Brian France: 'As an industry, we're all excited'
February 13, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France expressed the excitement of an entire industry over the new Coors Light Pole Qualifying changes and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship format Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio during NASCAR Media Day in Daytona Beach, Fla.
France said, "As an industry, we're all excited," and he cited fans as the main reason behind the changes.
"It checks all the boxes that are important to our fans, so we feel great," France said. "We had to switch places with consistency and winning performance. We were out of balance with that."
"[Drivers were] running in the top five in points late in the year, and they had an eighth-place finish. That's a great day under [the previous] format. But nobody likes that. I don't blame any one of the drivers that ever said that because that's exactly how they should have raced. This is going to change all that, and it's something we can build on for the future."
What excited France most was the change in "psychology and the strategy" that will come with the new Chase format, which rewards winning.
"That's what everybody may or may not be thinking about. I hear a lot of things like, 'Well, Dale Jr. would have won last year because he would have [been most consistent].' That's not true because all the strategies are going to change. They have to change. The risk-taking is going to change. So you can throw everything out in the past. It's not applicable to the future, and it can't be."
In addition to the sport's fan focus, France said dialogue with teams has been important as NASCAR listened to the teams after new qualifying rules were put in place on Jan. 22. Based on those discussions, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton announced changes on Thursday that will allow crew members to make adjustments to cars during qualifying rounds.
"We said that while conceptually we have a whole new system, there will be tweaks and there needs to be," France said. "There are going to be some tweaks to this qualifying format as we go on. The basic foundation is there, but there's going to be naturally some tweaks. We're listening to the teams about that. What makes it the most fair, the most reasonable.
"But one thing I know, it's going to be different and more exciting. That I do know."
Born and raised in Daytona Beach, France discussed the importance of the Great American Race, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX in the context of the groundbreaking changes announced last month.
"The Daytona 500 has its own place and it always will, France said. "You win that, you've got yourself a nice piece of history."
In 2014, the winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season-opening event will have the extra incentive of potentially making the Chase with a victory.
"Yeah, I think you're going to hear some of that," France said when asked about the potential of the winner notching a place in the Chase as he or she is welcomed in Daytona International Speedway's Victory Lane. "You're going to hear punching my ticket, and it probably will be largely true."
"[The new Chase format] changes places with performing and winning vs. consistency, and I don't know anybody in our sport that doesn't like the idea of that."