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Highlights of interview with Brian France
NASCAR President Brian France addressed several topics during today's media conference call (Transcript), with several questions about the number of penalties handed down this season. The highlights:

· Penalties. France said NASCAR feels "very strongly that we're going to be very, very tough on people that test us on the car of tomorrow." The whole premise of the COT, France said, is built around not being able to fudge with the specifications of the car. But while France said NASCAR would continue to escalate penalties, he also said the sanctioning body can't "customize penalties." He was referring to a possible larger penalty for Jeff Gordon, who has a large lead in the point standings. France also said NASCAR was prepared to start sending teams home from a race if infractions warrant.

· Lawsuits. France was steadfast in NASCAR's position in lawsuits involving AT&T and Kentucky Speedway. Without referring to Kentucky Speedway by name, France said NASCAR was trying to defend the whole industry's rights.

· Television ratings. France said ratings for sporting events are down across the board, as are ratings for non-sports programming. But he said attendance at races "is doing very well" and he is "very content with where the sport is."  

· Race start times. France acknowledged there is a larger portion of fans who want races to start earlier but said more people like the later starting times.

· Busch Series. France also said there was nothing new to report on a replacement for series sponsor Anheuser-Busch, which is leaving at the end of the year. He was optimistic a replacement will be announced in "several weeks." France said NASCAR is always trying to find a way to "distinguish" the Busch Series, and a new sponsor and the COT will help.

· Juan Pablo Montoya. France said if Montoya is successful, "it sure would help us" with building a Hispanic fan base.

· China. France and a team from NASCAR toured China recently, and though he said he had nothing new to report, NASCAR will be careful in "looking at building our international platform."

· Alternative fuels. With fuel partner Sunoco, France said NASCAR would be stepping up its efforts with regards to alternative-fuel use in the sport. But he admitted that would be "way down the road."

· Bill France Jr. France paid thanks for an "enormous amount of support" he felt from fans and people in the sport over his father's death.

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