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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 20, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We're starting off Championship Four Day here in Homestead‑Miami with the chairman and CEO of NASCAR, Brian France. He wants to touch on a couple things related to the racing the last couple days, certainly on Tony, and one of our partners whose last day is today.
I'll turn it over to you, Brian, to kick things off.
BRIAN FRANCE: Obviously, we're very proud of Daniel Suarez last night in an unbelievable run and winning the championship. Historic for the sport in many ways. I got some nice calls from people south of the border last night that are very proud of him, and we're very proud of him.
We're very proud that it validates our diversity plan in a significant way. All kinds of conversations on what we've said through the years is these things take time to find the kind of talent that can actually compete at a high level on the biggest stages, and he's done that.
So we're very proud of him. I would tell you, without the driver diversity program, with certainty, Daniel Suarez is not in NASCAR. We're very pleased with that program.
Obviously we're pleased today because it's Tony Stewart's final race with us. We're going to wish him well. He put on one of the great performances I've ever seen a number of years ago with Carl Edwards, his ability to come back through the field, all that stuff. He's had a great career with us.
Then today culminates what we're all excited about, which is the close, tight competition. For all the media and everybody else that said, formats, different things, drivers race as hard as they can, it really doesn't do much, right? We now know that's not true, because last night as an example, running consistently in the top four were the four drivers competing for the championship.
I bet today that you'll see those kind of performances come to the forefront. And I think, who knows, but probably going to have to win the race today to win the championship. That's exactly what we like. It's exactly what our fans like.
With that I'm happy to take any questions.
Q. Brian, I think a lot of people in here are interested, it was mentioned that Sprint is going out, but also your perspective on the new entitlement search and if you're happy with that process at this time?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's taken a little longer than I thought, but it's also a big agreement and an important agreement. It's not just dollars and cents, but it's a fit for us. We don't want to announce anything certainly around this weekend.
We're in a good spot with that, I believe, but we'll have to see how it finally plays out.
Q. Mr.France, you talk about this being a family sport, the family that is NASCAR. Obviously you're at the head of that. Your family, starting with your grandfather and father. Can you talk about the legacy you're going to be carrying on in the future. Also, when it comes to the history of NASCAR and the history of the sport, why should fans care about the history of the sport and what would you tell the new fans and old fans about the history of the sport and how it relates and its importance to the future?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's real simple: It's about the safest, most competitive form of racing in the world. It's that simple.
It's evolves. The drivers, the equipment, the manufacturers, the speedways, evidenced at Daytona this year, all evolve. That's normal in sports. But that's the premise of it. The premise of it also is it has to be a fair, balanced playing field where teams who compete and follow the rules have a real shot to win.
Good, smart parity between the manufacturers and others. We have that, too. Evidence of that, the three manufacturers all in the Chase final four today. That's really about as simple as it gets.
Q. Brian, the economic health of the sport. You mentioned the title sponsor has taken longer than you expected. Why has it taken 23 months? How do you view the current state of the team business model? There's signs of more consolidation in the garage, teams potentially dropping cars, laying off employees. In light of that, would you consider reducing charter or field size?
BRIAN FRANCE: The first part of that question, it's a complicated agreement. We typically don't start that 24 months out, by the way. It's not how it works. But I'm confident we're going to end up in a really good spot.
The other part of that is normal. You got teams that compete at a high level and do well. You have some teams that for whatever the reasons can't compete at such a high level, and they have some problems. That's throughout our history. Not abnormal at all.
Q. Brian, as you celebrate your first foreign driver winning a NASCAR championship, certainly there will be those who will raise questions about your support earlier this year of the president‑elect Donald Trump.
BRIAN FRANCE: I'll stop you right there.
First of all, nobody wants to hear my political views. Not one person on this stage wants to hear from me politically. So I won't be talking about that.
But on my diversity, nobody, nobody in this company, has worked harder, done more and resourced it better than me. I founded the Diversity Council. I fought for every single thing that makes sense, because that's my core belief about diversity. It's very, very important. I talk about it frequently.
And my efforts there should never be challenged, no matter what my political views might be. That's a ridiculous thing to do.
Q. TV ratings have declined for most of the Chase races. Few of the races have been sellouts. Do you believe this format is resonating with the fan base?
BRIAN FRANCE: Yeah, you're seeing TV ratings slide all over the place in sports, right? You're seeing all kinds of things happen in TV ratings. The big events, they go one way, the digital audience is consuming things different. We're no different from that. It's not a surprise on that.
Attendance has been fine. We've come off weather issues like we did in Phoenix a year ago. We don't have Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt. Needless to say, there's going to be a little impact there.
(Indiscernible) huge crowd. It could always be better, but we're pleased with where we're at.
Q. Brian, the NFL and NASCAR have similar challenges, but you also have conflicts being that they play a lot on Sunday. They're the champions of Sunday. Do you and Roger Goodell, people in your various organizations, have discussions on how to reduce conflicts or solve similar problems?
BRIAN FRANCE: Yeah, we have a good relationship with all the leagues. I personally have good relationships with various commissioners. We can't always figure out everything, but we have good conversations, generally speaking, especially on issues with safety. We're happy to help anybody in that area, which we have by the way. And scheduling, all the rest, we have good relationships.
They have a business to run and so do we, so it doesn't always work out.
Q. Has any additional thought been given to adding bonus points or something to the winner of the regular 26‑race season?
BRIAN FRANCE: Yeah, you know, we're going to think about that. I think that's a fair thing for us to consider, to make sure that the regular season is as important as it is. So I don't know exactly how we'll do that, but we'll look at that.
