News & Media

France explains 'have at it' after recent events

May 20, 2011, Joe Menzer,

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR chairman pleased with new points system, but admits still much to learn

Even in this "have-at-it" era of racing, there are clear limits to what drivers can do to each other.

So said Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, in a state of the sport address to the media Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. France also attempted to explain those parameters in a lengthy question-and-answer session with the media that followed his opening address.

"We wanted to put it more in the drivers' hands. We never said that there were no limits to that. You can't go around with a missile and a weapon out there. But if you're having contact [during a race], that's part of NASCAR."


Responding to requests from some drivers for a clearer explanation as to what will and will not be tolerated by the sport's governing body, France insisted it should not be a mystery to anyone.

"We think not. We think there is a 60-year history of how we officiate the events. ... This shouldn't be a big surprise for anyone to try to read how we we're going to officiate events," France said. "We said in any event if your car is faster than someone else, and there is some contact and someone else gets by, that's NASCAR racing. We celebrate that, and have throughout our history."

He said the recent incident at Darlington, where Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were involved in a post-race confrontation on pit road, was different in that it came after the event was over. Both drivers were slapped with $25,000 fines and four weeks probation.

"One of the limits is if you put anyone in danger, like with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch," France said in reference to the fact that there were others in the pit road area when their altercation occurred.

France said NASCAR stands by the position, stated prior to the 2010 season, that the drivers can best police themselves -- most of the time -- on the track.

"We wanted to put it more in the drivers' hands," France said. "We never said that there were no limits to that. You can't go around with a missile and a weapon out there. But if you're having contact [during a race], that's part of NASCAR. So it's tough for us -- but that's what we do. There are certain areas in the game in auto racing where it's subjective as to how much is too much.

"Obviously we are a contact sport. And we're going to remain with the basic philosophy that we're putting more of it in the drivers' hands -- and if they go over a line that we think is there, we will deal with that."

France also said he is encouraged by the effects of the new points system put in place in the top three national touring series prior to this season, including the new stipulation that drivers had to declare only one series in which they intended to run for a championship. That stipulation was put in place as part of what France said is an ongoing effort to bring a higher profile to the competitors in the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series.

"I think that will come into better play for us later in the year. I think it's added something, no question, to the events," France said. "I think you will see us take a slow, steady look to make sure that we're getting the most out of the Nationwide Series -- which needs to be analogous to college football in being able to build some stars to come from Saturday to Sunday for us.

"This was a big step, but it's not going to be the only step. We're going to be looking for ways to enhance the young drivers and their talents -- and new owners, for that matter -- in the Nationwide and other national series, so we don't get this [proliferation] of Cup drivers to the point where it just homogenizes both the Sunday and the Saturday, and it doesn't deliver the benefits that we like to see when showcasing young talent and young drivers and new owners."

France also said NASCAR is working hard to improve the sport in many areas. He said the governing body recently had research data returned to them from many different parties involved in the sport. He said those results have been studied and will be acted upon in an appropriate manner.

"We like to think we're our own, good self critic in some areas we can improve upon," France said. "Obviously a lot of other sports -- and all motor sports -- would like to have our problems. But our problems are our problems, and we're going to meet our challenges head-on. That's our job. To grow this sport, tell our story, showcase our drivers in the best competition in the world. ... Our competition is the steak on the plate for us."

France added that he would not be opposed to setting up conference calls with fans in conjunction with tracks, similar to what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has done recently with season-ticket holders in various NFL cities.

"The tracks that sell the tickets here know their customers best," France said. "If I can add something to a call with our fan base and their customers, I would be happy to do it. I haven't been asked to do it, and I think we tend to let the tracks have that relationship -- and that will remain until there is a need to do something different."