France Delivers State of the Sport

NASCAR

France touched on several topics during his session that opened up the three-day event that has drawn more than 200 journalists from around the world. (Photo: Getty Images)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France delivered his state of the sport address to open the 34th annual NASCAR Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.

France touched on several topics during his session that opened up the three-day event that has drawn more than 200 journalists from around the world.

The announcement of new Chase formats to determine the champions of both the XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series generated a great deal of interest on the opening day of the tour. France believes it was a natural progression for the sport to emulate what he believes has been successful in the Sprint Cup Series.

“I think it's important that they understand how difficult it's going to be when they get to the next level, the Sprint Cup level, and that winning a championship consistency is a very important thing in auto racing and it will never change,” France said. “But as you go up, I think we believe, not only does it make it more certainly makes it more exciting for our fans, it starts there, right, and our fans love elimination style, they love the emphasis on winning, and so that'll be a welcome addition in both those series.”

Safety and SAFER Barriers were hot button topics last year particularly in the aftermath of Kyle Busch’s accident at the season-opening Daytona XFINITY Series race that sidelined him for 11 Sprint Cup events. As more tracks add safety initiatives and SAFER Barriers, France is pleased at the progress being made.

“What we've said is that they're going to be wherever they need to be, and our tracks have said, that's right,” he said. “They totally agree. They have met on various occasions with us, with themselves, and they've already long been they're well into installing walls. Kentucky as an example I know is under a major reconstruction. They're pushing behind Daytona has done quite a bit in that area. All the tracks are taking a different look, because listen, they believed that they were in good shape they always hoped they were in good shape, and sometimes things happen, and we all discover things could be a little bit better.

“Those looks are underway, and I'm very confident that our tracks, they feel just as strongly as I do and we do that they're going to be wherever they need to be.”

The off-season has included much discussion about the creation of a Sprint Cup Series charter system as owners continue to negotiate on a possible plan to give organizations more equity in the sport. While a final agreement does not appear to be imminent, France is encouraged by the progress being made and believes an agreement is in sight.

“The timeline is sooner rather than later,” France said. “The further we get in, the longer you have to push out in a certain season where we could by the way, whatever is the final arrangement should we be able to get there, this is going to be a phase where from one moment to the next, everything will be different.

“This is a very complicated plan and structure that will require some time to phase in many aspects of it. And we'll just have to see from a we'll announce things as soon as we can, but I'm optimistic. I wouldn't say that if I didn't I was in the meetings myself last week, and I'm optimistic, although these things, as complicated as they are, can always move around on us.”

This season is the last for Sprint’s sponsorship of the Cup Series and talks are ongoing in finding a replacement. France believes while it’s not an easy quest, a suitable replacement will be found.

“Well, it's going well, and fortunately for us, the sport is in a really good place, and it's gone through some tough times with the economy and all the things that you've heard me say we've been disproportionately subjected to with our fans who drive further, stay longer, hotel prices, fuel prices, job situations, all that really put a not to mention the commercial size of the car sponsorships and so on have put us in a different position,” he said. “We've gotten through those things fortunately, and the sport has made a lot of decisions that are serving us well.

“And so we're in a good spot. We have a lot of interest. We've got our TV deal set for the next decade or so, and I suspect, my sense is that we'll get something done here.”

As for the sport’s biggest challenge coming into the new season after the 2015 campaign?

“Rain, rain, rain, rain. It really is,” he laughed, a response in reference to last season’s myriad of weather delays and postponements.

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