Q. Has there been any more discussion about bringing in additional manufacturers?
BRIAN FRANCE: Yes, yes, but we're not in a position to make that announcement.
Q. Just wondered if you could maybe talk about the charter system, having had a full year, your thoughts on it, how you see it evolving?
BRIAN FRANCE: Charters are going to be a long process for us. We got it done. That's the most important thing.
But forget the value part of it. The things that we're going to be able to do are going to take many, many years to achieve our end goal, which is to really lower costs in the industry by working with our interests better aligned with the teams, that's number one, which will affect their values going forward.
But some of the things are not going to change, of course, like you got to compete at a high level, you've got to get sponsorship, you've got to have a manufacturing relationship. Those things don't change, nor should they.
But the benefit of collectively working together in particular to get the rules packages both better, more exciting for the fans, and much lower cost over time, it's the hardest thing in racing to do. And frankly, few ever achieve it, or at least consistently achieve it.
We are after that deal. We couldn't do that without the teams aligned together with us like they are, okay?
Q. I understand that ratings are down in all sports, but nothing impacts it more than in NASCAR where the teams rely on it to find sponsorship. Your attendance is down. You still haven't announced a series sponsor for next year.
BRIAN FRANCE: Let me stop you. Maybe what you don't realize, or maybe you to realize, we report our attendance, right? We have publicly traded companies. We don't have publicly financed facilities for the most part. All the other leagues have that benefit, so they can discount tickets, give them away. That's not reported. So we're in a little bit of a double standard on that, number one.
Number two, we are still very pleased with our position in sports. The audience isn't going away at all. It's sliding to different places, consuming in different ways.
I would tell you some other leagues that have 30% drop‑offs, they didn't lose 30% of their audience from one moment to the next, that audience is just sliding and consuming in some different ways. Our digital consumption is off the charts.
I want to tell you a little something. I watched the other day, as an example, I'm a sportsfan, so I watched a Duke Blue Devils game, after they had played, in like a six‑ or seven‑minute recap of the game. It was pretty good. Maybe it was a little longer than that. I didn't watch the game on TV, but I watched it fairly intense with my laptop.
So things are happening and sliding and moving around. It will all work out. Sports, in the end, us included, will always have a huge, big audience. So whether ratings are sliding over here, spiking at times over here, that will all work out.
Q. So you're happy with the health of the sport?
BRIAN FRANCE: I'm happy with the health of the sport. Would I obviously like to have, you know, everything perfect? Of course, I would. But that's sports. That's a competitive business. The model is changing a little bit, too, maybe not even in a way that we wouldn't like to see.
We're pleased with the health of the sport. The facilities are getting improved and are working and are good, so...
Q. What you're talking about right now revolves around the question I was going to ask. Years ago we had stories about NASCAR, that fans were watching it in new ways, that leagues knew how to better entertain fans, making sporting events more exciting by changing rules. All of that years ago revolved around NASCAR. Now we're seeing the NFL, ratings drop, they are making new rules. Do you think NASCAR is ahead of the game in all of this?
BRIAN FRANCE: I don't know. I don't think so. They've been working on their things, too. I think there's a lot of changes going on. A lot of changes in entertainment, period, right? Prime time is very different than it was ten years ago, five years ago. You've got Netflix as an example. You've got all kinds of things that are changing in the media world.
The interest level, sports in general, is still the best of anything that's available as it was five or ten years ago. Maybe it's changing around, but it's still the best. We're in there in a significant way.
Q. Brian, I was just wondering if what we've seen this weekend, if you could assess adding the Chase to the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series, and then your thoughts on the caution clock, if it's done what it's intended to?
BRIAN FRANCE: I obviously love it. I love to see what I saw last night and Friday night, for that matter. And we think there's other ideas that are still yet to be determined, if they're transferrable or working just how we want them.
But so far, so good. We're very pleased with the formats. Wouldn't change a thing. The result of it is this: better racing that our fans get to see. That's the benefit of the format. Not just because we're trying to do different things. We're trying to do things that make the racing better and bring out the best in our drivers and our teams. That's what this does.
Go back a year ago for the XFINITY Series. I don't fault them, but you had the winner and the champion and a couple others talk about all they needed to do was finish the race. If I ran 30th, I'll be okay. Well, that's not really great for great competition.
Speed it up to this year, you had all four, 1‑2‑3‑4 thinking they got to win the race, forget about finishing. That's a big deal for auto racing. We're bold enough to do that. Anywhere in the world, that doesn't always happen.
Our drivers have been great because it requires a different mindset to compete at this level. They're up to it. They may have had some reservations early on, but they're up to it, so it's great.
Q. Brian, there were driver participation guidelines issued a couple weeks ago for the XFINITY and Truck Series, limiting Sprint Cup drivers participating in those series. Why do you think it was important to do that now? What do you feel like the net effect will be?
BRIAN FRANCE: You saw it. I think you saw it. Cup drivers obviously were able to compete in events, but you saw the championship get settled down to the series participants.
I think it worked perfectly. We talked about it for a long time. I'm glad we did it. It got a very worthy champion in Daniel Suarez. It fit perfectly with our Chase format, too, by the way. So it worked on a lot of different fronts.
One last thing, and I'll say this in the drivers meeting, too, then we'll wish the Sprint folks really well as they leave us after this event. They've been a really good partner for 12 years. We do appreciate everything they've done.
Thank you all for everything you've done, too. I know this is a hard, long sport to cover. It's weekends, difficult. We don't thank you enough for the effort you do. I don't love everything you write and say, but I suppose I'm not the only sports executive to say that. Nonetheless, thank you all for everything and have a great holiday season once we're completed. See many of you in Las Vegas.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports