Brian France: 'Robust discussion' on '15 Chase schedule changes (VIDEO)
JUL 05, 2014 5:03p ET
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France spoke with reporters Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway in his annual midseason state of the sport address.
As expected, the sport's leader touched on a range of newsworthy topics, including plans for a shakeup to the Sprint Cup Series schedule starting in 2015.
When asked about possible changes for next year's slate of Chase tracks, France suggested a major overhaul is on the table, but offered no real specifics.
"It's fair to say there's a robust discussion within the stakeholders to come up with the best schedule that we can for 2015 and beyond," he said.
France, however, made it clear that Homestead-Miami Speedway -- site of the Sprint Cup season finale since 2002, and host to every finale since the 2004 rollout of the Chase -- is a safe bet to continue as site of Ford Championship Weekend.
"We're going to be in Homestead for the foreseeable future," said France, noting what he considers the high quality of the racing at the 1.5-mile track, along with the attractive weather that South Florida offers in mid-November.
Other notable topics that France discussed during his nearly half-hour long media session prior Saturday night's Coke Zero 400:
-- On the search for a new entitlement sponsor, beginning next season, for what is now the Nationwide Series: "Very good interest. I think in the coming weeks, we'll be getting to the end of that process, and we will be in very good shape when the dust settles there."
-- On the new-for-2014 rules package on Sprint Cup Series cars: "We're not where we want to be with that," he said, noting that more work is taking place.
-- France all but ruled out limiting Sprint Cup Series drivers' participation in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series, saying, "We lean on the side of the greater experience for the younger drivers to get a chance to compete against, and also for our fans to want to watch the elite drivers not just on Sundays. We tend to let the events unfold the way they unfold."
-- On dwindling attendance at some tracks: "Some markets are just more challenged. Some are doing better than they did last year, so it's a mixed bag a little bit. Balanced attendance is up. Now, there are some markets that have had a lot of pressure, and Dover is one of those. But it's very important because you've got to remember something, too: Unfortunately for our industry, the speedways don't enjoy the public financing component that almost all major sports enjoy. That's a big difference."
-- On TV ratings for this year's NASCAR events: "We're never pleased when our ratings aren't growing at the rate we would like, but cirucmstances will always have us going one way or the other from time to time," he said, noting that digital metrics are strong and that he believes rain at several races and the World Cup have impacted NASCAR ratings.
-- On Iowa Speedway, which hosts the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series, getting a Sprint Cup Series race: "We don't have plans for a Cup date there. We're working with state representatives and others to help us build racing in Iowa to the highest rate that we can."
-- France all but confirmed a recent report that NASCAR is eliminating souvenir row (merchandise haulers) at the tracks next season, saying, "We really want to have higher quality merchandise available in more places and make it more convenient for our fans, and just how that gets done, the tracks and the teams and everybody else will come together and figure that out, but we do think there's probably some newer, better ways that we can merchandise to our fans."
-- On the potential for a new manufacturer to join the Sprint Cup Series: "There is interest, always a manufacturer or two taking a look at us simply because we're the largest form of motorsports in North America, and this is a big car market. Nothing certainly imminent there."