NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France June 29, 2004 Part 3 of 3 Q: With the recent changes in the schedule in what seems to a lot of people to be abandoning tradition and assuming the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup goes as well as we think it...
NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France
June 29, 2004
Part 3 of 3
Q: With the recent changes in the schedule in what seems to a lot of people to be abandoning tradition and assuming the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup goes as well as we think it will, do you see a radical change in the 2006 schedule, something like three short tracks, two Speedways, a road course and four intermediates in that last ten races?
BRIAN FRANCE: Sounds like you have been spending a little time with a legal pad drawing up a few things. But, no, I don't see a dramatic change.
Although realignment is intended to be every year in terms of how we would look at what events are working -- could work better in some places than do work in others. But the traditional events these are a huge thing for us, even though we have made changes and we may make changes in the future, it's not without thinking about traditional impact of places like Martinsville or Charlotte or wherever we are going to look, traditional events that mean a lot to the NASCAR industry; and that's always a balancing act that we have to take into consideration.
Q: This is a reaction to a lot of e-mails that we have been getting, complaints, concerns over quotes, overabundance of rules, or changing rules and some of the recent procedural problems, is that considered to be just the price of doing business or something that just takes time to work into?
BRIAN FRANCE: No, and I want to answer that because it's important.
The expectations from the drivers, the owners, fans and everybody in the industry is that NASCAR is going to conduct the events in a mistake-free environment. Now, we all know that that's not humanly possible. Although, that's our own expectation; every event that we conduct is mistake-free.
We have had several mistakes in the last month that we think we've gotten for a large measure corrected. And we've obviously introduced a more complicated system in terms of freezing the field. Although, we've simplified that in the last two weeks, there will be a couple of other procedural things that we simplify here in the next week or two. And I think you see in the last two events, you see a faster, less yellow flags -- we had nine different cautions in Michigan, just 36 laps got moving in record time.
I think you saw this weekend a road course is very difficult to officiate, how smooth we were and how quick we were. And we are going to get it more simple to understand and we are going to be as fast and accurate as we can. That's our goal.
Q: Just referring to the question about your stewardship of this series, six months into it, there's several initiatives that were implemented due to the schedule change realignment. You were able to settle a lawsuit, and of course you introduced some diversity. What are the things you're most proud of now as you stand looking back?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, it's too early to quite rank things. But, look, I think building the new model that we are awarding the champion is going to be a very big benefit for everybody who is in the industry, and I think that that is becoming true every week that it goes on, but all of those things are important that we have to manage the sport, whether it's diversity or whether it's lawsuits that threaten the sport or whatever it is. You can't rank things because they are all important, and we've just got to make sure we keep improving and keep making the racing as good as we can.
Q: How is the diversity initiative in step with going to new markets, do you hope that one effects the other or vice versa?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think they do. If you look at particularly where we are taking new events in the Sun Belt region, you've got a big Latin fan base that we would like to improve on. You see Phoenix and Texas that help us do that, and California, second time coming up here in Labor Day weekend. We are looking hard at the Mexico market and as to how we can be more impactful. They are one and the same in a lot of ways.
Q: Talking about rules, the beginning of the season the changes with the tires and the spoiler cut, how do you assess the changes that have happened so far? I know there are more going to be coming up at the end of the season, but do you feel that the racing has improved because of the changes?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think it has. It took a few weeks or four or five races to get all of the drivers comfortable at the same time, which was an issue, which is always an issue when you make aerodynamic changes. But now that's passed.
One of our thoughts not want to go further adjust down the spoiler, we were going to maybe take a little bit of length off that. We are not going to do that now as it turns out because if you look at the manufacturers, they are all competing, there's no dispute that they are all in the hunt. We think the racing in terms of the manufacturers and the competition is right where we would like it to be.
Q: In light of the University of Cincinnati punishment on its coach, why were you not harsher on Scott Wimmer?
BRIAN FRANCE: We took a look at the circumstances surrounding that infraction. It's true he had a citation. It was on the lower end in terms of the severity of the citation. He also agreed to do a number of things from community service to other requirements that we felt were important, and we felt like -- and that his career took also quite a pummeling, as he will tell you. When we added it all up, that was where we came out.
