Steve Phelps will "roll up the sleeves" to face NASCAR's challenges
NASCAR’s incoming new president, Steve Phelps, says he’s well aware the sport faces several headwinds but remains upbeat about its future.
Phelps, who has served most recently as NASCAR’s chief operating officer, will officially take over as NASCAR’s president next week. Phelps replaces Brent Dewar, who will transition to a senior consulting and advisory role in 2019.
Asked by Motorsport.com what drives him to want to take on the new position when the sport faces several challenges, Phelps said he intended to face the issues head-on.
“Let me start with this: There has been a notion that I don’t understand at the team level that there’s headwinds that they have from a sponsorship standpoint. There are headwinds that they have from a sponsorship standpoint, and when you rely so much on that percentage, that’s very real,” he said.
“With that said, not trying to be Pollyannaish about it or put rose-colored glasses on it, but we have more sponsorship than anyone, any sport. Which is just a fact. As it relates to my taking this job, I’m incredibly positive for what the future of this sport will be – not just can be – but will be because there’s a lot more things that I believe are going to happen to the sport that takes advantage of what we already have working for us.
“Do I think the racing is really good right now? I do. Do I think we’re going to make it better? I believe we can. Do I think the business model for the teams is going to improve? I absolutely do. Do I think that we’ve had a confluence of different things happen to the sport with retiring of drivers? Yeah, we’ve had five of our most popular drivers, six maybe, that have retired in the last three years. Is that a headwind? Of course, it is.”
Optimistic for the future
A big part of the reason Phelps says he remains optimistic about NASCAR’s future is the group of talented young drivers that have moved in even as some of the sport’s most popular superstars have started stepping away.
“Two decades ago when you had a dozen drivers come into this sport and we rode that wave, that’s fantastic and now we’ve had retired drivers going about their lives and doing different things and it’s now the opportunity for younger drivers to come on the scene,” Phelps said.
“They’re doing it with the backdrop of future Hall of Famers. These guys (Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch) are at the top of their game winning races. They’re all Hall of Famers.
“You think about who (the young drivers) are racing against, and cutting their teeth against, I think it’s phenomenal. I’m incredibly encouraged by what the future looks like for our sport, and I’m ready to do my part and roll up the sleeves and make sure it happens.”
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