Brian France interview
Today on "The Morning Drive" on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / channel 128, hosts David Poole and Marty Snider spoke with NASCAR's Chairman and CEO, Brian France.
On the Car of Tomorrow, debuting this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway:
Host, David Poole: "How are you going to measure the ultimate success of this project?"
Brian France: "We're going to measure it in the ways, in the reasons we said we wanted to do the Car of Tomorrow in the first place. One was first and foremost to make the car safer. That's obviously a thing where it's going to have to go into live action and take some pretty hard hits and we're going to be able to see if we get the benefits of the new safety components that are built into this new car. That's number one.
"Number two we'll see - and I don't know if we'll see it altogether this weekend but we certainly will as it evolves - and that is does it make the competition even better? Are there more cars close to the end that are competitive? Does it level the playing field? All those things that we'll be looking for as the car is rolled out.
"And finally, it's the cost side. And it's hard to get straight answers out of everybody when you start talking about this subject but we'll be able to tell if, by just the inventory of cars that the teams who typically would have one set of numbers will have much fewer. There will be less trips to the wind tunnel in our view, less benefits that you'll get by piling on engineer after engineer and expert after expert. If we do our job correctly we think we can take some real cost out of the system and that will take a while to figure out how well we're doing. But those are the things we'll be looking at."
Host, Marty Snider: "Do you foresee this car being full-time in 2008?"
France: "Well, it's possible. It's not the plan today. The plan today, as you guys know, is to roll it out systematically. A lot of events this year, more in '08 and fully in '09. That was at the teams' request and that was what they felt a year ago when we started talking about the calendar, what would make sense as they have built these cars faster and have sorted out that this is a car that is going to be the car that we're going to use permanently. There's a chance that we'll huddle with them in the summer and maybe have even a quicker rollout but we've got to stay on our plan right now and we'll see what happens."
On the sponsorship conflicts in the sport:
Poole: "Another hot topic we've talked about lately is this whole idea of sponsorship conflicts. I know you can't talk about the AT&T thing because of the lawsuit but in a very general sense I wanted to ask you how complicated and complex are the relationships with as big as the sport has become and as much money is needed to support the track, the teams on all levels? How complicated has NASCAR's role in trying to keep all that untangled become?"
France: "Well it's more complicated because the stakes are just higher for starters. We have three main agreements that benefit the entire industry -- the Sunoco relationship, the NEXTEL relationship, Goodyear is the third -- that benefit everyone and we have to protect those rights and everybody understands when they sign up what we have to do to protect the various sponsors. When it comes to the AT&T thing, you're right, I can't speak to something that's in litigation. Although it is kind of flattering that somebody is suing us to stay in the sport. You don't want a lawsuit from anybody but if you have to I guess that would be one thing to think about.
"It's never good when we have to get hung up on sponsorship issues because that takes away from what we really like to focus on anyway and that's what's going on at the track. You have Juan Montoya, somebody who had a fifth-place finish on his sixth time out at one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. That's an impressive indication that he's probably going to be the real deal. So we've got so many interesting things that it's disappointing when we get hung up on the commercial side of it."
On debris cautions:
France: "Sometimes we can't tell exactly what it is. It may be a piece of metal or it may be a piece of tape. But we have to err on the side of caution, no pun intended, because if they run over something and there's a melee that's created and we're sitting on our hands because we were afraid to be judged, that would be a bad situation. We're not going to get into that situation. If we think something is potentially an obstacle or a problem on the track we're going to put the caution out every single time. We'll be very consistent about that."
On recent comments made by WA State Representative Larry Seaquist about a potential racetrack outside Seattle:
France: "I never like it when I read or hear old stereotypes that try to paint this sport in one corner or another. So to that, I'm always disappointed when I see something [like that]. But some people, it takes time. They don't know where this sport has come and how fast it's come and how popular it is. It just takes a little bit of education and we're doing that. So you're always disappointed but it's a chance to educate somebody, too."
On NASCAR's TV ratings:
France: "I'm pretty pleased. I was disappointed on the Daytona 500 rating [being] off whatever it was off but pretty pleased from here on out. Up a little in the last couple of races. Busch races have been higher than ESPN/ABC would have predicted. And on balance we continue to carry the weekend every weekend so we're very competitive with everybody and we feel good about our ratings."
On the future of the Busch Series:
France: "We're putting a lot more attention on the Busch Series. By definition of how many series we run, three of the four top national series are NASCAR sanctioned so we have a lot more on our plate than somebody who is running one division. That said, I think we have an opportunity to keep distinguishing the Busch Series differently than the Cup Series. The cars will do that in the future because we're not planning, at this stage, to go to the Car of Tomorrow. The new sponsor will add a great deal in my view down that uniqueness path and hopefully we'll pick the right partner that will really do a good job with the series. And we're going to try to continue to build on it. We've got a lot of potential with that series that I think we're not really reaching even though, as we debate this internally all the time somebody's quick to tell me it's the #2 motorsport in the country. So when you start going 'Let's change this' or 'Let's adjust that' you've got to be a little careful because it is doing so well."
"The Morning Drive" airs weekdays (7-11 am ET) exclusively on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio / Channel 128. The show will re-air tonight at 8:00pm ET on channel 128. Sirius Radio