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Participants Say NASCAR Meeting Was Needed, Good

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 26 2009
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The mood was positive as NASCAR officials, team owners and drivers emerged from a “town hall meeting” Tuesday in Mooresville, N.C.

All seemed to agree that holding the meeting was a good idea and that a lot was accomplished in the two-hour confab which was closed to the media.

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian Fance called the meeting “excellent”.

Team-owner Rick Hendrick called it “a great step”.

The meeting was called at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. The purpose was to discus the state of the sport, to allow competitors to air concerns and for NASCAR to explain its policies.

It was held against a backdrop of a season in which TV ratings are down for the sport, tickets remain unsold, off-track problems have arisen and the effect of a world economy in trouble continues to cause problems for racing.

The meeting was called and organized by NASCAR.

“It gave them a good forum and it gave us an opportunity to talk about some of the things out there we can improve upon,” France said. “My take on it was that it was a really good exchange.”

Hendrick said, “I think (that it is good) that all the stakeholders sit down together and talk about our future and the sport and the economy and what we can do to make it better. I learned a long time ago that, if you get everybody involved, then they can’t complain.

“I think that’s what happens a lot in our sport is people feel like they don’t have a voice. The whole economy of the world has kind of been in the ditch, and I think NASCAR has done well, if you look at the NBA and the NFL and baseball and some of the things they’re going through, too.

“But I think it was a really great step, Brian and Lesa (France) and Mike (Helton) and all of the folks answering questions and taking some criticism and explaining why some things are like they are and giving everybody a chance to speak up.”

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Topics included everything from the Car of Tomorrow to drug testing.

“It started out as a discussion of topics, and we kind of turned it into an open forum about the topics,” driver Ryan Newman said. “I thought it was very beneficial for us to listen and talk and it was good communication.”

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The new car checked in as a big topic for discussion.

France said of the new car, “It’s putting on a good show”.

“But clearly, we have some adjustments that could be incorporated without changing the financial model for team owners. There were some ideas today we are going to consider.”

But, France said, NASCAR presented its reason for “staying the course” with the new car.

Newman said, “It’s interesting to hear different people’s opinions about the speed of the car and talk about the engine and what the racing would be like if we didn’t have as much horsepower, but in the end, for me personally, it’s important to have driver control.”

Driver Mark Martin has been one of the most concerned among his peers about drug testing. Just too many questions about the procedure, he has said.

Exiting the meeting Tuesday, he said many of his questions were answered.

“I’m very comfortable now,” Martin said. “I feel much better now than I did before the meeting.”

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Of the meeting overall, Martin said, “The biggest thing we all have to realize is that we have the greatest thing going in sports. We may feel that we have kind of a lid on us right now, but we’re stronger than most of the sports in the world.”

Of the economy, he said, “That will get better.”

So positive was the mood afterward that all involved pledged to have more meetings of the type.

“We want to build on this,” France said.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 26 2009
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