NASCAR Chairman Brian France discusses sport’s future, young drivers, series sponsor
HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR Chairman Brian France praised Monster Energy for what it has done in its first season as the sponsor of the Cup Series and said that “we’re very pleased with where that relationship is.’’
As for if Monster Energy is expected to renew as title sponsor beyond 2018, NASCAR President Brent Dewar said: “We work on those things all the time.’’
France, speaking to the media before Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, noted the challenges with a new sponsor.
“This is only the first year and there are always growing pains, but as I said earlier, we’re thrilled,’’ France said. “The promises they’ve made, they’ve kept, with the young demo, edgy shows, edgy marketing, putting our drivers in different places in different light. That’s what we want. They’ve delivered on that.
“And like anything else, I think it will get better as they ‑‑ this is also a hard program. It’s a complicated program. It’s the best program, but to execute across all these platforms, it’s a big, big sport. There’s nothing like it, so you don’t get an opportunity to just go, well, we’ll do it like that guy did it or this guy does it over here because nobody can have, today anyway, in a major sports league, an entitlement position like this, so it’s a great program, but it ‑‑ and I think it will get better next year.’’
France and Dewar spoke on several other topics Sunday. Here’s what he said:
On race lengths:
Dewar:“Race lengths, which interestingly we got a great research and analytics group, and you’ll love this, we asked these things, and one-third like them exactly the length they are, one-third want them to be longer, and one-third want them to be shorter. So it’s unanimous that they love racing, and so ‑‑ but that’s part of what we work with the track partners, the race teams and the broadcast partners to find that optimal distance so we have the right show.’’
On drivers not being able to continue because of lack of sponsorship:
France: “The reality is, as Brent said a minute ago, Matt (Kenseth) has had a long 20‑year plus career. That’s unthinkable in most sports, and he’s performed at a high level. We’ll wish him well, but he may be back, too. He’ll have to get the right opportunity for him.
“And the rest of it is a performance sport. If it’s difficult for anybody ‑‑ this is not picking on any one driver, but if you’re not performing at a high level, it may be difficult for you to stay in this sport. It will be difficult for you to stay in the sport, for any driver. That’s not picking on anybody.
“I think for those reasons, that’s where we’re at.’’
On the young drivers in the sport:
France: “They are here, and they’ve got to develop their performance, but they’re doing well. You look at Ryan Blaney, you look at Chase (Elliott) almost making the final here in Miami. Go down the list. We’ve got a loaded group. But it’s true, we’re in a transition, too. But that happens from time to time. Not usually in the concentrated manner that we have now, but it happens. But we’re excited. We’ve got a great, great bunch of ‑‑ 19, 20, and they’re talented, so we’re in good shape.’’
On his biggest worry in NASCAR:
France: “Well, I’m really more optimistic right now, and I know you may expect me to say that, but we’ve made the transition largely. We’ve gotten the council meetings going. We’ve gotten charters in position so we can get our interests aligned more closely with drivers, OEMs and the charters and the team owners. We have the young drivers already in place. We’d like a couple more, of course. We’ve got some diversity with Bubba Wallace going in the 43 car. We like that. We’d love to see more of that. And we like all the changes that we’ve made in the last four or five years, including stage racing this year. It has created the things that we thought were important.
“Now, there are things out of our control, how millennials and other fans of ours are consuming not only our sport but all the sports. That’s obviously a challenge for everybody. Attention times, the platforms they want to view and consume, they’re changing. TV is still ‑‑ always will be linear TV, critically important, but other things now will give us a great opportunity, and we’re positioned well there. But it’s true, there is always disruption when you have the kind of changes on a macro level in sports, and then couple that with our transition stuff, it’s understandable.
“But I’m glad we made all the decisions that we made in the last five to eight years. hank goodness we did each and every one of those. Just imagine if we didn’t. Imagine where we would be. We wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the things that are available to us today.
“So we’re excited about ‑‑ and the biggest thing we’re excited about is, and Brent is leading the charge here, and I attended the last team owner council, is we’re on a fast track to get ‑‑ and it’s hard. It’s always been hard, to get the competition level up, and some of that is done by formats like stage racing and cutoff events and so on, has obviously stepped up the competition level. But there are other things we can do that are important to us.
“So we’re realistic about things that are changing that we don’t control outright, but we like where we’re at and we like where we’re going.’’