Brian France says NASCAR can weather loss of Manufacturer
NASCAR chairman Brian France said Sunday during an impromptu media conference (Full Transcript) at Phoenix International Raceway he's not certain the Big Three automakers will be able to continue their involvement in NASCAR as they battle to stay viable during the current economic crisis. Should funding of race teams suffer because of the nation's credit crunch, France is confident NASCAR will remain a viable, healthy sport.
"We're also not going to live or die if one manufacturer or another has a pullback or pullout," France said before Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway. "I hope it doesn't happen. We're working like mad to make sure it doesn't happen, but the sport is on very solid ground that transcends one manufacturer or another."
|NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France speaks with the media prior to the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at PIR|
|Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR|
France said he and president Mike Helton have visited the CEOs or high-ranking executives with all four of NASCAR's manufacturers and all were in unison that NASCAR continues to be an effective marketing tool.
"I've been told directly by each of companies having challenging times that one of the things that works best for them is NASCAR," France said. "Each went out of their way to tell me that while there are pullbacks and cuts to meet these challenges, the last thing would be to abandon something that works so well."
France also said NASCAR executives have been working behind-the-scenes to help ailing teams search for sponsorship, and they've participated in the merger discussions many teams feel are necessary to stay in business. Several teams have taken on outside investors over the past few years, and Chip Ganassi Racing is currently in merger talks with a handful of teams stuck in the current credit crisis.
"We understand what teams are underfunded and face the biggest risk and are working with them to find a sponsor, a partner," France said.
But NASCAR is not in a position to sustain its teams, which operate as independent organizations.
"Can we establish lines of credit? They're individual businesses, there's literally hundreds of them that could be affected depending on how far they'd go," France said. "We're not talking about 20-25 traditional sports teams where some halo credit line could be established for them. That's not practical.
"We understand team owners are in dire straits, but the entire country is in dire straits in one form or another ... I wish we could have a safety net for everyone in our industry, but it's not practical."
NASCAR is continuously looking at moneysaving measures -- a new idea floating through the garage is the elimination of testing, which could save teams a minimum of $1 million per car. But it may not be enough to keep everyone in business, despite France's confidence that NASCAR will be able to fill its 43-car fields next season and that the sport can weather the downturn.
"These aren't our first tough economic times, we've been in business 60 years," he said. "We've seen the energy crisis of 1972, and 9/11 wasn't that long ago. So we're not going to change our business model because we're in tough economic times, but it doesn't mean we won't be more aggressive and taking out costs for team owners."