Hamlin will drive at Texas; Herring will drive at Phoenix and Homestead
Denny Hamlin says back feels a lot better and Drew Herring has a bright future with JGR.
Pole sitter Drew Herring spins to bring out first caution at Iowa Speedway.
Drew Herring is done for the night after hard contact with the backstretch wall.
Kevin Swindell crashes into the Turn 3 wall after contact with Drew Herring .
Sanctioning body will bring teams down pit road for manipulation RELATED: NASCAR announces 2015 rule changes NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will no longer be allowed to alter their car's side skirts during an event, a practice that became widespread during the 2014 season. At the NASCAR State of the Sport to kick off the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said the sanctioning body will bring cars back down pit road if officials see that the side skirts have been manipulated during a pit stop in the race. O'Donnell said it would police flared skirts "by any means possible," including use of the new pit road technology that will make its debut during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway . Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development said the practice was allowed to continue last season because officials "didn't want to change how we were policing things in the middle of the Chase. "We knew at the end of the year there was work to do on our part in how we policed it in 2015," he said. "We'll do that with our pit road cameras, we'll do that with our video replay system and we'll do that with our officials on pit road." For 2015, NASCAR will police pit road through the use of 45 cameras (located on the grandstand side of the track) that will feed video back to a central location. Software written into the system will alert officials to any potential violations. There will also be 10 officials roaming pit road to monitor pit stops. If it is determined that a team has altered the side skirt, Pemberton said the team will be required to correct the issue at that time. "If we somebody physically pulling it out, or doing something to make it come out, we'll react. We'll make them fix it (during the race)," he said. The pieces, officially known as vertical rocker panel extensions, are located along the bottom of the car's body between the front and rear tires. They help seal the area between the bottom of the car's chassis and the track surface, limiting airflow underneath the vehicle. Unlike the thin sheet metal that covers most of the car, the pieces are made of hard plastic, which limits damage when they come into contact with the surface of the track. However, one short section of the right-side piece, located between the exhaust area and the rear tire, is constructed of metal to withstand heat from the car's exhaust. And it's that piece that drew the interest of officials as teams began to pull out or "flare" the metal portion in an attempt to improve downforce as the car traveled through the turns. The greater the pressure generated, the better the car moves through the corner, allowing the driver to maintain speed. Not all teams were flaring the pieces last season, but those that did typically would make the adjustment during an early pit stop. NASCAR allowed the practice to continue as the season progressed, but said on several occasions it was something that would be addressed after the completion of the 2014 season. Teams haven't said how much is gained from such an adjustment. There has, however, been talk about possible problems the move creates for other drivers. Flat tires following contact sidelined at least two Chase contenders late in the year, and both were asked if the flared side skirts were at least partly to blame. "I would assume it was something like that," Team Penske driver Joey Logano said of contact at Texas between his Ford and that of Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose . "Obviously, the consequences of that (flaring) is that is you touch each other … you can get a flat tire, but that's part of it. We all know it. We can see it. "We know if we touch each other we'll have an issue because of everyone being so aggressive in that department. But that's the name of the game right now." In the same race, contact between Logano's teammate, Brad Keselowski , and Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon resulted in a flat tire on the No. 24 Chevrolet. It also set the stage for post-race fireworks involving Gordon, Keselowski and various crewmen. Gordon said whether his flat tire was caused by Keselowski's flared side skirt or something else was "certainly debatable." "You don't know. The … tailpipes stick out, too," Gordon said, "and as hard as the impact was, it's possible that the tailpipes may have done it." Still, he said, such body alterations aren't helping the situation in such instances. "It is definitely getting a little bit out of control," he said. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Technology Countdown: Aerodynamics
