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Hopes High For Jim France’s NASCAR

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 19 2018

Jim France is in charge of NASCAR now.

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Any question as to who was now overseeing NASCAR was quickly addressed by NASCAR President Steve Phelps Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway during a lengthy press conference regarding the state of the sport.  

“Our chairman and CEO is Jim France,” Phelps said. “For those of you who have gone to all of the races since Michigan, you have seen Jim France at all of the races since Michigan.  He goes to driver councils, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) councils, team councils.  Jim is involved in the business in a significant way.

“Jim is a man who has lived NASCAR his entire life.  He is a racer through and through.  He raced himself.  He loves racing.  He loves NASCAR. 

 “Are there other structural changes that will come down the line?  There probably will be.  I can’t speak to the ISC (International Speedway Corp.) acquisition, but what I will say … if you look at the message that has been sent from Lesa (France) Kennedy and Jim France, it’s that we’re going to double down on this sport because we believe in it.”

In August, when then NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance it was announced he would take an indefinite leave from the sport. At that time, the word “acting” was inserted before the positions of chairman and CEO when Jim France was quoted in a press release. However, ever since September, the word “acting” has been missing.  

Phelps said he couldn’t speak as to whether Brian, who’s scheduled to appear in court Dec. 14, would return.

I’ve heard some criticism (as to) …why isn’t Jim … talking to you,” Phelps said. “I can assure you that Jim France is talking to a lot of people.  It’s my job to talk to the media. He’s talking to Roger Penske and he’s talking to Jack Roush and he’s talking to race track owners, he’s talking to drivers, he’s talking to sponsors.  That’s what Jim does, and he is driving this sport, and as we look to 2019, we are going to execute against Jim’s vision.”

Numerous other topics were covered during the more than 30-minute press conference. Below is a synopsis of other items Phelps addressed.

  • The 2019 rule package was instituted because NASCAR wanted to have the most competitive racing possible. NASCAR believes the 2019 rules package will achieve the objective. How it will affect ratings is unknown.
  • NASCAR’s digital and social numbers are doing “incredibly well.” Phelps said the sanctioning body needed to drive ratings and ticket sales.
  • NASCAR will take a look at its inspection process during the off-season and possibly make some changes.
  • NASCAR is open to conducting exhibition races, such as those it held in Japan in the late 1990s. An international presence is important. Phelps sees grass-roots racing series around the world as a possibility. NASCAR already has series in Mexico, Canada and Europe. NASCAR is on television in 185 markets.
  • Phelps believes there is a brand filter where sponsors and drivers are concerned and he would like to see it removed. “Our fans want to have their driver being authentic.  And if their driver is a difficult driver, so be it.  If their driver is a super nice guy, then that’s what the fan wants to see.  It’s all about authenticity.”
  • Phelps had no comment on when NASCAR’s acquisition of ISC might be completed, the type of structural changes that were expected and if NASCAR would make a bid to buy Speedway Motorsports Inc.
  • Phelps said the sport’s fans have indicated they want more short tracks, road courses and less cookie cutter tracks on the schedule. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we are working diligently on what a 2020 schedule would be.”
  • NASCAR talks weekly with the ARCA executives about that series’ future as well as the future of NASCAR’s touring series. Plans for 2019 call for NASCAR to promote the short tracks and the short tracks to promote the big tracks in an effort to drive attendance.
  • NASCAR is considering having a NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader on the 2020 schedule.
  • NASCAR is taking a “hard look” at sports gambling, but is not as far along as other leagues or teams. More to come as the sport heads into 2019.

The five-year sanction agreement NASCAR has with its tracks goes through 2020. Therefore, the tracks would have to be in agreement with any major schedule changes.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 19 2018
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