NASCAR CEO Brian France mentioned lots of accomplishments for his organization during the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season this morning in Las Vegas, but noted that it’s also preparing diligently for the year to come.
In a wide-ranging session with reporters, France talked about the ongoing testing for the Gen-6 cars that debuted this past year (he’ll be in attendance for Monday’s second session at Charlotte Motor Speedway) and also disclosed that NASCAR is looking into making changes in qualifying to make it more exciting for fans.
The Gen-6 is a work in progress for France and NASCAR, as it didn’t appear to boost the on-track offering on the intermediate tracks despite setting qualifying records on numerous occasions in 2013. As far as judging the car’s performance in Year One, France insisted that while lead changes were an important part of evaluating the car, it wasn’t the only criteria.
“There’s never one thing we’re going to judge,” he said. “The No. 1 thing we had to judge in the Gen-6 car was acceptance by the manufacturers, the teams and the drivers. And then obviously, we want to get more lead changes and we want to get closer, tighter competition…
“Lead changes are going to be a huge part. I think that is a big measuring stick. But it’s not the only one. Safety is in there in a high place, acceptance, all kinds of things.”
Additionally, France touched upon the matter of putting more of an incentive on winning races compared to garnering consistent results.
While stressing that NASCAR wants to lock in the rules packages for 2014 first, he seemed to indicate that adding emphasis on going for wins could be addressed later on.
“…Do I think we have it perfect in terms of the right incentives to win? I don’t think we do,” he said. “I think we can do — I’m not willing to say exactly what it’ll be, but I think we can do a little bit better. But I saw some things that I thought, hey, not that they weren’t trying to win, but that maybe the risk might have outweighed that, and we’ll be looking at that.”
Like France said, things aren’t “perfect” going into 2014. But things could have been much worse for NASCAR if they’d been unable to weather the controversy surrounding the race manipulation incident at Richmond International Raceway in September.
Following those events, NASCAR acted swiftly by issuing a series of penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for its role in the scandal and adding Jeff Gordon – one of the drivers most directly affected by the events at Richmond – as a 13th Chase competitor.
France admitted to being “pissed off” over the situation at the time, but said he felt that the series could survive without major, long-lasting effects to its reputation by dealing with it head-on.
“It was going to be really tough, especially for the teams that got penalized, losing sponsors; that was no fun for anybody,” he said. “But I knew that our credibility would be preserved if we did the right thing and we acted swiftly, and over time. So I wasn’t ever worried about that.
“But of course we were disappointed. That’s just the nature, I guess, of competitive sports. You’ve got human beings trying to do their best, and sometimes, they cross lines they shouldn’t cross.”