France discusses key issues in season wrap
December 05, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
LAS VEGAS -- NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France touched on several topics in NASCAR's season wrap-up session with the media. In addition to changes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame process, France discussed:
• The Richmond scandal. The NASCAR chairman said he was personally "pissed off, to be honest" over the events in the regular-season finale that led to heavy penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for race manipulation, and altered the face of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But the chairman stands by the way NASCAR handled the controversy, which involved the unprecedented step of adding a 13th driver -- in this case, Jeff Gordon -- to the Chase.
"I was very angry about it," France said. "But I also knew that … if we dealt with it really straight on, that we wouldn't have a long‑term blemish. It was going to be really tough, especially for the teams that got penalized, losing sponsors. That was no fun for anybody. But I knew that our credibility would be preserved if we did the right thing and we acted swiftly. So I wasn't ever worried about that. But of course we were disappointed. But that's just the nature, I guess, of competitive sports. You've got human beings trying to do their best, and sometimes they cross lines they shouldn't cross."
• Iowa Speedway. NASCAR last week announced it had purchased the track that has hosted NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events since 2009. The facility had gone through ownership changes, France said, and NASCAR's ownership gives the track some stability.
"It's an attractive asset in a region of the country that is very NASCAR-centric, and they run multiple events for multiple series, they've had a lot of success," France said. "The public companies that are in the space, for various reasons, the timing wasn't right for them, but the time was right for us. So from a NASCAR standpoint, we'll get to give some stability to a facility that needs that, number one. We've got a lot of talent through our system that we'll be able to deploy to promote, run, operate and execute that facility, and we'll try to do our best to position it."
• Qualifying changes. France reiterated that NASCAR is continuing to examine potential changes to the qualifying format. In a meeting with competitors earlier this season, NASCAR said it was looking at moving away from single-car qualifying in favor of group formats like those used on road courses.
"It's the one format that we will deal with, because it's not part of the race‑day event. And our goal is to make that a little more exciting, a little more interesting for the fans," France said. "The track operators have certainly wanted that for a long time, and they're right. So we've been working on some ideas, and there will be something pretty shortly on that, and it will make it more exciting."
• The Sprint Cup schedule. Many have wondered if NASCAR will use the kickoff of the sport's new television deal in 2015 as an opportunity to revamp the Sprint Cup schedule, but France said he doesn’t foresee that happening.
"Most tracks with a couple of exceptions don't like to give up a date that's worked for them, and so on, that they've had for a long time," France said. "So there might be a change or two, but I wouldn't predict any significant changes."
• NBC's return. The peacock network will return as a NASCAR broadcast partner in 2015, and this week unveiled a talent lineup that includes Rick Allen as lead announcer and Jeff Burton as analyst. France said he can already sense that within the NBC portfolio, NASCAR will be a priority.
"Right away, we're going to get a lot more attention simply because it's their focus," he said. "They're going to use the assets within the (NBC) Universal platform, the E Channel, things that we don't think about every day, to cross-promote day in and day out. And when you create interest levels that hopefully go up, we match that with even better racing than we have today, (that's) our goal."