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NASCAR MEDIA TOUR PRESS CONFERENCE
January 19, 2016
DAVID HIGDON: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the beautiful Hall of Fame. I want to first start by thanking Marcus Smith for hosting us. It's a great place and obviously a great week ahead of us. Obviously want to welcome all our fans who are following live on NASCAR.com, listening on Sirius NASCAR Radio and also MRN.
Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you enjoy the program.
A quick line‑up for us, we'll start with our Chairman and CEO, Brian France. He'll touch on the state of the sport, look back a little bit at last year, but look ahead at some pretty cool things that we have set for us for 2016. We'll also welcome Max Siegel, the owner and CEO of Rev Racing, glad he's here with us today, and he's going to introduce the 2016 Drive 4 Diversity class, a very talented group that was announced this past Friday.
Max will be followed by our Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, Steve O'Donnell, who will follow up on some exciting innovations we have planned for the season.
And we'll wrap things up where we'll begin, in Daytona, with Lesa France Kennedy, who's here to share her vision for Daytona Rising and what we have going on in beautiful Daytona Beach. I've been lucky enough to sit across the street and watch that thing develop, and Lesa will be here to chat, as well.
Following the formal program, we'll have some breakout sessions, so please join us in the back for some additional questions that we have.
To get started, we'll kick it off at the top with our chairman and leader, Brian France. Brian? Thanks.
BRIAN FRANCE: Good morning, and I also want to give a thank‑you to Marcus Smith and his whole team for hosting us all here at the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Annual Motorsports Media Tour, and I just told Marcus, I'm looking forward to seeing his father on Friday night putting that blue jacket on him. He'll be one of five honorees into the Hall of Fame. That's exciting for him and his family for sure.
You know, this is our first chance to talk a little bit about what happened last year with our season, look ahead to 2016, and I'll start by saying, without question, this was one of our most exciting seasons ever.
Now, I usually say that because I usually mean it, but the statistics really back that up. When you see the attendance came‑‑ most of our tracks saw nice and sometimes sizable increases, and the attention that was coming to the sport, you saw some of the best racing. Of course we tried some new rules packages throughout the year, and I'll talk more about that in a moment, to give us even better racing from facility to facility.
And then we got to the Chase.
We had a lot of great things happen in the Chase, and of course the second year, and a lot of people thought that an elimination style format in motorsports wasn't possible, and it wouldn't work properly, and the reality is it's not only possible, it is the most exciting form of motorsports, rather it's the way to crown the champion in the most exciting form of motorsports, and there's no question about that.
Our fans have rallied around the format. Our drivers, our teams have done that. And what you saw was in year two a real understanding of what it takes to compete in each of the rounds, the strategies and so on, and that makes the racing better, because chances are taken, things are getting figured out, more teams are competitive, more surprises are happening.
So we couldn't have felt better about leading up to the finale in Homestead where we had a record audience, the best audience on television in a decade. And they watched four drivers battle it out, and as is the case in the second year, we thought that you had to win the race to win the championship. That was the case.
And Kyle Busch made an amazing comeback, for Toyota, for his team, for himself, in coming back from that injury to win the championship in a dramatic form.
So we had by any definition an exciting season, and what that does for us, and it does this for every form of motorsports in sport, is it gives you momentum into the next year. That's how it works. And so we're going to be fortunate to ride some things that worked well in the sport, in particular the racing and the level of competition, on into 2016.
We also, of course, welcomed back NBC, first year of a 10‑year agreement, and as they told us they would do, they raised the level of broadcast to our fans every week with new ways to cover the events, to announce the events, and we couldn't be more pleased to be their partner for nine more years.
And same with FOX; they started their first of a 10‑year agreement, as well, and of course they'll bring into the booth, this year will be Jeff Gordon, and he will put a‑‑ he'll be an incredible addition to their already talented booth, and while we'll miss Jeff on the track for sure, seeing him every weekend helping explain what's going on in racing to our fans on FOX, well, that'll be the next best thing to having Jeff in the sport.
My sister is going to come up in a little bit, as well, and she's going to talk about Daytona Rising and the Daytona 500, and we're almost‑‑ almost upon us here, and when you go through it, I'm going to let her explain it a little bit better, but it is an amazing accomplishment, and I'm really proud of the division that they had, and I think what that will spur for the industry as more facilities look to do variations of what Daytona has done, so we'll kick off the Daytona 500 in an amazing grand style. I'm looking forward to getting to Florida shortly.
We're also going to make an announcement, too, about expanding this very successful Chase format into the XFINITY Series and into the Camping World Series, and it'll be slightly different, but the idea is, and Steve O'Donnell in a little bit will walk you through some of these details, but the idea is pretty simple. When we look at how successful the format is for the Sprint Cup Series and the fact that the drivers trying to win a championship in those lower divisions are trying to come up to the Sprint Cup Series, we know that the way to win in the future, you've got to beat people. You've got to be winning. You've got to be in the crosshairs of elimination at any moment, and that's how we want our young drivers from a very early stage to understand the racing competitive style in NASCAR. So no better way to do that than to have our championship formats consistent, and that's one of the main reasons I think that I know that we did that.
Let me close on one thing, and that is in Las Vegas, I talked about how our industry over the last four or five years has come together in a way that has been incredible, and I say that because of all the things that we've done together, whether that's the industry action plan that got designed, developed and executed by our industry to make sure our fan experiences and our communications were all working in a better way, whether that's getting the new Chase format fully integrated into the promotional windows of their venues and to our fans and bringing that message home, bringing that style of racing to their facilities. Our digital rights, as we brought those back in‑house, and the industry is the main driver of those rights, coming together to make sure that we handle the digital and social media age correctly. We did that as an industry.
And I said to the group in Las Vegas, the good ideas can come from anywhere, and fortunately they do, but they're executed by our industry, and I'm really pleased to say that that's why I believe that as an industry we are poised in a way for the future that we've never been before, and I'm really excited about that.
I'll leave you on one note, and I know in a moment I'm going to take some questions, as well, but there has been a lot of talk about a new charter system for team owners and how that can work to make a team ownership model better. I'm very optimistic that we're going to get that new ownership structure completed.
And when we do, and why we're doing that, and we wouldn't do anything that we didn't think in the long run would make racing better, would field more opportunities, create an environment for more owners, more capital in this very expensive sport, to have a better experience in fielding the race teams week in and week out. And I'm very optimistic that shortly, while today won't be the day, but shortly we'll be able to share those details of what that looks like, and that'll be historic for us, too, in auto racing should we complete this, and I believe that we will. It will be an historic first, and as I say, we'll make the racing better in the long run and secure the ownership experience for the future.
With that, I'm happy to take some questions.
DAVID HIGDON: Your off‑season, how was it?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I had a little knee surgery, and I'm recovering okay. I won't be playing in the World Cup. They haven't called me anyway. But I don't think I'll be kicking any soccer balls quickly.
But it was good. We didn't do a lot, just sort of stayed at home. This industry moves around so much that it was good to say home for a little while.
DAVID HIGDON: Exciting stuff talking about today, obviously with the Chase format and extending into XFINITY as well as the Camping World Truck Series.
BRIAN FRANCE: Right.
DAVID HIGDON: Can you talk me through it a little bit more? Conceptually what was the reason? Obviously it also shines a spotlight on our young stars as well as getting them to the trained to really compete at the level you want them to be at.
BRIAN FRANCE: Yeah, as I said in my remarks, I think it's important that they understand how difficult it's going to be when they get to the next level, the Sprint Cup level, and that winning a championship‑‑ consistency is a very important thing in auto racing and it will never change. But as you go up, I think we believe, not only does it make it more‑‑ certainly makes it more exciting for our fans, it starts there, right, and our fans love elimination style, they love the emphasis on winning, and so that'll be a welcome addition in both those series.
But I think for the drivers, I think it's also important that they get conditioned to what it's going to take to‑‑ it'll make them better prepared to handle the next level.
DAVID HIGDON: Like we say, names are made in the XFINITY Series, so that's certainly our goal.
Q. Brian, obviously in the trucks and XFINITY Series, there are far fewer fully‑funded full‑time teams than there are in Sprint Cup. Even though the details aren't out yet on exactly what the format would be, because of that, do you think that the outcome, so to speak, as to who wins championships, will really be affected much by the Chase format, or will it tend to gravitate towards the people who already win those championships in both of those series?
BRIAN FRANCE: Ask Jimmie Johnson. Six‑time champion, got eliminated in the first round.
I think it's the reverse. I think it gives teams who have to be great on one day a better opportunity than a more well‑funded team who can sort of wear them out over time.
My own view is‑‑ we'll see. I mean, and by the way, as I said, and Steve O'Donnell will be up in a little bit to walk you through some of the details, but they'll be slightly different, too, and the rounds will look different. Same concept, but my hope is it'll work‑‑ it'll give the teams that are more underdog teams like it's worked out here at the Sprint Cup Series.
In the Final Four, I don't have to tell you about Martin Truex, so I think it can‑‑ now it relies on you've got to be really good on certain days when it counts, and that's different than I'm just going to wear somebody out every day.
Q. Brian, since last year when we've asked drivers about SAFER barriers, they've said they've met with NASCAR and NASCAR has an extensive plan to have additional SAFER barriers. We haven't really been given details of that plan, so I'm curious if you can kind of go through it a little bit, explain to us a little bit the plan, how far into it you are, when it might be completed, and any financial investment NASCAR has put into executing that plan.
