France committed to improvements
NASCAR chairman Brian France doesn't buy the argument that if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
France said he is committed to ensuring the series has the best racing possible, even if some believe there's nothing wrong with the current product.
''We can do better. We can have the packages better, tighter racing,'' France told The Associated Press in London, where he spoke Wednesday in the Beyond Sport's annual summit. ''That's our stated goal and we have to get there. With the new car coming, we want to get this right. And we know it will be hard to keep it right.''
France currently has senior vice president Steve O'Donnell repurposing the North Carolina research and development center. France's goal is to split the R&D department from the competition department with an eye on improving the rules package before the 2013 cars debut.
Fans have complained about stretches of racing this season, particularly a two-month swing that saw lots of strung-out, green-flag racing. NASCAR has made slight aerodynamic changes to the cars twice this season to try to make passing easier, and series leaders want the best possible package on next year's car.
France said if there are improvements that can be implemented now, he won't wait for the 2013 car.
He also understands that some drivers and even some leaders in NASCAR don't think anything needs to be changed. France likened it to the split between baseball fans who enjoy a pitchers' duel against those who like a lot of runs and football fans who enjoy defensive struggles to those who prefer action-packed scorefests.
''If you are a real purist, you may think it was a great event,'' France said. ''But if you are a casual fan, you may have wanted to see lots of touchdowns or lots of lead changes. Things that make you go `wow.' I find, myself, I am on the `wow' side. I want to be wowed by close finishes and uncertainty and lead changes. That's me. But you certainly can find other people that see it differently.''
As CEO, France said what he wants supersedes what any purists on his staff might prefer.
''I overrule them, quite frankly, because I have to,'' France said. ''We can't have four strategies going on. There aren't a whole lot of people who don't want to see more lead changes, or a photo finish, or slamming and banging coming out of the fourth turn.
''We are unabashed about wanting that. We want to put it more in the driver's hands. It's a contact sport and if you have a chance to win and are in second place on the last lap, would I expect there to be some contact if you have a faster car? Absolutely. The guys who don't do that, that's not our rules. We want to see what everybody else wants to see - excitement.''
France said last year's season finale was perfect. Tony Stewart used the victory to tie Carl Edwards in the championship race and win the title on the tie-breaker, and France called it ''probably the greatest performance I've ever seen from a driver and a team.
''That was it for me. That was exciting.''