Brian France: No Gimmicks But New Rules, Policies Will Come To Please Fans

NASCAR CEO Brian France admitted on Friday that he was very pleased to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. having a good season. He admitted that if Earnhardt Jr. is successful, that is very good for NASCAR.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Mark DeCotis is a veteran journalist who spent 37 years in the newspaper business before beginning a second career combining leisure and earning a living.

 He covered 26 Daytona 500s, numerous Pepsi/Coke Zero 400s, Busch/Nationwide, Trucks, more than a few Rolex 24s at Daytona, season finales at Homestead, Kevin Harvick’s emotional first win at Atlanta, IndyCar, sports car, NHRA, motorcycle, ATV and power boat racing.

His favorite race car driver interviews of all time were with 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force).

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France drew a very straight line in the sand – after all that’s where the sport’s rules have been written since its inception – when it came to improving things on track.

Speaking to reporters at Daytona on Friday France outrightly dismissed any notions of the sport adding any artificial ingredients to the porridge that is NASCAR’s racing product – his word not ours.

“It’s a very clear line to us,” France said. “What we’re not going to do are gimmicky things. I’ve heard we ought to throw a caution every 10 laps. That’s nonsense.

“We won’t do gimmicky things. But we’ll do things that incentivize performance, incentivize wins. That we are open to.  The wildcard does that. It does it in an authentic way. Anything that gets something better on the track and doesn’t employ a gimmick, we’d be reasonably open to.”

France said that NASCAR has to help find ways to satisfy fans better when it comes to television coverage. Many ideas will likely be discussed before the TV contracts expire in 2014.

That’s encouraging from a sport that has already given us cars getting a lap back for free – otherwise known as the “lucky dog” sans Michael Waltrip’s ubiquitous sponsor plug – and the overtime rule otherwise known as the green-white-checkered finish.

Overall France believes things are trending in the right direction especially since the sport’s crown prince Dale Earnhardt Jr. – a driver the boss has said is vital to NASCAR’s overall health – is having a good year with a victory and a second-place spot in the points.

In fact France was so eager to inject Earnhardt into the proceedings that it took him all of 37 seconds to mention him.

Keep up the good work Dale, Brian is turning his lonely eyes to you.

France also has his eyes focused on the future and the sport’s goal of providing “the most competitive and close competition as we possibly can.”

To achieve that goal France knows the sport has to continue to please its fans – among the most knowledgeable, demanding and yet self-entitled in all sports – both at the track and on TV, which is where the majority of its adherents get their fix, his word not ours.

With negotiations on renewing the TV contracts that expire at the end of 2014 reaching what France called the serious stage, NASCAR has a unique opportunity to blunt the rising tide of criticism of its product and its presentation from a glut of commercials to a dearth of live action – not to mention overly centric attention on certain drivers.

To accomplish that France promises an approach more focused on science than art. But he also stated no matter what new rules are put in place they like, the countless others that have been written over the years, will be authored in the shifting sands of Daytona Beach.

“Even when we get them where we want them, they’re going to change,” he said. “That’s just the nature of this business.”

That’s what has allowed NASCAR to become the behemoth it is. But the road ahead is fraught with challenges and the sport cannot traverse that road alone. It must bring along its fans, its teams and its partners – France’s word, not ours.

And NASCAR and its partners must enlist the best and brightest minds in their respective businesses to ensure the sport remains on course with the ultimate goal being the best show the fans’ money can buy, all gimmicks aside.

 

Annett, Dillon – Nationwide Kids Emerging From Shadow Of Greatness

Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, drives the iconic No. 3 car in the Nationwide Series and has become a winner this year. He's a past truck series champion.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Mark DeCotis is a veteran journalist who spent 37 years in the newspaper business before beginning a second career combining leisure and earning a living. 

He covered 26 Daytona 500s, numerous Pepsi/Coke Zero 400s, Busch/Nationwide, Trucks, more than a few Rolex 24s at Daytona, season finales at Homestead, Kevin Harvick’s emotional first win at Atlanta, IndyCar, sports car, NHRA, motorcycle, ATV and power boat racing.

His favorite race car driver interviews of all time were with 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force).

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – They sat erect and alert at the podium, their squared shoulders and “I’ve done this before” demeanor bearing up to the pressures born of the prestige of their car numbers and their car owners.

NASCAR Nationwide drivers – in alphabetical order since putting one before the other in any other measure would be unfair given any number of parameters – Michael Annett and Austin Dillon met with reporters at Daytona on Thursday.

It didn’t take long for the inquisition to arrive at the expectations inherent in their respective rides – Annett in the No. 43 raised to the stratosphere of NASCAR lore by now 75-year-old Richard Petty and Dillon in the No. 3, elevated beyond any mortal reckoning since it belonged the sport’s patron saint Dale Earnhardt.

From all outward appearances Annett and Dillon are handling things quite well.

Dillon, the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion won his first Nationwide race last Friday night and is second in points in the car owned by his grandfather Richard Childress – we’ll get to that dynamic later – who also was Earnhardt’s boss when the driver ran roughshod through the sport, winning seven championships at NASCAR’s elite level.

Only one other driver in NASCAR history has won seven championships – that being Petty – so the pairing as the speedway kicked off its annual mid-summer three-day show was not purely coincidental.

Michael Annett is a Nationwide driver, who, like Dillon, competes for a storied NASCAR competitor - Richard Petty. Both he and Dillon are now racing amid the shadows of greatness.

It was revealing and a bit of a throwback to racing’s earlier, and some would say better, days right down to the cowboy hat – courtesy of Charlie 1 Horse, the same company that supplies Petty’s iconic lids – worn by Dillon.

Although Dillon, 22, maintained it was more of a matter of he and his younger brother, 2011 ARCA series champion Ty Dillon – who has a full-time ride in the truck series in, yes, the No. 3 – just being boys, the fact that a high-profile NASCAR driver was appearing publicly without a sponsor’s logo adorning his head cover caught a few eyes.

For his part Annett, 26, had a career-best fourth-place finish at Kentucky and is seventh in points. While his future might not be as secure as Dillon’s, given the parade of drivers who have passed through the revolving door of Petty’s Cup operation and that his grandfather is not his boss, he maintained Petty made him feel “like you’re his kid or his grandkid.”

Stepping back, that is cause for a pause given that Petty lost his grandson Adam Petty in an accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000, a void that will never, ever be filled.

To that end it was only natural to inquire of Dillon of how Childress managed the relationship of grandfather to grandson.

He answered from the heart, with humor.

“It’s pretty interesting if you listen to a radio conversation between my grandfather, my dad, myself, crew chief,” he said.

“It seems like it takes a win or running good to get them off the radio. Anytime I start slipping back or something goes wrong I hear more and more. So I do whatever I can to stay up front so I don’t have to hear from them.

“My grandfather, he does a good job of balancing that. He steps in when he sees something that could be going wrong and that’s when he kind of becomes the leader that he is.”

So, while praising his grandfather, Dillon also didn’t pass up a chance to give him a dig either, saying the reason Childress didn’t wear a cowboy hat like Petty, Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough and others from the rough and tumble era was that Childress had “pretty hair.”

That’s not the kind of remark one would expect to emanate from the more reserved Annett who naturally is still getting comfortable with Petty. But in the end it comes down to young kids hoping to emerge from shadows cast by giants.

And so far, so good.

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