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, obviously the speedways handle the SAFER barriers from facility to facility. What we've said is that they're going to be wherever they need to be, and our tracks have said, that's right. They totally agree. They have met on various occasions with us, with themselves, and they've already long been‑‑ they're well into installing walls. Kentucky as an example I know is under a major reconstruction. They're pushing behind‑‑ Daytona has done quite a bit in that area. All the tracks are taking a different look, because listen, they believed that they were in good shape‑‑ they always hoped they were in good shape, and sometimes things happen, and we all discover things could be a little bit better. Those looks are underway, and I'm very confident that our tracks, they feel just as strongly as I do and we do that they're going to be wherever they need to be.
Q. We're starting to see a changing of the guard with a new class of young guns that we really haven't seen maybe in 10, 15 years, Jeff Gordon retiring this past year, then Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth. What's the game plan for bringing in the younger drivers, and what rate of speed do you see this happening?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I won't mention to Jimmie Johnson that he's going to retire anytime soon. I don't think I've heard that from him. But I hear your point, and it's fun. This is always fun, because it's part of sports that new stars are created, and you're going to‑‑ and so we always look at that as what's in the farm system, if you will, and in our case throughout, it's probably not a time in our existence where we've had so much talent in the lower levels to emerge, and I think they just want an opportunity, and these opportunities are going to start to become available.
It's one of the things that is challenging about auto racing because there are only 43 seats, and fortunately our drivers have long careers. So there isn't a lot of opportunity from year to year for a lot of turnover, but this is going to be kind of a two‑, three‑year wave where you're right, there are going to be more than we've seen in the last four or five years, and to me that's exciting because you don't know, but you know that there's‑‑ you know there's a lot of talent, and they're getting in the big rides, like Chase Elliott getting in the 24. That's going to be good. So we'll see.
Q. 2015 saw a fairly important team close its doors, and I was wondering, in years past you've talked about barriers to entry. What is NASCAR doing in terms of investigating cost containment measures?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well I think you heard me allude to the new potential ownership structure that, I'm optimistic, although it's not finalized, that we're going to be able to achieve, and should we be able to do that, I think we get an opportunity collectively, although it's complicated, to get at some of the things that are always just around the corner in auto racing: Well‑funded teams versus lower funded teams, cost of entry, enterprise value, all kinds of things that go into us that means really one thing. It means the more teams that are better structured, well‑funded, better operated, then the better the auto racing will be, because that's just common sense, that more teams that have an opportunity to race in good equipment, that's a really good thing for NASCAR, and we've been fortunate through the years to do better than most in managing the very difficult cost issues, many of which we don't fully control at the NASCAR level, and they're a function of competition and free markets and all the things that that means.
But even with that, with the construction and the commitment to keeping rules packages that don't break the bank, that achieve safety and achieve performance, we've been able to do better than most. Better than most means there are 30 good funded teams or more. Nowhere in auto racing where that exists, those kind of numbers, maybe eight, maybe ten. Car manufacturers happy, never thrilled. I don't get a bouquet of roses from any one of the three, but they generally feel like they have a fair shot, and they're treated fairly, and they are.
So we've managed that‑‑ what we're saying is we think a new structure that gets us ready for the next 20, 30 years, done correctly, can yield even better results on our existing model, and that's what we've tried to do in this potential new system.
Q. We're entering our last year with Sprint. Looking forward to that. But also, how is the entitlement sponsorship search going for 2017 and beyond, and what will the rollout plan be?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, it's going well, and fortunately for us, the sport is in a really good place, and it's gone through some tough times with the economy and all the things that you've heard me say we've been disproportionately subjected to with our fans who drive further, stay longer, hotel prices, fuel prices, job situations, all that really put a‑‑ not to mention the commercial size of the car sponsorships and so on have put us in a different position. We've gotten through those things fortunately, and the sport has made a lot of decisions that are serving us well.
And so we're in a good spot. We have a lot of interest. We've got our TV deal set for the next decade or so, and I suspect, my sense is that we'll get something done here. We'll see, but it's good. We're in a good place.
Q. Brian, two questions on charters. One, is there a deadline for getting the deal done, meaning if it's not done prior to Daytona, do you have to wait then until 2017 to do it again or could you do it during the season? And secondly, there's been talk that there could be a reduction in field size. Do you anticipate 43 cars under this structure or fewer?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I'm not going to get into specifics of the plan because we don't have it finished yet, and it's still moving around a little bit. The timeline is sooner rather than later. The further we get in, the longer you have to push out in a certain season where we could‑‑ by the way, whatever is the final arrangement should we be able to get there, this is going to be a phase where from one moment to the next, everything will be different.
This is a very complicated plan and structure that will require some time to phase in many aspects of it. And we'll just have to see from a‑‑ we'll announce things as soon as we can, but I'm optimistic. I wouldn't say that if I didn't‑‑ I was in the meetings myself last week, and I'm optimistic, although these things, as complicated as they are, can always move around on us.
