NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France doesn’t often address the media at events. However, he likes to come to Daytona International Speedway each year and give an update on NASCAR. France’s State of the Sport address has since become an annual part of the Coke Zero 400 weekend.
On Saturday, France did not make any big announcements during his roughly 30 minutes of media availability, but he did talk about a number of topics pertainent to the Sprint Cup Series and Sprint Cup drivers.
France first talked about the new Chase format that places emphasis on winning races. He seems very pleased with the results so far.
“I think we can all see the benefits of changing the winning importance, and it in fact has changed the racing on the track,” France said. “There’s no question about it. The drivers are telling us that. They’re taking different kind(s) of chances. They’re going for wins when they would have played it safe otherwise. And I think that’s just going to get more intense as we close in on Richmond and we seed the field there.”
The topic of having Sprint Cup drivers race in the Nationwide and/or Camping World Truck Series was once again a big topic of discussion. France appears to be ok with the status quo there. France (and NASCAR as a whole) believes that younger drivers benefit from the valuable experience of racing up against Sprint Cup regulars. As a result, they generally favor the current setup, regardless of whether “…somebody gets on a run and tends to win more events than is normal.”
France is concerned about the barriers to entry for new ownership. He’s hoping that future rule changes make it easier to attract new teams. France did state that “…lowering the cost of racing, getting parity where teams can come in and have success, and making ourselves more relevant to manufacturers and partners in all part of the NASCAR business model.”
The search for a new entitlement sponsor for the current Nationwide Series is apparently going quite well.
“Very good interest [with the Nationwide Series sponsorship],” France said. I think in the coming weeks, we’ll be getting to the end of that process, and we will be in very good shape when the dust settles there.”
Recent reports have tied companies such as AutoZone to the sponsorship, but France did not reference any specific company.
Probably the two most interesting things that France said were on the topics of changes to the 2015 Sprint Cup schedule, and the recent reports of the elimination of souvenir trailers. In regards to track changes, France said that changes could be on the horizon to the schedule with the new TV contract
“Now that the Chase format [has] changed, there’s additional interest to move [races] from one place to another,” France said. “So, there will be a robust discussion that will be for those reasons, a more comprehensive look at what the best schedule will look like.” France continued and stated that the 2015 Sprint Cup Schedule would be released in September. Moving the final race of the schedule with the current Chase format has come up, but it is currently on lockdown in Homestead for the next few years.
Having said that, NASCAR does not necessarily put certain tracks “on the clock” to shape up.
“We don’t put a timeline on [improvement],” France said. “We’re working with our track operators, the ones that have more challenges than others, and we’ll just have to work through it and try to get a good outcome.”
One track that will not host a Sprint Cup race in 2015 is Iowa Speedway, a track that NASCAR itself recently purchased.
“We don’t have plans for a Cup date [at Iowa],” France said. “We’re working with the state representatives and others to help us build racing in Iowa to the highest level that we can, they’re doing a great job with us, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the entire effort that the communities have made in and around Iowa.” France continued and stated that Iowa Speedway has a “nice full schedule” right now with the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Nationwide Series and the immediate future for Iowa Speedway will look similar to that.
Finally, France acknowledged the recently reported proposed replacement of souvenir trailers with a PGA-style superstore, but did not go into much detail.
“We are looking at [souvenir row], and that’s one of the benefits we have with the licensing trust that got formed a couple years ago,” France said. “We really want to have higher quality merchandise available in more places and make it more convenient for our fans, and just how that gets done, the tracks, teams and everybody else will come together and figure that out. We do think there’s probably some newer, better ways that we can merchandise to our fans.”