France excited for NASCAR’s future

dscott@charlotteobserver.comJuly 5, 2014 

— NASCAR chairman Brian France spoke about the state of the sport Saturday before the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

While France said he is happy with how the Sprint Cup’s new Chase for the Cup format is working, he also mentioned the sport continues to grapple with continued declines in ticket sales.

“We’re pleased with it,” France said of the new Chase format, which emphasizes winning over points. “We can all see the benefits of of changing the (importance of) winning and it has changed the racing on the track. Drivers are telling us that. They’re taking different chances. We expect the racing to get better and we certainly like the format.”

France said fan-friendly renovations such as the Daytona track’s $400 million “Daytona Rising” will help stop a six-year slide in ticket sales for the sport.

“That’s one of the reasons Daytona is making a big investment, to accomplish that, and a lot of other tracks are, too,” said France. “Some markets are just more challenged. Some are doing better than they did last year, so it’s a mixed bag a little bit.”

France addressed a variety of other topics:

Cup drivers winning in lower divisions: “The younger drivers gain valuable experience even if somebody gets on a run and wins more than is normal. Also, fans want to watch the elite drivers, not just on Sundays.”

The challenges of bringing new owners into the sport: “We’re talking about lowering the barrier to entry. Lowering the cost of racing, getting parity where teams can come in and have success and making ourselves more relevant to manufacturers and partners is all part of the NASCAR model. It’s been slow and hard.”

Potentially moving away from trailer souvenir sales: “We really want to have higher quality merchandise available in more places and make it more convenient. There’s probably new, better ways.”

The possibility of moving the season finale away from Miami-Homestead Speedway: “The weather is great and it’s a good market for us. We’re going to be (there) for the foreseeable future.”

The possibility of any other schedule changes 2015: (prompted by a speculative Tweet by sportscaster Chris Myers that Darlington (S.C.) Speedway might host the second race of the year “We will have a robust discussion for a more comprehensive look at what the schedule will be like.”

Notes

• Veteran broadcaster Barney Hall called his final race as the lead announcer for Motor Racing Network on Saturday. Hall, 82, who has broadcast races for more than 50 years, will continue to do features for MRN.

• Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said NASCAR might take a look at knock-out qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks after slow-moving cars moved in packs during Friday’s qualifying at Daytona.

“We’ll sit down and talk about some of these things toward the latter stages of the year and see what we may rub on and do a little changing or some things like that,” Pemberton said. 

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