Brian France met with the media through a teleconference today, to discuss the first three races and the issues that have come to light with the new changes. France discussed subjects ranging from the two car tandem style of racing in Daytona, to the attention garnered by Danica Patrick in Las Vegas last weekend.
The following questions and answers were highlights of the France teleconference. Some questions have been shortened and simplified for space considerations.
Q: "While the rating numbers are up from last year, they're down from 2009. How do you view that?"
France: "I look at the interest level of the sport, and that's growing after having peaked and maybe dropped back a little bit for some reasons a couple years ago. The general interest level is going up and that's what we're going to be working on, is creating new fans."
Q: "Fans get under 10 minutes of reaction after a race from the drivers that they've been watching. Do you have any input with FOX to try to solve this dilemma fans are faced with?
France: "I think generally speaking we would agree, that it would be nicer to have a longer post-race. But if you think about it, most sports don't have a particularly long post end of a game, whatever else."
Q: "Several of the manufacturers have talked about the next generation of car being redesigned for 2013. Can you bring us up to speed on how that project is coming along?"
France: "Obviously lots of dialogue with the car manufacturers. We're addressing those needs, which is the need to keep the competition and safety and all that stuff where it is today, which is at a very high level. At the same time, evolving the car to give them even more identity with their manufacturer make."
Q: "Brian, can you address the ethanol situation and what challenges have you faced with the implementation to the new fuel in the three top series?"
France: "Well, the fact that we haven't had a discussion is evidentiary proof of how well it's working. We couldn't be happier with it. From the early testing, we got good performance numbers."
Q: "We know you've been a big supporter of the diversity program. Where does that stand now? Has it taken a little longer to get minority drivers into the top three series?"
France: "I will tell you Darrell Wallace is a young African American driver that's winning. He's doing that now. We're going to have a breakthrough in that area. It's going to be on my watch, and I'll be very proud of that when that occurs."
Q: "A couple of the drivers after recent races have expressed a level of concern about the level of rough driving going on out there these days, especially at places that don't normally feature that. Do you share their concern or do you think it's normal racing?"
France: "No, I don't share that concern at all. They're the best guys in the world. We've said, 'You have to mix it up, this is a contact sport.' We feel really good about that."
"It's made the racing better. They've got to figure that out. They're doing that largely. I would say too, with the wild card situation, where the last two spots are going to decided by wins, if you don't happen to have the perfect top-10 performance in the first 26 events."
"I think you saw the disappointment with Tony not winning when he thought he should have won last weekend, he now counts that because he doesn't start fast. He may need that."
Q: "Daytona obviously saw kind of a different style of racing than in the past. What did you think of that? Do you like that better or worse than the 30-car packs that we'd seen before?"
France: "To tell you the truth, we were curious too. It was a phenomenon. We'd never seen anything like that. We were curious going into Sunday. I remember talking to Mike in the tower. We didn't know how that was going to play out."
Q: "What do you think of Danica's run last week, historically what that did, the highest finish by a female in any NASCAR national series?"
France: "I think that elevated her. There was some discussion, did she have the right stuff to compete in the Nationwide Series? You know, I think she dispelled a lot of that. There's always circumstances in the start of a new career. But sometimes things are out of your control, people can crash in front of you, a hundred other things."
France was asked several repetitive questions regarding the schedule as well, and his response remained the same. France said the schedule is adjusted to accommodate large events in other sports and mentioned The Masters and the Super Bowl specifically as two events NASCAR chooses to avoid competition.
France's overall demeanor was positive and upbeat, and he appeared satisfied with the early season results to this point. One point of contention many crew chiefs may have, is Brian France's claim that the Ethanol fuel experiment is a success.
Gas mileage was off seven miles per gallon in some cases, and some teams, most notably Greg Biffle's No. 16 crew, struggled in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is the first track NASCAR has raced that is at elevation, but there has been no explanation for the issues with the No. 16 team.