Q & A with Mike Helton
NASCAR president Mike Helton attended Halifax Health Medical Center's 10th anniversary Speediatrics celebration Wednesday. Before the celebration, Helton answered questions about the current issues in NASCAR .
Is NASCAR still reevaluating the Sprint Cup Series Chase playoff format?
'We do that each year. This year we have some different twists and angles we're looking at, as well as some of the angles we have looked at in the past. But we are pretty much committed to this season before we get too deep into any more conversations about it (changing the format). After the next couple of weeks are done, we'll back to it. There is still things we are looking at."
Does NASCAR have any sort of master plan to boost race attendance at different events?
"I think that is a joint effort all throughout the industry. Obviously, there's every angle of business and every step we take has been affected by the economy, but there's also an interest level inside NASCAR to make sure our product is relevant. We've made moves over the last 18 months when it comes to racetrack elements, what we do with race cars on racetracks. The input we have received back about those moves has been good. We've got a good product. It's a matter of reenergizing all that. That involves the entire industry, from racetracks to NASCAR, to the broadcast partners, media relationships, sponsors. So there's a good bit of effort going into it. Everybody is looking at their business plans to see how to grow NASCAR."
Why do you think television ratings for NASCAR Sprint Cup races keep going down?
"I don't know the answer to that. I think it's important for us to figure it out the best we can. The biggest question I have is how do they count eyeballs with all the different opportunities to collect information, whether it's online or social media or streaming of information. How do you count those people? That is part of the equation we must figure out."
The new Nationwide Series stock cars, the cars that raced at Daytona in July, have caused a real positive buzz. Will that brand awareness translate someday into the Sprint Cup Series?
"We've always been thinking about that brand awareness. We went through a lull with the automobile manufacturers; probably didn't have as much interest in what they were doing with their brands with us. We had to press on. We had to continue to race with race cars. We did that. What we're seeing now is with the Nationwide Series and that's been very progressive for us. You will see a different look on the Cup cars when we get back to Daytona in February than you saw this past year. We're starting to see a high level of interest from the manufacturers again on their activation in NASCAR with their own brands. You will see nose changes on all the cars. You will see styling changes on all brands."
Mild-mannered Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton delivered last weekend's "boys, have at it" when they scuffled after crashing. How shocked were you to those two drivers have a confrontation?
"A lot of people were surprised by the characters involved. Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton are typically guys you don't see get into that kind of event. When we step back and look at it and putting more responsibility in the hands of the drivers for the past 18 months, we decided that incident was resolved between those two guys. We've had a lot of conversations, but there is no reaction from us. That fits under the new model of allowing the drivers and competitors more responsibility for their actions on the racetrack.
Gordon and Burton had to ride in the same ambulance to the infield care center at Texas. Any chance NASCAR will allow glass-plated ambulances so fans can see how drivers are reacting to each other in a closed space?