Q. Brian, a few years ago we brought in EFI to kind of get to a technology that's more prevalent in production cars. There's several other technologies that are in use at this point in the Cup Series that have not been on production cars for a while. Is there a timeline and some other technologies we're looking at moving into the national touring series?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I've said that we've departed a little bit from where we were four or five years ago in that we were a bit averse to technology, not because we didn't understand it or think it could help us, it's that we believed it could break the bank and not give us enough benefits for our team owners in particular.
We've changed that view because technology is more available, is more competitive, and is more far‑reaching, and all of our stakeholders have put huge bets, our OEMs, car manufacturers, many of our sponsors are obviously all‑‑ we've tied it to an innovative culture in NASCAR, and our teams are now pushing forward with that.
It's still ‑‑ in our situation, we want to be really, really smart about it. We want to embrace technology, but we can't break the bank for the team owners because we want to put the next thing under the hood or the thing in the car that won't make a big impact in either safety or performance or keeping the racing tight or close but breaks the bank. So we're balancing that very carefully, but we are on a steady, slow march. I said this a number of years ago. It continues, and you see it not just on the track, which you're referring to, or on the race cars, but also on the track, you know, with our track drying system, the Titans, which are playing a huge role, saving the day frequently for us, including the finale at Homestead. We would not have been able to complete that in a timely way on NBC without the Titans as an example.
So we're going to embrace technology and innovation. We don't want to break the bank for the track operators, the team owners, or other stakeholders, but we're going to need to figure it out as we go along.
Q. I see there's a small change made with Cup drivers going down to lower series, they're not allowed to race at Homestead I take it with the new Chase format. Was there any consideration to taking them out of the game altogether, if you will? Are you afraid they're going to affect the new Chase formats in the XFINITY or Truck Series?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, that obviously plays into it when we restructure the formats. That plays into it, and we have to balance this. Many people like the idea that it's unique that our best drivers get to compete with our up‑and‑coming drivers. Others, not so much. But we like it in general. It's part of who we are. It's not uncommon, obviously, through our whole history to see it, and it's balanced between giving the drivers in their home division, if you will, the opportunities that driving week in and week out in those divisions should give them, winning a championship and so on, so forth.
So we've had to modify it a little bit, of course, with changing the formats around. But generally speaking, that's kind of where we stand.
Q. I'm fascinated by the Digital Dash. How much information that the drivers have never had do you want them to have? How far do you want to go on technology on the Digital Dash, both this year and then beyond?
BRIAN FRANCE: I want to go really far with that because it has a real opportunity for us to connect our fans with‑‑ we're one of the sports, one of the few sports, when you hear about big data or you hear about using technology within the event itself, that is really real for us that we can use. So I envision there will be a day that's coming soon where many, many of the things that the drivers are looking at, the communications are already‑‑ some of this is already here, but some of the telemetry, some of the information is part of somebody's device while they're sitting‑‑ I know Daytona has planned for this. They plan to have big zones where high‑speed and wi‑fi will be‑‑ they're ready for this, and other tracks are getting ready for this, and it'll be a big advantage that our sport has, because we'll be pretty liberal with how we let fans peek inside to what's going on with somebody's car or strategy or whatever. We already are to some level, and that'll even get better and the experience will be richer and better for our fans.
So I'm excited about that, and the last point about that is the car manufacturers, in no uncertain terms for them is the Digital Dash going to be the future. You're going to see all kinds of things you already can, depending on which car or make, that are available, from wi‑fi to the internet streaming, all that stuff, is already there, and they want us to have their cars, their technology resemble things that are going on on the track. So we'll have some opportunities there, and we're going to try and take advantage of them.
Q. Other than the charter system, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing NASCAR this next year and the biggest opportunity for advancement?
BRIAN FRANCE: Rain, rain, rain, rain. It really is. I'd like to give you some detailed concern I have, but the truth is that the racing‑‑ we've settled on a lower downforce package for the mile‑and‑a‑halfs, and we think that's what the drivers and teams really want, and we're going to let that play out. The tracks are underway with‑‑ Daytona is well known, but other tracks, including Kentucky and many others, are looking at getting their sanctions now, the five‑year sanctions that we've talked about, where they can have some visibility in the future to do some capital improvements.
So the racing is good. The tracks are on board. We've embraced digital and social media in a way that we're trying to be leaders in this area. We have young and up‑and‑coming drivers. We've got a format that we can build on for the next decade or longer.
So there is no pressing thing that I would like to see get resolved. We have really worked at things that were out in front of us that we thought we could improve on in the industry. I can't underscore this enough: I've never seen our industry‑‑ when we come down with an idea or they come up with an idea that we are marching forward together to get something done to better the experience for our fans and our drivers, team owners and all of our stakeholders, but we can't do anything about the rain, other than we can probably add some more Air Titans over time to speed it up, but hopefully we'll get a little break on that in 2016.
DAVID HIGDON: Before we welcome our next guest, Max Siegel, just wanted to see if you had an assessment on diversity at this point. I know you joined RISE, important to be part of the leagues across the sport's enterprise in terms of inclusion, but how do you think we're doing, and where do you see that moving into the future?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, RISE, of course, is Steve Ross's, the owner of the Dolphins, has chaired a very important group of people. I happen to have been invited and honored to be there, to help look at making all of our sports in the future more diverse, and we've been at this‑‑ I started our Diversity Council back a decade ago or longer, and I see the benefits coming, and I see the benefits on the track, I see them off the track, and it's a very important thing for us.
Unlike everybody else, I'd like to see things go faster, generally speaking, progress and so on, but I see with our Mexican approach, Hispanic approach rather, down in México, what's happened with drivers coming up to the system. African‑American drivers are getting opportunities that they would have never had through our combines and other things and moving up the ladder, winning races on a national level. A lot of people didn't think that was possible seven, eight years ago.
At some point we'll have even bigger breakthroughs because this is a talent‑based sport that has other complexities, but in the end, it's a talent‑based sport, and I'm looking forward to the future, and I know Max is going to have some remarks, as well. It's all gone well, though.
DAVID HIGDON: Don't go too far. Just sit there for a moment. But I'm going to introduce Max, and he'll introduce the next group of diversity. Max, if you would join us.
As you guys all know, he is the owner of Rev Racing, and he's here to introduce the new class of talented drivers that we'll be seeing on the track this year. Good to see you again.
MAX SIEGEL: Thank you, David. The 2015 season proved to be a landmark season for NASCAR's Drive 4 Diversity and its graduates. For a moment let's take a look at what happened on the final Saturday of the season with the Miami‑Homestead Speedway. Kyle Larson won the NASCAR XFINITY Series race; Daniel Suarez in close contention with Darrell Wallace Jr. won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year to become the first Mexican‑born driver to win the award; and Mike Russell, the jack man for Chris Buescher, became the first African‑American D4D graduate to win a national series championship. The growth of the Drive 4 Diversity program was even more evident in October as Rev Racing hosted the most competitive combine that we've had to date.
And in the end, we had six drivers who stood tall, as far west as California, as far south as Colombia, and I'd like to introduce the 2016 class.
A 22‑year‑old Tampa, Florida, resident, Collin Cabre, returns to Rev Racing for a second season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Collin capped an impressive rookie season with a win in the series finale at Dover International Speedway.
Rubén Garcia is from Mexico City and joins Rev in his first season as the reigning NASCAR México series champion. The 20‑year old won three races in the México Series in 2015 and will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
Next we have Ali Kern, a 22 year old from Fremont, Ohio, joins Rev Racing for her first full‑time season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. In 2010 she became the youngest female driver to start a race in the series, and Ali has been racing for 15 years and had her best D4D combine after competing in the event in previous years. Ali Kern.
Rounding out the K&N Pro Series East lineup is 20‑year‑old Jairo, a/k/a, JA Junior, Avila from Anaheim, California. Junior is a Colombian‑American who made his first K&N debut in 2014, registering four top‑10 finishes in five starts.
A 21‑year‑old, Enrique Baca, from Monterey, México, will begin his first season with Rev Racing in the NASCAR Whelen All‑American Series after a standout performance at the combine. Enrique comes with experience from SúperCopa Telcel and Whelan All‑American Series, where he earned six top‑10 finishes.
And finally, we have Juan Garcia, who is an 18‑year‑old talent from Bogotá, Colombia, who turned in some of the fastest times at the combine in October. Juan returns to NASCAR Whelan All‑American Series where he was recognized with the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2015.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me and NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France in welcoming the Drive 4 Diversity Class of 2016.
DAVID HIGDON: Thanks, Max. Next up, I'd like to introduce our executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Steve O'Donnell. Steve?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Thanks, David, and congratulations, Max, to you and your entire team at Rev Racing, and to Brian's leadership and our team of Jim Cassidy, Don Harris, Brandon Thompson working together. It's great to see the results that we've had now with the national series, but just importantly, those people were sitting here in this room just a few short years ago and now competing for wins and for championships at the national series level. Good luck, no pressure in 2016 for all of you, as well.
As Brian mentioned, some exciting things heading into 2016 for us as a sanctioning body, and I want to start off by talking about the great additions with the Chase formats being implemented in both the XFINITY Series and the Camping World Truck Series, and just to dive into a little bit more details and showcase how it works, we'll start with the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and we'll have it up on the board here.
