers broke away or not.  They did not.  When you look at the car, the part that the car was tethered to sheared the car.  That's something we have to look at in advance.  We've tethered a number of different things and added things to the safety aspects of the car, but what do we need to do in addition to that when we look at this accident specifically. We're also going to bring in outside experts.  I think everyone is familiar with us working with Dr. Dean Sickling.  We have a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the SAFER barriers came together.  We'll enlist both of those parties as part of this process. It's important to note, too, looking at fencing and outside engineering is going to have to be a third aspect we're going to have to apply.  We'll use the best and brightest, enlist those folks going forward.  We think it will validate our findings and find a peer review we can go to. Concurrently with all this, Daytona International Speedway is looking at the fencing, bringing in their experts.  They're also in the process of bringing in an outside firm to analyze what was in place and look to what we may need to do going forward. Really a two?phase process we're looking at.  Superspeedway racing with Daytona and Talladega is going to be the first concentration for us.  We have a race coming up in May at Talladega.  Anything we can learn in the immediate future that can be applied to Talladega, we'll do that. The second phase is all of our racetracks.  We race on a number of different facilities, as you all know.  Each of those tracks is unique, different speeds, different banking.  All those factors need to be thought through as you look to make any changes that may be recommended.  First and foremost it will be Talladega. No set timetable as to when this will be completed other than the fact that we know the race is coming up in May.  So anything we can do we'll apply in May. But when you talk about safety, I think Jeff Burton said it best yesterday:  There's no goal of safety or no end goal of safety; it's something we work on each and every day. Same with this process.  If there's something we can find out tonight, we'll apply that.  If it's two months from now, we'll apply that as well.  No set timetable.  But rest assured we'll be back to you quickly as we find results and things we can implement. Three other things I wanted to quickly touch on that are topics that are out there. Michael Annett was injured in a crash at Daytona, an injury that we have not seen for some time now.  We're going to look through that car.  Happy to report that Michael went to surgery and is released.  That's something we have to take a hard look at and make sure things worked for Michael.  Anything we can improve on we will. The story out there about Jeremy Clements.  No secret we did suspend Jeremy.  We believe strongly we made the right decision there.  Our go?forward plan with Jeremy is to employ Dr. Richard Lapchick, have him work with Dr. Richard Lapchick and get him back in a racecar as soon as we deem fit. Last but not least, this is the first true test of the Gen?6 car.  Like the feedback.  Robin has put in a heck of a lot of work in the car.  This week and next week in Vegas is going to be a good indicator of where we're at.  We're getting a lot of good feedback from the drivers.  We're excited about what we're going to see today with two races and obviously tomorrow.

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