Can JGR driver build off last season's run to the Championship 4? RELATED: Full schedule of driver previews Team: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Rank in final 2014 standings: Third Wins: One ( Talladega Superspeedway in May) Year in photos: Recap Hamlin's 2014 season Strides: Denny Hamlin carried momentum from his victory in the 2013 season finale into Speedweeks, winning the Sprint Unlimited exhibition and one of the two Budweiser Duel qualifying races ahead of the Daytona 500 . He finished just short of winning the Great American Race with a runner-up finish, but applied the No. 11 team's knack for restrictor-plate tracks to post his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway , clinching a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Once in the postseason, Hamlin was able to advance through all three rounds of the Chase's new format, landing one of four title-eligible spots in the Sprint Cup Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . He led 50 laps but wound up seventh in the finale -- third among the championship quartet -- when a gamble on pit strategy unraveled in the late stages. "We gave it our best run," Hamlin said. "I mean, we put together really our best race all year, that final race, and gave those guys a run when we really hadn't had the speed to race with them all year. We gave it an effort and just came up short. Really proud of what we were able to accomplish this year, even though it was somewhat of a down year for our team." Setbacks: A freak eye injury in March forced Hamlin to seek medical care at Auto Club Speedway for the second straight year on race day. In 2013, a tangle with Joey Logano left Hamlin with a broken back that sidelined him for four races and part of a fifth; in 2014, a sliver of metal in his left eye forced him out, just an hour before the green flag. A medical exemption by NASCAR officials allowed him to remain Chase-eligible as long as he met all other criteria. The new Chase qualification rules also benefited Hamlin later in the season, but the No. 11 team still felt heavy repercussions in the process. After a post-race technical infraction was found at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , NASCAR issued stiff penalties by stripping the team of 75 points, suspending crew chief Darian Grubb for six races and fining him $125,000. Injuries and penalties notwithstanding, Hamlin said after the season that he drove most of the year facing a performance deficit compared to his front-running rivals. With Joe Gibbs Racing expanding to a four-team operation with the addition of Carl Edwards to the 2015 driver roster, Hamlin said he hopes the benefits of additional information sharing can help get the organization over the hump. "You've just got to get better in all aspects, and I think we've always just been kind of that next-tier team, realistically," Hamlin said. "We can compete for race wins, week in and week out, but the championships have escaped us through mechanical stuff, which we've worked out, or this year it was just our cars weren't fast enough to compete with those guys. However, we gave ourselves a great chance that last race to really sneak a championship away from 'em, but overall we've just got to get better in more areas, and I think going to the fourth team will allow us to do that." Quoteworthy: "A lot of ups and downs -- it's been a tough year to start the year missing a race. We didn't have the tools to win a lot of races throughout the year, but we got better and we got better when it really counted. It wasn't for a lack of effort. Everyone gave 100 percent to give me the best car they could this weekend. It just wasn't enough to beat those guys." -- Hamlin, moments after finishing seventh in the championship race at Homestead-Miami. What's next: Hamlin's three-year run with Grubb drew to a close after a dramatic shake-up to JGR's crew chief lineup in the offseason. The new assignments for 2015 mean that Hamlin will pair with Dave Rogers, who served as crew chief for Kyle Busch on the No. 18 Toyota team in Sprint Cup since 2010. What won't change is the team's ultra-fast pit crew, often credited as one of the sport's best. Rogers and Hamlin have worked together with success in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series (seven wins together), and Rogers' tenure with Busch produced 13 Sprint Cup wins over a five-year stretch. Hamlin's 2014 finish was the third near-miss in his quest for a career-defining breakthrough championship at NASCAR's highest level. Though times are changing at JGR with its expansion and juggling of crew chiefs, Hamlin brings high hopes that the new combination with Rogers will bear fruit in 2015. "He's well-regarded within our sport amongst other crew chiefs and I know what he can do," Hamlin said. "He's been with the No. 11 FedEx team before. This is his second time around, but me and him have never worked together in the Cup Series. I have driven his cars during tests and been really fast and comfortable with them, so I'm very excited about what we can do." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule