(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.”
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.