There was a question asked earlier about the number of drivers, and obviously in Cup it's 16, so for the XFINITY Series the number that will be eligible will be 12. The Chase will take place over seven races. That will include three rounds. We'll have a round of 12, a round of eight, and then a round of four. One of the questions that was asked earlier, anyone who is a 2015 Sprint Cup Series eligible Chase driver will not be eligible to compete in Miami, and again, the reasoning behind that from our standpoint is we want to showcase these young up‑and‑coming drivers in that event.
Importantly, as well, in the series, we'll also look at some changes to the NASCAR Dash For Cash, and I know a lot of the motorsports media here understand how the Dash For Cash works, but I think it's important for us to walk through what changes will take place in 2016.
So if you look at‑‑ let me take you through the trucks, as well, just for the details of the trucks in terms of the Chase. So the truck field will include eight drivers and will go from eight to six to four, and as, like we will in XFINITY, the cutoff race will be in Chicago, and on the truck side of things, we'll go from Chicago, we'll have a cutoff race in Talladega, and then Phoenix. So when we get to Phoenix, all three series with that final race will go down from eight to four, and in all three series we'll have four drivers who are eligible in Miami to go out and earn a championship.
Why that's important for us? We think the future with Erik Jones, Erik Jones can win races, and if you listened to Erik Jones on the radio last year, finished 15th, take care of the truck. The culture we want in our sport is to go out there and win the race, and I think everybody here in this room knows Erik Jones is capable of that, and we're looking forward to seeing that type of racing when we get to Homestead in 2016, as well.
Going forward, I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that we've got for 2016 from a competition standpoint. We obviously crowned Kyle Busch out in Vegas as our 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.
During that time, we also announced that Scott Miller has joined us as our senior vice president of competition. Scott brings with him a wealth of knowledge in the industry. He's already been a huge benefit to us as a company, and I think will really help us, as Brian talked about earlier, working on collaboration with the entire industry, so we're excited about having Scott on board. He'll be here today and will be happy to answer some of your questions, not all, I'm sure.
Last year we stood up here, and one of the questions to Brian was about innovation and what's new. Don't want anybody to forget that we introduced the pit road officiating system last year. A lot of questions, would it work, what will the teams think, and I'm happy to report that it was a huge success, so much so that it's going to enable us to build upon it. When you look at the Digital Dash, how that'll play in, there's some aspects of the pit road officiating system that we can now integrate with the Digital Dash. The teams have bought in. It's been hugely successful, and we're really looking forward to adding onto that as we head into the 2016 season, as well.
I saw my friend Ed Clark out here sitting next to Mike, so I know Lesa is going to come up and talk about Daytona Rising, but when we leave what will surely be a very competitive Daytona 500, we hit the road and we head to Atlanta, and that will be the debut of our low downforce package. Everybody is extremely excited about the race in Atlanta. We're looking forward to debuting the rules package, as Brian stated, the drivers and the industry is behind this. There's been a ton of work done by the entire industry, and I want to say thank you to the teams, to Goodyear, to the OEMs for really coming together to make that happen, so we'll debut that in Atlanta, and then we'll go back to what was another success last year: The West Coast Swing. We'll all head out and go to Las Vegas, Phoenix and California. Great success for us from an industry standpoint to have NASCAR take three consecutive weekends and go out to the West Coast, and also three great races last year, and we expect that to happen as we head into 2016, also.
So going forward on what else may be different from an XFINITY and Camping World Series, I want to talk a little bit about the Dash For Cash program and some changes that you may or may not have heard about as we head into '16.
So when we look at the Dash For Cash, it's been a popular program and it will return thanks to our partners at XFINITY but with some changes. We'll be at some different venues for 2016: Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond, Dover, and then we'll end in Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And here's how the format is going to work: We'll still have knockout qualifying as we've had in previous years. Knockout qualifying will qualify you for two heat races. Put the odd number of qualifiers in one of the heats, even in the other heats, and then we'll have one main event that can range anywhere from 60 laps to 200 laps depending on the size of the venue.
The top two NASCAR XFINITY drivers from each of the heats will advance to be one of the four who will compete for the Dash For Cash in that event. One twist on the end of it: If any of the NASCAR XFINITY drivers wins more than one, so if they win two NASCAR Dash For Cash wins, they would also gain eligibility to the Chase, as well. Another important wrinkle. We're looking at race formats, so we'll have four events where we will change up the formats in the XFINITY Series.
Let's jump to the Camping World Truck Series, and we all know that that's a series that historically has been one where we constantly innovate, and that's no different than what we're looking at for 2016.
2016 we're going to be instituting a 20‑minute caution clock. Here's how that's going to work. Green flag comes out, starts the race. If after 20 minutes a caution has not come out, we'll display a competition caution, we'll run through the caution laps, we'll go back to green, caution clock will reset. We'll do that throughout the race until the end when we get within a window obviously where there's less than 20 minutes, we'll turn the clock off.
