NASCAR: Brian France talks possibility of mid-week races, road race in Chase

21 Comments

The new Chase for the Sprint Cup format had a nice start in 2014, but NASCAR still has to figure out other ways to augment its current fan base with newer ones.

A concept that has been repeatedly batted around for some time now is mid-week races, particularly during the summer months where NASCAR would face less TV competition from other sports.

In the past, drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Newman have championed the idea.

But NASCAR Chairman Brian France didn’t seem too keen on it during his Tuesday appearance on Motor Racing Network’s NASCAR Live radio show.

“One challenge that we have, among others, is the current events that we have – no one wants to give any of those up, so start with that,” France said when asked about the subject by host Eli Gold.

“The other challenge that we would have is we don’t have home teams…What we rely on are 80 to 100,000 – and even more – people to make a weekend out of something, drive on average 200-plus miles, often stay more than two days, and bring their families.

“When you start doing that in mid-week with school and everything else – even in the summer – those kind of opportunities to draw people to these big speedways becomes more difficult.”

And while the aforementioned new Chase format has provided a jolt to NASCAR’s post-season, a common complaint about the Chase remains that its current 10-track lineup could use a shakeup.

Five of the 10 tracks are 1.5-mile, intermediate ovals that already dominate the Cup landscape, and they include Homestead-Miami Speedway, which hosts the season finale.

A road race in the run to the championship could provide some more spice, especially considering how good NASCAR’s product on the twisty tracks has become.

But France indicated that perhaps we shouldn’t be holding our breath on that, either.

“We’re not opposed to it, but from a calendar standpoint, there’s only two [Sprint Cup road course] venues of course, and both of them like their dates for different reasons,” he said. “So, [it’s] unlikely to see that happening, only because of, really, how the dates fall.”

Sonoma Raceway in California hosts Sprint Cup in late June, while Watkins Glen International in New York State has its Cup weekend in early August.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.