NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Brian France
November 11, 2008
An interview with:
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, everyone, and good afternoon. Welcome to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teleconference, ahead of Sunday's Ford Championship weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Where we'll decide three national series titles this weekend: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Friday, the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.
Appropriately, we have a very special guest today, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, Brian, thank you for joining us.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thank you, Denise, and good afternoon, everyone. I want to focus my remarks and hopefully a lot of what we discuss today around a little bit about the season, how it's gone so far. Of course, we're closing in on the finale here on Sunday.
Just before I start that, I wanted to make mention of a topic that has been coming up a lot and rightfully so, which is the manufacturers, which are so important to NASCAR, and the various challenges that they've got from a business standpoint that they're going through right now.
I mentioned this Sunday as well, and it's worth saying again. They have been a very important part of the sport in historical purposes. And we have every intention of them being a big part of the sport in the future. That's why we're going to do everything we can to help them get through a difficult business cycle because of what the ramifications could be, forgetting NASCAR -- forgetting NASCAR for a moment, because that would pale in comparison to one of those companies if they have any additional challenges. We want to be successful, and that's what we're going to be working on with all of our manufacturers who help us in the sport.
So with that said, I want to zero in a little bit about the full weekend that we have, because, obviously, it's a culmination for all three of our national divisions. And we have a very strong points battle going on with Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday, just three points on that particular division.
It's an opportunity also for us to say goodbye to an old friend and a good partner for the series in Craftsman. Most of you know Camping World will be the new title sponsor for 2009. So looking for a very good, historically that's come down to the last lap, that particular division. So we're looking forward to that.
And also getting the Nationwide Series, which, itself, has had a nice run. It continues to develop the drivers of the future. You're looking at Brad Kozlowski as one example, and there are many others who are getting a chance to showcase their skills in America's number two Motorsport.
Then, finally, of course, is the historical importance that it's beginning to take shape, that Jimmie Johnson could, in fact, win three championships in a row. Of course, Cale Yarborough, the only one to ever do that, and in our own view, in my own view putting that in some perspective on the level of competition that exists today, the format that you have to make it into the postseason, and then you've got to beat the 11 best.
And to do it three years in a row, if that's happens, it's certainly not out of the realm of reality that Carl could make a run or Jimmie could have some trouble. But assuming that would happen, it would put in our view, Jimmie in an elite group, maybe in an elite group by himself. So we'll are to see how that shakes out.
But what's important for us looking back and sort of judging 2008 was, you know, we had a few goals and objectives. One was, of course, to implement the Car of Tomorrow, which is now the new car in all events, and try to make sure we got all the benefits from that decision that we could and integrate that as carefully as we could and get a good result, and we have.
We've watched the competition get better week after week as the teams have figured out this car. Then all of the safety benefits that we've got, those are now well--documented, well-recorded that we've approved. It's never good enough, but we've improved on that promise. Finally, is the car side, which, of course, ties directly to the economy and all the things that are going on today.
We believe very strongly that this car will deliver cost savings in the long run for sure. In some cases in the short run. We're very comfortable with that, and it will allow us in the future to continue to take cost out of the system, which is what everyone in our industry is trying to do.
That's our number one policy, as a matter of fact, along with safety to take cost out on behalf of the injury without sacrificing both the level of competition that we all expect, and the level of promotion and other things that we need to keep doing to reach new fans.
So those are still important, and we will continue to do those at a very high level.
So I would tell you the other last part about 2008. You know, I said and we all said that we wanted to put -- there is this balance in NASCAR, because we have a long season, lot of events, of running well and then wanting to win more and balancing those two effectively.
I got to tell you we did add more points to the win, and we did change slightly our seeding as a result of that. And I think you have seen the drivers in particular are the ones who you hear from on this issue, but they've been very clear that they're going to have to win more to move up in the standings and win a championship.
You saw Carl Edwards with that big move in Kansas City, because he knew he had to do that. Every point was going to matter. Turns out he was right. He needed that.
But Jimmie Johnson having to come back from adversity from Texas into Phoenix. He didn't just try to get out on the point. He went out and sat on the pole and won the race. Those are all things that lead us to know that that balance of winning and running well you need to do both. We've gotten as well as we think we can at this point.