Why is that important for us? We think it's going to add to the strategy during the race, and if you look at the Camping World Truck Series, that is an area where some of our younger drivers, younger teams, newer teams really can use the competition caution to be able to adjust on the truck. We've seen that in the Cup Series when we've had a competition caution early in the race. It's allowed the teams to make some last‑minute adjustments early in the race. We think that's going to be huge for the teams, as well, and the trucks throughout the race and will be implemented throughout the season as we head into 2016.
As Brian stated, we've got a ton of excitement throughout our organization, but I think throughout the industry, and what we're about to embark on for 2016. We're carrying huge momentum with us from the conclusion of the season last year, so we're excited about what 2016 brings. I know everybody at the R&D and competition center is ready to go.
I know I've got some questions to take here in a second, but I want to mention one special guy. A lot of us at R&D are wearing the purple bracelets. One of our good friends, a former official who still works with us at the R&D center, Todd Debusk, is in a huge battle with cancer, so I just want to give a shout‑out online to Todd that we're all standing up with you, we all are thinking about you, and we're all one team.
With that, I look forward to working with each and every one of you in the coming year, and with that, I'll hand it back over to David.
DAVID HIGDON: Thanks, Steve. Appreciate that. Sounds pretty exciting. You're busy, busy in the off‑season, as well. But just to remind everyone that we'll have Scott Miller, who is the recent hire, as well as Richard Buck, Wayne Auton and Elton Sawyer to answer the bulk of your questions related to this, but I thought Steve might be able to touch on a couple of them.
Overall excited about what this means for those two series. I know Matt Lederer is here from XFINITY. What do you think this will have as an impact for those two series in particular?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Well, I think first giving some credit to XFINITY, an unbelievable partner for us, and has really showcased that series, so when we look to 2016, one of the things as that series has continued to elevate to really be the second most popular in all of motorsports, those drivers deserve more and more coverage, and we believe that the Chase format will do just that. We saw it in the Cup Series where we're not just talking about one or two competitors or race teams, we're talking about 16. We expect similar results in the XFINITY Series and Camping World where the focus will be on multiple teams, and as Brian mentioned earlier, they've got to go out and win, and that's what we're all about as a sport.
Q. About the caution clock, is this a beta test perhaps for other series going forward? And will it affect tire allotments?
STEVE O'DONNELL: So it's for the Camping World Truck Series now. I think it's been something that we believe it fits perfectly for that series. Sure, we'll always look at it and see how it works and talk to the industry about it. This is an idea that actually came from the industry and the collaboration that Brian talked about earlier, so for now we'll keep it there, and the tire allotments, yes, will be worked in with how we work the cautions. But it goes back to different strategies throughout the race, whether you're going to come in and take two, four or zero tires, and I think that adds to the strategy, as well.
Q. Why a 20‑minute break instead of 20 laps maybe? Why time instead of laps?
STEVE O'DONNELL: That's a good question. We looked at that. Obviously our fans know laps, but when we looked at it with all the different venues that we had, we wanted to try and be as consistent as possible if we could, and the clock just seemed to be something that fans are used to from all sports in looking at. It enabled us to just put a time versus trying to think of what lap it is on each individual racetrack, so we elected to go with time in this case.
Q. Steve, this will be the fourth consecutive year that the Sprint Cup Series has a different rules package for the majority of the tracks. Is your expectation that that package will continue for a number of years, or is your expectation that there will be an additional new package next year?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we always look at it, but our expectation is that we want to put on the best racing possible, and to do that, I think you'll hear more and more about the collaboration within the industry and working with the race teams to ensure that we've got the best racing possible, so that's a result of what you're seeing this year. I think Brian and Mike have talked about the collaboration process that got us to this point, so our intent is to stick with this, and then if we can make minor changes, that's what we'd like to do, but again, we've got to see how it plays out.
Atlanta won't be a one‑and‑done. This is what we're going to put in place for the year and see how it goes, and then know that we've got some great formats to look forward to as we head into the Chase and drivers going after wins.
DAVID HIGDON: Following up on Tom's question, how do you think Vegas went? What's the word from your team and the drivers?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, we've had terrific feedback. Goodyear has been a great partner through this process getting the rules package to them earlier to let them match up the tires with the package. The feedback we've received so far has been terrific.
DAVID HIGDON: Thanks, Steve. Appreciate your time.
DAVID HIGDON: We are going to wrap up our segment with where we're going to begin, so Lesa France Kennedy, as you know, is the visionary behind the Daytona Rising as CEO of the International Speedway Corporation and Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors for both ISC and NASCAR. As you also know, she's a mother of a NASCAR driver, Ben Kennedy, who will be racing again in the Camping World Truck Series, and recently was named the most powerful woman in sports. To conclude our program, please welcome to the stage Ms.Lesa France Kennedy.
