NASCAR Chairman Brian France took an upbeat view of the state of the sport Sunday hours before the crowning of its premier series champion.
“We’ve had a great year. Not a good year, a great year,” France said. “And that’s evidence of the competition, in particular in playoffs. And so we’re excited about today.”
Four of the sport’s veterans – Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch – will battle for the championship in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
France admitted there has been “challenge for everybody” as the sport’s business model has been tested by companies unwilling to invest as much money in single marketing platforms such as race team sponsorships as well as the loss in recent seasons of several of NASCAR’s biggest names.
Optimistic for the future
Three – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick – are concluding what will likely be their last full-time seasons in Sunday’s season finale.
“I’m really more optimistic right now, and I know you may expect me to say that, but we’ve made the transition largely. We’ve gotten the council meetings going. We’ve gotten charters in position so we can get our interests aligned more closely with drivers, OEMs and the team owners,” he said.
“We have the young drivers already in place. We’d like a couple more, of course. And we like all the changes that we’ve made in the last four or five years, including stage racing this year. It has created the things that we thought were important.”
Added NASCAR President Brent Dewar: “We’ve been in an economic model transition. We understand it. It’s not unique to NASCAR; it’s kind of transitioning through basically the traditional sponsorship model.
“What’s moving this, the chief marketing officers are looking at, is greater engagement. The good news is we’re doing really well on engagement.”
There are many factors which affect the sport that are out of its immediate control, France said, especially how a larger number of fans are finding alternative ways to follow and watch the sport than in the past.
“Attention times, the platforms they want to view and consume, they’re changing. There will be linear TV, which is critically important, but other things now will give us a great opportunity, and we're positioned well there,” he said.
France said what he is “most excited” about is the effort NASCAR has put into increasing the competition level throughout the sport.
“It’s always been hard, to get the competition level up, and some of that is done by formats like stage racing and cut-off events and so on – they have obviously stepped up the competition level,” he said. “But there are other things we can do that are important to us.
“So, we’re realistic about things that are changing that we don’t control outright, but we like where we’re at and we like where we’re going.”
Sunday also marks the conclusion of Monster Energy’s first serve serving as title sponsor of the Cup series, a deal that France personally put together.
“You’ve got to remember, this is only the first year, right, and there are always growing pains (but) we’re thrilled,” he said. “The promises they’ve made, they’ve kept, with the young demo, edgy shows, edgy marketing, putting our drivers in different places (and) in a different light.
“That’s what we want. They’ve delivered on that.”