With that, I'll open it up to questions and look forward to seeing everyone here in South Florida at the end of the week.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll now go to questions.
Q: How close are you to a decision on whether to eliminate testing all together for '09, considering the owners including Rick Henderson talked about let's do telemetry at the tracks on Friday, and get rid of this $100,000 a day testing. Also, would that include an elimination of Daytona testing in January, and the test in the West at Las Vegas?
BRIAN FRANCE: We're going to need to react to that quickly because the budgets are being set for each team. So we'll not waste any time on that. We'll do that pretty quickly. It will be comprehensive if we go as aggressive as some have suggested, including ourselves.
To be as aggressive as we can take cost out of the system. Here again, that's exactly what I mentioned in Phoenix that we were going to be more aggressive in this area, so it will be comprehensive and significant of how we've looked at it in the past.
Q: Along those same lines as you look at ways of taking cost out of the sport, are you considering either reducing the length of some races and reducing the length of the schedule itself, take something races out and if you're not considering either of those, why is that off the table?
BRIAN FRANCE: We're not considering either one of those. The reduction of the number of events is not practical. We have contracts in place and historically important events. Where would you choose? They're all successful in one form or another, so that would not be possible.
Then, you know, shortening events, that would be in our view more symbolic than actually saving anybody some real money. It's not in the last 50 laps, it's, you know, getting to the event and all the things that make up that in the first place.
But there are lots of other places that we can be more aggressive. Testing, as we've just heard, is on everyone's, you know, short list. It's on ours as well. And there are many, many other things. The good news is no one could have anticipated the economy. But we anticipated that the cost containment aspect of our sport is always a significant issue.
So that's, you know, right after safety is primarily where the Car of Tomorrow came from. We wanted to have an area that we could control more clearly and that the teams would have less to work with, therefore less engineering, less testing, less lots of things that make up what is a successful race team. So the good news is that that work we did many years ago to get us to that point will have some payoff when we need it the most.
Q: Just wanted to get what you thought about the ABC moving the final 34 minutes of the race on Sunday to ESPN2, and if there's anything that you can do about that in the future?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we didn't like it. That was not what we had anticipated. But we have talked to them repeatedly in the last couple of days, and have, you know, there were lots of circumstances that they had to consider. I don't have to agree with each one of those, but they had their own issues that they had to manage around.
So we were the, you know -- unfortunately, we got the short end of that as a sport. But we're working with them and hope to eliminate that from happening in the future.
Q: I was curious. You know, the Chase was supposed to be an exciting, down to the last lap finish, and it looks like it probably won't end that way. Is that your take on it? Do you wish there was some more drama going into the last weekend of the season?
BRIAN FRANCE: Yeah, I'd love for all 11 drivers to be within 25 points of each other, myself. I know but the reality of it is, that's sports. You're going to have World Series that are not as exciting as others, and super bowls, and that's just the nature of a dominant performance, quite frankly, by Jimmie Johnson. If he weren't so dominant, we might have a different discussion.
So you have to give him and his team to come back and win in Phoenix, when they were down on their luck, to stumble through the races and came right out and won. That's dominance. When that happens, they separate themselves pretty well from the rest of the field.
Q: Just wondering, overall, what, perhaps, NASCAR can offer the fans in the way of maybe ticket price reductions or just incentives to get them to fill seats in 2009 and beyond?
BRIAN FRANCE: I tell you, the tracks have been really hard at work on that subject, because they're the ones who obviously do manage selling the tickets in our sport. They're certainly very familiar with their individual markets. Some are more effective than others. I know they're trying to add as much value for the race fan as they can and we're encouraging them to do that.
Quite frankly, we don't have to, because they're right on top of that. They're very sensitive to the cost and the challenges of race fans who live in this country anyway, with the economy, it wasn't lost on them with respect to high fuel prices mostly in the summer.
So it will be topic one in the off-season for all the tracks, I'm sure, to make sure that they're doing everything that they can to be sensitive to a race fan that's being tested every way they can with the economy.
Continued in part 2