Q: Just got back from the Grand Prix, with regards to diversity is there some ways that you can get more global attention to the sport by having drivers like the German that just raced there come over and bring an automatic fan base with him just to see how he's doing?
BRIAN FRANCE: Oh, I suppose that's obviously a benefit any time a driver or athlete participates. But our diversity is more focused domestically than it is trying to reach out to people from different countries. Because the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is a 100% American-made series, doesn't mean that that if a talented driver showed up, obviously we would love to have him, but our focus in diversity is in the U.S.
Q: More like North America?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, North America for sure. In some parts North America, you know, affect the U.S.
Let's take Mexico. While Mexico is in large measure the gateway to the Hispanic race fans, here in many parts, in many markets. So Mexico, for a lot of reasons has to be -- is an important country, for a lot of reasons has to be important to us, more so than countries that are further away.
Q: I guess my question has already been touched on the with the diversity initiative, but I guess one thing I would like to know about, if someone were interested in being getting more information about the diversity program in council that NASCAR has initiated, what would be the process to do that?
BRIAN FRANCE: Tish Sheets who runs our program here in Florida, would be the best person to coordinate any initiatives or any ideas people might have, and it's also on our Web site.
Q: What do you see as the long-term solution on how to best execute the no racing back to the caution flag in terms of freezing the field?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, that's what we are working on now. There are all kinds of suggestions, and we are looking at how each one of them might work in a 500-mile or a 600-mile race, and that is a challenging proposition. It's always been challenging. It wasn't that important before we froze the field as it is today. So it's getting more attention from us and from everyone else, and when we come up, if we come up with a right solution, we'll bring it forward.
Q: How much consideration is being given to scoring by the last completed green flag lap?
BRIAN FRANCE: We like what we have now in terms of -- we know we are much more accurate going back to the last available loop. It's completely accurate, it's more current and if we should go back a full lap, and we've recently simplified that procedure, but to capture that , easy to understand, is one of our challenging when we tried to have a system where we used all available means to be even more current. But we are plenty current and plenty accurate enough and very simple with the current system we have, and you've seen that in the last two weeks and I think you'll see it continue to be simpler to understand and more accurate.
Q: You talked earlier about the officiating, scoring mistakes, and it's humanly impossible to be perfect every time, but what is being done to correct and prevent these type of things in the future? And you also mentioned about some procedural changes upcoming; what are those?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, first of all, what I said was that the expectation is that we are mistake-free and it's my expectation. You know that going into that, you can't always be, but that's our goal.
We have made a number of procedural changes within the last two or three weeks commanding that pit road be opened by the tower, as opposed to an official at the end of pit road. We centralized that. We centralized the last loop, as opposed to all available means. We did some things in the road course, eliminating for that race only the free pass or lucky dog or whatever you want to call it, because it would have taken too long to run the car around on that service.
And we are looking at personnel, were going to add some personnel in timing, scoring. We've got our eye on a couple of very talented people in the industry to help bolster our competition department, and so it's all of those things. And there will be a procedural thing or two that we think will even further simplify it. I won't get into it today because we are not quite done with determining how we are going to do it.
But it's all about simplifying it, it's all about improving our accuracy and our speed.
Q: And also, on Mexico City, for a possible Busch race next year, is that just a matter of getting the logistics and getting that worked out, or do you still have to make the decision on that? And if you decide to go there, what is the commitment in growing that market and giving it time to show some benefits of being down there?
BRIAN FRANCE: We have not formalized any plans yet and although there is a lot of discussion asked to take some form of NASCAR to Mexico City, and we are talking about that, but we don't have it finalized. But whatever we do finalize will not be a one-and-out scenario. It will be designed to have a number of years to get us traction to build awareness in the market.
One last thing as it's FOX's last telecast Saturday night in primetime, I'd like to thank them for their hard work on what they have been able to do to continually present our sport in a great way, and all they are doing on the SPEED Channel and wish them the best as they go into other things. They are just one of our great partners and I wanted to get that out.