NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said Friday that he’s thrilled with the new format for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but conceded it may take race fans some time to get used to it.
France, speaking at Homestead-Miami Speedway, said Friday morning that the intensity of the racing has ramped up noticeably in this year’s Chase, which was NASCAR’s intention when it instituted elimination rounds in its playoff format.
"Naturally you would expect me to think that it accomplished all of our goals, probably exceeded them, in the balance between winning and consistency," said France. "We always know in auto racing there needs to be both, but we felt strongly that by emphasizing winning on the track, we might not have had that balanced correctly. We do now. We think that that’s in a really good place.
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"I think depending on what happens on Sunday, it has a chance to be one of the most successful seasons in NASCAR history. I don’t think there’s any doubt about the level of competition that is up, which has our fans excited, and it has the interest level of the sport as a result of that higher, and that’s precisely what we want to achieve."
That said, this week there has been a lot of blowback from race fans, especially Jeff Gordon fans, who are upset because their favorite driver didn’t make the Championship Round of the Chase, while winless Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, who hasn’t won since May, did make it.
"Now, I do think it’s important to say that even though the format is relatively simple, what we’re all finding out is the strategies that are associated with competing in this new format are different, and they’re unknown and untested," said France. "I think that’s going to take a while for even the most hardcore fans to fully get accustomed to how the flow of a season goes and the last 10 events, etc., etc., when are the transfer races, why are they so important, how do you get in."
France said he doesn’t expect significant format changes next year.