What's new with NASCAR? No more than there absolutely has to be, chairman and CEO Brian France said Monday.
"Change is good to a certain point," France said, "but we've had all the change we think the sport can stand and needs. There comes a point where you need to slow that down. That's where we are."
France said he and stock-car racing's other top officials are "getting back to the basics" by focusing more on what's happening on the track and less on things like rules changes and business trends.
"The economy is what the economy is," he said, speaking about the economy of his sport and that of the nation, each of which might offer significant changes during the coming season. "Will it have some impact on us? Of course it is. But what we're worried about is how good the racing is on the track.
"That's what we're going to be talking about in our meetings. We're talking about going back to the basics: Is the car producing the best racing in the world? That's what you're going to be hearing from us."
That was France's mantra as the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway visited the research and development center.
The facility near Concord's airport has become a traditional first-day stop, and it is there where the Chase for the Cup championship format and other major changes have been announced and discussed in recent years.
Not this time.Vice president for competition Robin Pemberton did announce that cars not guaranteed starting spots in Cup, Nationwide and Truck series races by virtue of their owner's points standings now will qualify at the end of the session for each race so their speeds can be posted under relatively the same track conditions. That change will be in effect next month at Daytona, but the Cup series will wait until its second race to begin the process.NASCAR also will release allotments of new tires in all three series for use during tests other than those scheduled for all teams. Cup teams will get 200 tires (or 50 sets) during the season, with Nationwide teams getting 160 and Truck teams 120.Any fines will be donated to The NASCAR Foundation to be used by charities it supports. Previously, those fines were put back into the points funds and redistributed, sometimes to the teams that had paid them.France and NASCAR President Mike Helton promised the sport's leadership would focus this year on honoring its history and securing the bonds with longtime fans -- bonds that by many indications might need such nurture.
Helton said he feels NASCAR needs to explain to longtime fans "that this is still the NASCAR you fell in love with" and allow them to accept all of the most recent changes.France said other auto racing series would love to have the "problems" NASCAR has with attendance - with the crowd at an average Cup race at 120,000 - and television ratings - with an average viewership of 7 million per race. He also said he hopes the competition will push those issues out of this year's headlines.
"We want the storylines of the sport to be the focus," France said. "If we do that, we will be successful."