NASCAR's Brian France: "We aren't purists" when it comes to improving racing
Welcome to the first in a series of stories based on Motorsport.com’s exclusive interview with NASCAR Chairman Brian France.
When it comes to improving the on-track product, NASCAR Chairman Brian France says sanctioning body officials are not “purists” and are willing to do what’s necessary to get it right.
“We are absolutely agnostic – we don’t care one way or the other what the (rules) packages are as long as it achieves our goals of safety and making the racing as close and tight and competitive as it can be,” NASCAR Chairman Brian France told Motorsport.com this week.
“It’s a high bar that we have set for ourselves because we aren’t purists in that regard like a lot of auto racing groups are. We’re going to do whatever it takes to bring that NASCAR style of racing on the track to full fruition.
“That’s simply what we have to do.”
NASCAR unveiled a new low downforce package this season – advocated by many drivers – and on Thursday announced it would test new additional rules modifications at the upcoming Sprint Cup races a Michigan and Kentucky.
What is always hard is to get teams to give you real information that isn’t self-serving.
In many cases, NASCAR has had to walk a thin line between changing rules to enhance the competition while also being mindful to the cost of such changes and their impact – even unintentional – to the sport’s traditions.
Not hesitant to make a change
France has shown little hesitation during his tenure as NASCAR Chairman to implement changes when he feels the product will benefit, and thus the fans.
“Everything we do still takes us back to our own values, which is close, tight racing with some contact – that’s part of NASCAR’s history – and safe,” France said. “Everything we do takes us back in a way to the original goals that my grandfather (Bill France Sr.) had.
“We’re still trying to deliver on that promise. With technology and the competitiveness of teams and car manufacturers at a high level, that makes that promise harder to deliver on but that is certainly our goal.”
Even when NASCAR implements rules changes with the goal of improving the competition, it must constantly battle the wherewithal of teams, which constantly attempt to gain back their own competitive advantage.
Never-ending struggle for honest feedback
Asked how difficult it is to propose rules to enhance competition only to see teams work to minimize them, France said, “It’s very difficult. They’re gaming the system in their favor as they should do. They’re trying to figure out whatever package we come to and get their own personal advantages. That’s just auto racing. That’s why we have to be two steps ahead.
“Now, they’re partners in it, too, because the old days of us just making decisions on the fly and just instituting rules are long gone. They are a partner in the process but they are also challenged just like anybody else to run better with whatever package is put forward.”
France said NASCAR sometimes finds it hard to get reliable and unbiased information from teams as it works on new rules.
“What is always hard is to get teams to give you real information that isn’t self-serving. If I was a team owner or driver, I would want whatever package that is created to favor me, my style, or whatever advantage I might have,” he said.
“Everybody agrees on safety. But after safety you get a little frustrated that they can’t give you an unfiltered answer, and that makes the process take longer. They’ll take you down a road that isn’t in everybody’s best interest.
“We understand that. That’s normal. And if I were in their shoes, I would do the exact same thing.”
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