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France Talks Of Schedule And Chase Changes

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 2 2010

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France gave a state of the sport address on Friday in Daytona. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Based on the sagging attendance NASCAR has experienced this season, it was only fitting that the organization’s CEO, Brian France, fielded questions Friday morning from a sparse gathering in the Daytona International Speedway media center about the state of the sport.

A variety of questions directed to the third generation head of NASCAR touched on the 2011 schedule expected to be released in September, the competition, TV ratings, the economy and the implementation of new technology, such as ethanol-burning engines and quicker ways to dry ovals following a rain shower.

While he offered lengthy responses to many questions, France offered little in the way of details.

On the Chase:

“We’re looking at it pretty carefully,” France said. “The main reason is we want to make sure it’s giving us the biggest impact moments that it was designed to.

“We’re happy with the Chase. It just means that if we can enhance it in a pretty significant way, we may do that. So that will be the thing that we decide in the next couple of months.

“What we’re talking about is enhance it in a way that will bring out more of the winning moments, the big moments that can happen in sports. And if there’s a way we can do that, and there are a couple of ways, we’re going to give that a lot of weight.”

On drivers expressing emotion:

“I like it personally,” he said. “You know, we’re a lot less worried about what we’re going to do. (The drivers) always have the sponsorship stuff. It’s not easy for them.

“They have to be accountable to a company that has a big investment in them.”

On next year’s schedule:

“We typically put our schedule out, as you well know, usually around Labor Day, give or take a couple of weeks here or there. It’s my hope we’ll meet that goal.

“There are obviously now new requests from SMI and ISC. They’ve followed the policy that we have laid out on realignment. We’ll have to see how it all fits into the greater schedule as we go into the next couple weeks.”

On trying to recapture the attention of 18 to 35 year-old males while not losing its core fans:

“You want to satisfy your core fan, but you have to do the things that are going to make you as attractive as possible,” France said. “That’s social media to us, which is going to be the great opportunity to reach that young demographic.

“We’ve got some work to do to improve our effort.”

On the introduction of ethanol into NASCAR:

“Ethanol, I don’t know that we’ll see it in 2011 as a biofuel,” France said. “It’s certainly an option that is interesting.

“But it’s important for us to evolve the fuel source in the national divisions over time. We’ll do that with Sunoco for sure, trying to respect and value their set of rights.”

On the potential of new track-drying methods:

“We’re looking at some things,” he said. “People are coming to us with certain ways to dry asphalt faster and better. That would be a welcomed technology advance. So we’ll always try to do that.”

On how the economy has impacted attendance:

“The economy certainly plays a role more so to us than anybody else because we ask our fans in the big event business to stay longer, drive further, buy hotel rooms and alike as part of what it takes to come to our events,” he said.

“That’s why the tracks and just about everybody in the industry has tried to help that situation by lowering prices, working with hotels, restaurants, anywhere where they spend money, to be reflective of that.

“Still, there are 14 to 15 million people a weekend tuning us in. We’re a sport that looks way down the road. In a pocket of the economy or other challenges, that’s our job to get through those.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 2 2010
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