NASCAR Chairman Brian France: "I believe the sport is in good shape”

Welcome to the third installment of a series of stories based on Motorsport.com’s exclusive interview with NASCAR Chairman Brian France.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France: "I believe the sport is in good shape”
NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France
Michigan atmosphere
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet beats Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Atmosphere in Phoenix
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
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NBC Sports press conference: Sam Flood, Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton
Start: Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet fight for the lead in turn 1
Restart action
Rob Kauffman
All Charter Owners
O. Bruton Smith
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France

NASCAR has seen a vast array of changes in recent years – the implementation of a new Chase format, fluctuating television ratings, improvements at tracks and also seat reductions, new aero rules and a $400 million renovation of Daytona International Speedway.

Taken as a whole, NASCAR Chairman Brian France believes the state of the sport is “really good” and believes NASCAR’s footprint in the sports landscape remains just as competitive as ever.

“It’s easy to misunderstand how competitive this whole country is with sports, so in any given weekend you could have five, six, seven leagues with action,” France told Motorsport.com. “Then you have big events like The Masters, the Kentucky Derby and then you have all the collegiate stuff.

“There are only one or two sports that are competing all the time (NASCAR is one) and we do very well when we’re doing that. Even if we are falling a little here and there on ratings, we make it up with social media or digital media. We’re No. 1 or No. 2 coming out of almost every weekend.”

The downside of groundbreaking TV deal

Last year was the first in a $8.2-billion, 10-year television package deal with NBC and Fox that has provided long-term economic security to the sport and helped expand its digital offerings.

Included in the deal, were efforts by both NBC and Fox to anchor NASCAR coverage on its smaller cable sports networks, which has resulted in lower ratings and some angst by fans who have trouble finding the races on TV.

“We’re quite competitive. That doesn’t mean we can’t do better. This country has also turned into a big-event-at-the-moment mentality, like when a player is about to set a record or a horse has a chance to win the Triple Crown,” France said.

“All those things matter now, matter more than they ever have, in large part because of social and digital media coverage. They generally have about a 10 percent swing on the weekend, depending on what big events might be going on.

“I believe the sport is in good shape.”

The implementation of a charter system, multi-year sanctions agreement with tracks

Shortly before the start of the 2016 season, NASCAR and team owners announced the creation of a charter system that granted charters to 36 teams in the Cup series. The charters effectively ensure those teams’ entry into each Cup series race, thus providing equity to owners beyond just buildings and equipment.

NASCAR officials said the charters also provided teams with a financial interest in NASCAR.com and the digital properties associated with it (apps, etc).

“I think we have a lot of the right pieces in place,” France said. “We have the charter agreements, which were important to the team owners and aligned our interests in a better way. We’re in the second year of 10-year agreements with our television partners.

“We have multi-year sanctions with our tracks, which allows them to plan better. Things they are doing like the ‘Daytona Rising’ project are paying off, and there will be more of that, which is great for us.

“It’s hard for us because it’s all private capital. Phoenix is looking to see how it can make their place have more of a stadium feel to it. SMI is talking about some similar things, and they have already done some with the big screens they have at Charlotte, Texas and Bristol.”

On-track product is improving

France also believes the on-track product is the best it’s been in quite a while.

“Things are getting much better – drivers have said that. They feel like they have a better opportunity to make some passes that they want to do. You’re seeing that,” he said. “You saw it on Saturday night (in the All-Star Race) – it was on full display.

“Granted it was the all-star race, but for a mile-and-a-half (track), there was a lot of passing. That’s what we want.”

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