The significant milestone achieved by Daniel Suarez in Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was not lost on NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. Suarez, from Monterrey, Mexico, became the first driver born outside the United States to win a championship in one of NASCAR's top three national series when he took the checkered flag at the 1.5-mile track. But for the NASCAR initiatives embodied in the Drive for Diversity program, France pointed out, Suarez likely would not have been in position to claim the NASCAR XFINITY Series title at all.
"Obviously, we're very proud of Daniel Suarez last night in an unbelievable run and winning the championship," France said during a question-and-answer session with reporters before Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship race. "Historic for the sport in many ways. I got some nice calls from people south of the border last night that are very proud of him, and we're very proud of him.We're very proud that it validates our diversity plan in a significant way. … So we're very proud of him. I would tell you, without the Drive for Diversity program, Daniel Suarez is not in NASCAR. We're very pleased with that program."
France also indicated NASCAR was pleased with the elimination Chase formats introduced this year in the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. The Sprint Cup Series has been using the knockout system for three years.
"I obviously love it," France said of the move. "We're very pleased with the formats. Wouldn't change a thing. The result of it is this: better racing that our fans get to see. … Go back a year ago for the XFINITY Series. I don't fault them, but you had the winner and the champion and a couple others talk about all they needed to do was finish the race. If I ran 30th, I'll be okay. Well, that's not really great for competition. Speed it up to this year, you had all four, 1-2-3-4 thinking they have to win the race-forget about finishing. That's a big deal for auto racing. We're bold enough to do that."
One of the possible changes France said NASCAR is considering is adding a reward or incentive for the driver who finishes on top of the standings after the regular season, the portion of the schedule that determines who makes the Chase and who doesn't. "We're going to think about that," France acknowledged. "I think that's a fair thing for us to consider, to make sure that the regular season is as important as it is."
France also addressed progress on the search for an entitlement sponsor to replace Sprint on NASCAR's premier series. "It's taken a little longer than I thought, but it's also a big agreement and an important agreement," France said. "It's not just dollars and cents, but it's a fit for us. We don't want to announce anything certainly around this weekend. We're in a good spot with that, I believe, but we'll have to see how it finally plays out." NASCAR Wire Service