Thanks for coming down. I know you've got to get back to work and everything across the way, but you've got Rolex coming up, you've got Sprint Unlimited. How are you feeling right now in terms of the venue and being ready and all that good stuff you'd you've got ahead of you?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: Well, the whole team is extremely excited and we can't wait for everybody to get to Daytona, first of all with the Rolex 24, and have a chance to see the new Daytona Rising project, but also to move forward to the Daytona 500 and to be able to showcase the event.
DAVID HIGDON: Looking ahead, if we can, and we're going to obviously see a great race and we're all looking forward to seeing the venue, but this isn't just about Daytona, this is about ISC and the tracks, and is there anything down the road that you're looking at? I know you're looking three, five, seven years down the road. What else can we expect to see in the track world?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: Well, continued investment in our tracks. It's so important to continue to modernize these tracks and to be able to bring the modern‑day amenities and comforts into these tracks, and I can tell you that we're taking a look at Richmond and also in Phoenix, those will probably be some of the next tracks that we look at. We're always improving tracks across our portfolio, but those are great markets that we need to look at, and also great racing experiences.
I think we can make some great improvements there.
DAVID HIGDON: Give us some specific examples of why these five‑year sanctioning agreements that you did last year with NASCAR is important to your business.
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: I'm really pleased that NASCAR did the five‑year sanctioned agreements. I think it's great industry‑wide, but I'd tell you first of all from the fan perspective, and we hear it year after year, they want to know when the event is, they want longer lead time. Often this is their only vacation for the year, and so that's a huge responsibility, and it's something that we take very seriously, being able to give them that best experience.
The second thing is it's great for the visibility of our sport. It gives us the confidence to continue the investments that are necessary, but it also gives our stakeholders that certainty, as well. Communities love it, as well. They're able to plan their year‑round events.
DAVID HIGDON: You've got some non‑motorsports events down the road in Daytona, as well.
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: We do. During Memorial Day we have a three‑day country music festival, the Country 500, and we have a great star lineup. So you're going to see more and more of that at the tracks, and as we do the Daytona Rising renovation, it gave us an opportunity to reset the track and the way the facility is set up and we can bring in new events like that. I'd like to see that at other tracks down the road, too.
DAVID HIGDON: We'll take a couple questions from the media.
Q. I have a question concerning this project Daytona Rising. Is this also including the safety improvement maybe for fences?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: First of all, safety is our number one concern, both for our competitors and our fans, and we've made a number of improvements as far as the fence is concerned. I know the question was asked earlier, too, about the SAFER barriers. We have now installed 54,000 square feet just since the announcement‑‑ I'm sorry, linear feet, just since the announcement last July, so we're ahead of schedule with that, also.
Q. Can you let me know, Daytona International Speedway, does it have at any stage a corporation with the FIA in Paris?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: I'm not sure about how to answer that question. I apologize. The Rolex 24?
DAVID HIGDON: He's referring to the 24‑Hour‑‑ Lesa was actually at the 24 Hours of LeMans last year because of the partnership we have with FIA and of course the 24 hours of Rolex that will be coming up at Daytona in a couple weeks.
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: Couple weeks.
Q. Once it's finished, the finished product, what's the biggest "wow" factor for you? And second of all, what was the biggest logistical challenge in this whole project from your perspective?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: I feel like one of the biggest "wow" factors will be technology and how it'll be so much more interactive with the fans.
I think that you're going to see, we talked about our new mobile app, for instance, and it'll give fans the opportunity to go to reward stations and get prizes, all types of interactive events like that. I think they're going to enjoy it.
We're also going to have new larger high‑def video screens, so they're going to feel more up close and personal with the competition, the drivers, and what's going on at the track. And the one thing I love at Daytona but across all the facilities is that the wi‑fi capabilities, and we've all been to a stadium where you can't get out and you can't communicate out, and we have so many cool things that are going on, I want our fans to be able to be telling everybody what's happening there during the event, and I think that's going to be really good for all of us.
Q. What was the biggest challenge logistically in putting all of this together?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: We continued operating all of the events during the construction, so we actually would have to shut down the construction during certain time periods while we would put an event on, and then we would have to fire it back up. So those are sometimes challenging for us. But Joie and the team did a phenomenal job along with our contractor Barton Malow. They did a fantastic job with that.
Q. Lesa, you said you're ahead of schedule as far as SAFER barriers. Can you tell us kind of what the schedule is?
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: Yes. We are expanding them at all of our tracks, across the ISC tracks, and we've put in 54,000 linear feet of SAFER barriers to date. We're always going to continue to look with NASCAR and the University of Nebraska at other improvements down the road.
DAVID HIGDON: Lesa, thank you very much. Music to the ears to know that Phoenix and Richmond are up next. Believe me, we'll be very much in sync with ISC in terms of the media activities there, as well.
Thanks for joining us today, and have a good trip back to Daytona.
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: Thank you.
DAVID HIGDON: So that will conclude the formal portion of the program.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports