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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 20, 2004
JIM HUNTER: Hello. Once again, thank you for being a part of the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour hosted by Lowes Motor Speedway. This is the first of two media Tour visits this week to the NASCAR R&D Center; which was unveiled to many of you on this same Tour last year. While the R&D opening signaled another step in the progression of our sport, today's announcement also is geared to progressing our sport into the future. Today's program, will open with a video and will be followed by the announcement from NASCAR President Mike Helton. The final portion of today's event will feature a question and answer session regarding the announcement with Mike and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. Before we introduce the video, I would ask if everyone can please turnoff their cell phones and pagers or put them in silent mode. I assume all of you have NEXTEL cell phones. Thank you and now let's take a look at a video. (Video played).
MIKE HELTON: Thank you and good morning everyone for joining us here today. NASCAR has more fans than ever before, 75 million strong. Record numbers continue to attend races; in fact, 17 of the 20 largest sporting events last year were NASCAR races. Fans watching our races have driven NASCAR to be the No. 2 sport on television. The overall competitive balance and influx of young star power is better than ever. More Fortune 500 companies are involved in NASCAR than any other sport and most importantly, our sport has and will continue to make tremendous strides in the field of safety. Competition remains the core element in the driving force of NASCAR. Our racing attracts fans, sponsors, and some of the most talented athletes in the world and will continue to so in the future. Managing a product that's so successful and making calculated change over time is a consistent and important characteristic of successful businesses. NASCAR is not and should not be an exception. From Bill France Sr. to Bill France and now the third-generation leader, Brian France, NASCAR has had to make many important decisions over the course of its history. Some have come easily; some hard. Some have been openly accepted; others have not. Judging where NASCAR stands today NASCAR has a pretty impressive track record of making the right decisions. Looking as far as back as the 1940s when Bill France Sr.promoted stock car racing on the sands of Daytona Beach with the eventual move to asphalt ovals in the '50s and '60s change has sometimes been met with skepticism. It was on those sands where Bill Sr. was laying the foundation for what we have here today and those decisions were milestones in the natural progression of the sport. The idea of building high bank superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega created plenty of debate. It wasn't that long ago that some fault the idea of NASCAR races at Indianapolis was a mistake. But in each of those instances, everyone involved in NASCAR realized the true benefits. Key decisions can be found throughout NASCAR history. Those in recent years include bringing night racing to the forefront of the sport, and further developing marquis events. Expanding beyond NASCAR's traditional markets; negotiating a TV contract that moved NASCAR to network in a much larger capacity. Naming NEXTEL as a series sponsor. All those were key decisions that helped spur NASCAR's successes. And when I say "NASCAR," I am referring to everyone in our family: The drivers, teams, sponsors, tracks and fans have all benefited, in one form or another, from those decisions. While NASCAR has taken advantage of opportunities that were presented there were other times when we created our own opportunities. Today's announcement is one of those times as we move forward into 2004 and beyond. For NASCAR having one of the longest seasons in all of professional sports, it became obvious that we needed a different approach to enhance the interest and excitement over the course of the season. Modifications that we'll discuss today will focus more attention on our sport during the fall season when we're in competition with other major sports. This idea is ultimately in place to grow the sport as we move into the future. If growth is achieved, the sport's overall scope magnifies, and so does the value for those all involved; not just the Championship contending group - everyone. As we unveil this format today, I want to make it clear that we're not changing much as it pertains to the Championship Points System. We are awarding a race winner five more points for a minimum total of 180 points which is 10 more than the second-place finisher. This change will be in place for all three of our national series, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, the Busch Series, and the Craftsman Truck Series. But in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series alone we're modifying the format we use to determine the Champion. This new format will be known as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Chase for the Championship. Here's how it works: Following the 26th race, every driver in the Top-10, along with any team within 400 points of the leader, will have their points totals adjusted. The points leader at that stage will begin the final ten-race run for 5,050 points and each driver in the Chase for the Championship will trail in five-point increments. All other competitors will maintain their points total to that stage via the regular points system. We determined through extensive research in the championship models from previous years that this new model provides all title contenders an opportunity to compete and contend for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship. You take, for example, someone like Kurt Busch in the 2002 season, he was 365 points behind the leader, 12th in the Championship, with 10 to go. He wound up third. The new format, which adds emphasis on winning, he would have been eligible to compete for the Championship all along. Along those same lines, if a driver like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., tony Stewart, or any other drivers in the 8th, 9th or 10th place with ten races to go, and they know that they have a chance to win the Championship, they certainly will go for it. This format creates that opportunity for every driver who races his way into the Chase for the Championship. It should be noted that in the modern era which spans nearly 30 years no driver outside the Top-10 in points with ten races remaining, has ever won the Championship. The final ten races, nearly one-third of our season, will offer a strong cross-section of tracks featuring all sizes and types with the exception of a road course. It also provides a good mix of tradition rich (ph) tracks which is Atlanta, Darlington, Talladega, Martinsville, Charlotte, as well as the newer venues in Kansas City and Homestead, Miami. This is not a Playoff. Everyone of our events will continue to be Super Bowl-type races with all 43 drivers competing against each other at the same track to win a race. Those teams not in the Championship Chase continue to have an opportunity to improve their standing and increase their share of the Point Fund Bonus. The financial rewards through the Point Fund Bonus Program will guarantee a minimum of $1 million to all the drivers who finished in the final Top-10 standings. The Champion will receive a minimum of over $5 million. In addition, there will be increases for teams in positions 11 through 25. Also the 11th place in points will carry a $250,000 bonus in addition to its regular pay-off. The new format will provide that annual Championship drama from the beginning of our season to its end. NASCAR has always been willing to change in order to grow. We're very optimistic that the Chase for the Championship format will enhance the elements of the sport and add more late-season drama for our fans, catch the spotlight on our Championship contenders and add more value for all our sponsors. It certainly broadens the championship possibility for all our drivers. Thank you.
JIM HUNTER: At this time, I'd like to welcome NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France to join Mike Helton on the stage for our Q and A portion of the press conference. Due to our time constraints and respect to other media covering this event, we would appreciate it if you would keep the questions to today's subject. Should time permit we'll open the session to general questions.
Q. Obviously the first question is: There has been a lot of negative comment from fans and from participants. What do you guys say to that and are you concerned at how quickly you will be able to sort of win that public relations' battle?
BRIAN FRANCE: First, we have been anxious to get all the details, that's No. 1. We've been working on this plan for several months. We're excited about it. We know that our drivers and everybody else, when it all sinks in, when all the details are understood and as it unfolds they are going to have love it. They are going to love it because drivers are going to have an opportunity to compete for a Championship late in the year. We have got great racing now. It's going to even be better. When all that is understood as carefully as we understand it, and the fact that we're not going to exclude someone who has a legitimate chance to win a Championship - Mike talked about that in the 400-point scenario - when all of these details are understood, I think the fans are going to love what we've just done today.
Q. Brian, what ultimately will determine if this is a successful program? Is it going to come down to TV ratings, attendance, drivers in the Championship; what is going -- at the end of the day, what is going to be the decisions that this is the right thing?
BRIAN FRANCE: Our goal is to create more interest in the sport. Our goal is to make racing better. Our goal is to get more drivers a Championship. I will tell you this - I have talked to almost all of our drivers - they want the opportunity, they want the ball on the last two minutes. They want a chance to win. This plan is going to do this. I think you will see in September and October, all the way down the home stretch, you will see that more drivers are doing what this plan says they will do. They are going to be racing harder and competing more and that's how we're going to judge if it's successful or not.
Q. Mike and Brian, how do you envision the change in points scenario determining your schedule for 2005 and beyond? Do you see the change of tracks that you pick late season be different?
BRIAN FRANCE: I will tell you this, we're very pleased with the mix of tracks that we have currently. Realignment, as we said last year, is and ongoing annual process. It's not going to connect in anyway that is going to take away from what we're going to have today. We have got the right track mix. If realignment changes that down the road, we'll consider it, but right now we feel great about our current track mix.
Q. There's been some talk about sponsors bailing after the 26th week and that this may create a problem with filling up the fields, and there's been some talk about putting Busch cars in toward the end of season; what could you think about that?
BRIAN FRANCE: I don't think that's a reality whatsoever. As a matter of fact, if this plan works - and we're very confident it will - a driver who is in 15th place in the current points system, if you speed it up into this year, if there's more interest created, more people watching in the stands and on television, if I am in 15th place or 12th place or 25th place, when I win a race, that particular race where I am competing at a high level, I am delivering more sponsorship value for my sponsor. So the reality of it is it's going to lift everybody up even if you are not in the Chase of the Championship. We strongly considered that. We understand that this question is floating around out there, but again, while all the details are understood, the sponsorship values for everyone are going up.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how this how the seeds for this idea were planted and how long it really took to formulate the final plan?
BRIAN FRANCE: I support in a note that every year we had always looked at the points system. We have said we have a good points system. And we hadn't found, until this year, a point system that could make a good one great. In September, October, internally at NASCAR, the idea was proposed that had obviously many different generations. The first call I made when I heard this idea was to my father. He has got the experience. I wanted to hear from him. As a matter of fact, a lot of the things that he told me that night and later on, we tried to implement in this new system. So the system is created in NASCAR, but not without talking to everybody that we possibly could in the industry.
Q. Brian, why wasn't there a more -- a larger or more significant bonus provided for winning races?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we did add five. We still want consistency to matter. That's another thing that's important that while we think the balance might be slightly off today, we want to provide more incentive to performance, we don't want to go too far the other way; we have a long season; you want to be consistent when you win any Championship. So that was a lot of our thinking, but we did increase it.
Q. To follow-up on Jeff's question, for either of you, there was a lot of pre-press conference talk about placing more emphasis on winning. A lot of promoters, Mr. Wheeler here included, anticipated, for example, there being more money injected into purses for winning races. Is the five-point addition to the differential all that will be done to emphasize winning races or is there other money and other things to come in this process?
MIKE HELTON: First of all, the only change to our point system is adding the five points. The format will determine the Championship is what we're really talking about today. We concluded on the five points based on models that we could run over the past because it goes back to the fact that we believe in our current points system. We believe in rewarding the competitors that run the entire season, being consistent, and being there weekend-in and weekend-out. We landed on five points because five points over a 36-race season -- if the guy goes in 15 wins, that's 50 to 75 points. We looked at bigger numbers, but the models take us further away from what we believe our points system is and that's rewarding consistency. In regards to the prize monies, we negotiate every year with promotors on the additional prize money that goes into the events and the allocation of that prize money as it is distributed.
Q. I am wondering what your dad thought of the final product here?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think he likes it. I think he was always ready to make changes in a smart intelligent way when we needed to. He did that at Indianapolis when a lot of people thought that NASCAR wouldn't work well. He's done it over his career. And that's his mantra. We have got to get bigger. We can't stay the same. We certainly don't want to get smaller. But if you are me, you want his input all along the way. We have had that. This system is going to be a benefit for that.
Q. Is there a seeding process for the Top-10 with ten to go?
BRIAN FRANCE: The seeding process is how you finish after the 26 events. That's the seeding process. You did see that we did reward -- if you finish first, you have got a 45-point lead over the 10th place competitor after 26 and five points for every position in sequence, so we have -- we won't call that a seeding because what we're not going to call this is a Playoff. It's not a Playoff. It's not a single elimination. It not a win or lose and you are out. Not a best three out of five. It's better than all that because it still has consistency; still has 10 tracks over two and a half months to compete. We think we have got something that's better than the Playoffs.
Q. Have we heard all the details from you -- told us all the details of the change and will we still have a top-25 as far as the points fund at the end of the year?
BRIAN FRANCE: Oh, yeah, as a matter of fact, all the owner and driver plans that exist today will still be alive and well. And they are important to the sport. That doesn't change whatsoever.
MIKE HELTON: As we have mentioned earlier, there could be -- all 25, top 25, still are involved in the points fund. There's still two separate point funds; one for car owners; one for drivers. That didn't change. The provisionals that are based on points doesn't change. The winner's circle and other plans that we had don't change and they are all based on points fund and your participation goes straight up with the normal system all through, so everybody is competing the same for those points. One thing we haven't mentioned this morning that in addition to the $250,000 bonus for the 11th place is also exposure for the 11th spot in New York around the Banquet Summit, to add value to that eleventh spot, in addition to the money.
Q. Any provision or is there anything in this plan to ensure that a Jeff Gordon or a Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make the final 10 if they are not in position to make what you are talking about?
MIKE HELTON: It is what it is. After 26 races you have got to be either in the Top-10, which is a minimum, or the team has to be within 400 points of the points leader. That's it. That's the entire list of defaults to be involved in the Chase for the Championship.
Q. If 13 guys makes the final ten races, does the bonus paid 14th or does the bonus still pay 11th?
MIKE HELTON: It still pays 11th. And the reason being, through all the models and research we have done throughout the history of the sport, it is very rare for anyone to be past 10st place and be within 400 points. As I mentioned in my speech earlier, Dale Jarrett and Kirk Busch did do that in 2002, they were both within 400 points and they would be included. But most of the time it will be just the Top-10.
Q. The situation last year where the Champion who won one race; another guy who won eight races finished well back, how much of this is a reaction to that and also is this something that you are committed to now long-term or is this something you are going to take a look at the end of the year and review it?
BRIAN FRANCE: Very little because Matt Kenseth earned that Championship as did many great drivers before him under the current system. And as we have said so many times that we do look at it every year, and are we going to change it down the road? We have always said we'll make adjustments if we think we didn't get it just right. But on balance, we believe this is going to work. We don't have a history of flip-flopping all over the place on major decisions. We're not going to Indianapolis every once in a while. We go every year. We know this decision is a good one and is there one thing we can tweak in the outyears to make it slightly better? Who knows and we'll be willing to do that if we think we should.
Q. Anyway that we can look at the data that you guys did some of the modelling? I mean, that might be -- that would be a nice spotter for columns for a while?
BRIAN FRANCE: You'd need a lot of coffee and you'd need some reading glasses and a lot of patience because our team did a magnificent job going through all kinds of and every conceivable scenario that we could think of. As I said, a lot of that came - and I know we did reach out to a lot of people and a lot of that valuable input is what we went back into the table to see if we could add something or take something into consideration - but we're not in the business of releasing every inch of detail.
MIKE HELTON: Most of your information you can get in the media reviews.
Q. That's what I am saying, I have got to do this myself. (Laughter)?
MIKE HELTON: Sorry.
Q. I understand the comment about all will rise if this succeeds, but I do have a question about sponsorship and the value to the sponsors. That is, in the broad test of your final ten races, how do you ensure that TV cameras and the commentary isn't exclusively on those drivers who have made the Chase for the Championship, you know, to the exclusion of everybody else, and the exposure those sponsors want or is that a concern of yours?
BRIAN FRANCE: If you think about it today, they are going to cover the important stories of the race. They cover -- if Matt Kenseth who led, as everyone knows in the fall, there was a lot of attention to how he was goes going to do in a given race. The difference is there's going to be more interesting stories; more people are going to compete for the Championship and even people who aren't competing for the Championship are going to be interjected into the story because there's going to be more interest for that particular event. So there will be more significance, if I am in 14th place, if I am in 18th place, and I win that day or I compete and run up front, then the networks are going to cover that story because that's -- because our events still are, you know, matters who wins the event. The Championship is important, but winning the race is critically important especially to 43 guys that are out there who think they need to and should.
MIKE HELTON: It's important to remember that this format change is not to replace exposure. It is to grow exposure. It is not to replace a storyline, but it is to create another in addition to some other. We're not changing the race format; we are not changing how we qualify or how we run 500 or 400 miles. All we're changing is the format to determine the Champion. All those other storylines should stay there. We just want this one to be another one and, broaden, quite frankly, all the other storylines.
BRIAN FRANCE: We weren't in a position to share all the details because we didn't have all the details, so as a consequence, anybody who was thinking about what we were going to do, didn't know all the facts. But that goes with the territory. What also goes with the territory is when you make changes, and I am no different as a sports fan or my favorite restaurant or whatever it is, and you tell me you are going to change it, I immediately get a little bit nervous. But over time I will get comfortable with whatever changes there are and so will our drivers, if it's the right thing to do, and it is, they are going to get comfortable with it. Our fans are going to love it because it's going to make racing even better than it is today. So you know, while we look at that, it's not something that deters us from moving ahead and doing the right thing.
Q. You discussed increasing exposure, but this is a more complicated points system than any other sport than I know. How do you address new fans who may not understand this?
BRIAN FRANCE: That's actually one of the reasons that we think we landed on this particular system. I don't believe that it is more complicated than other systems. Frankly, it's more easy to understand that the old system. So I think it's pretty straightforward, where you are in contending races; if you are in the Top-10 or with 400 points you are within striking distance, and it's how you perform in those final ten races in two and a half months will win the Championship. I don't think that's complicated. We think our fans will respond to that.
Q. Is this new formula that you guys have come up with, is it car owner points driven or driver points driven and is there any consideration given to a team that might have a driver in the Top-10 who is injured during one of those ten races?
MIKE HELTON: To answer your first question, yes, it was both actually for car owners and drivers. We're not changing the fundamentals of our points system. The rule book is very clear about there being two groups of points, and there's one for owners and one for drivers. We never intended to change those, that fundamental process that's historically part of NASCAR stays that way. We did have great debate on okay, what happens now if we have a driver in the last ten races and something keeps him from participating in the race. We landed on keeping the position that we have today throughout the entire season is that you have to be participating in the event to get points. We have rules that spell that out. Those stay the same. The car owners still have a points chase. They will be treated the same in the last ten races if they are in the Top-10 or within 400 as the drivers will be. You still have two distinct points battles; one, the car owners and one for the drivers.
BRIAN FRANCE: As it is today, if I may add to that.
Q. Could you tell me why there wasn't consideration to giving a bonus points for qualifying?
MIKE HELTON: There was consideration, but at the end of the day with the -- two things. One: The single-engine rule that was being implemented a couple of years ago worked very well, and there was some concern around if there were points for qualifying, what engine builders or car owners might do; particularly, economically, to drive that out of sync. The second and probably the biggest reason is that qualifying is something that has a fallback procedure to it in the rule book. We don't have to have qualifying in order to run the event. We have to have the event. We have to run the race in some form or fashion for it to be complete. But we have a method in the rule book to determine the qualifying order if mother nature or whatever, keeps us from doing it. It wouldn't be fair as often as unfortunately we seem to have to go to the rule book to set the field for those points to be distributed in qualifying. Again, the third reason is that the heritage of our points system is based on the race itself and we chose to keep it that way.
Q. What happens if after the 26 races say your first- and second-place drivers, say second place is only three point or two points behind. Are you not, in essence, almost penalizing them a few points?
MIKE HELTON: It could be seen that way if it happened. It's unusual for it to happen, but it could, you are right. But it is what it is. I think the strong thing to remember here is that the strength of NASCAR and it's competitors participating in it is to know what they are up against. We detail it out and scenarios will happen. Scenarios have happened in our history that change -- that calls us to tweak things, but to come out of the box, it's a five-point spread between the first, second, third, fourth, so forth, and that's the way we'll go through it. If we see that not to be right, we may adjust it and do something different, but that's the way it is coming out.
Q. In the consulting process, did you folks talk to any owners and drivers and (2) maybe not so much for current sponsors, but for future sponsors, you worry how this system might affect sponsorship for teams?
BRIAN FRANCE: We did talk to various team owners and drivers, as we said earlier, and we just believe strongly that it's going to positively affect sponsorship for the right reasons because if you are creating more interest and, by the way, it's not just more interest in the last ten races. There's going to be more interest in August. There will be more urgency in the spring because you better be in the Top-10 or you better be in the transfer position, so we think all the way through, the sponsorship values are going to look better in a few years than they look today and they look very good today.
Q. Could you be a little more specific about what you found in the fall? Were the ratings down; by how much? Was the attendance down; by how much?
BRIAN FRANCE: They are always down a little bit when other -- the NFL and the World Series, as Mike said, it is a very competitive time. They are always down. You can get the percentages from our group. That's part of what drives you, if you are us, because you want to capture the attention all the time; not part of the time. But what really captured our attention was that's going to be a benefit getting more people to follow NASCAR, but making the racing even better; giving our drivers, more drivers, an opportunity to win a Championship late in the season is exciting and the right thing to do. That's what drove us to this decision.
Q. You talked a lot about this morning about the fan aspect, the fans are going to love it. We solicited fans to respond to an e-mail form. We got hundreds of them all against this. What do you say to the fans out there who are going to be so opposed to this? You mentioned you did a lot of research. Did you talk to fans about this?
BRIAN FRANCE: We did. We did a lot of research ourselves. I saw a lot of those polls. I saw the way they were questioned too. "How do you feel about NASCAR's radical change in the points system?" - Without any of the benefits, without any of the facts and some of the -- a lot of the facts weren't available, in fairness to whoever was generating those polls. But if you tell the average race fan that many drivers can win a Championship; that the drivers are going to have more incentive to race harder, how in the world can any of our fans over time, once this unfolds, think anything other than then that's a great plan. Now, like I said, any change, is a natural reaction don't do anything? Sure. Do we realize that polling data are going to come back and say don't do anything? Of course. But we're not going to run the sport with our finger in the air on polling data. We're going to look at it but we are going to do things that we know in the end of the day our fans are going to gravitate to. We're confident of that.
MIKE HELTON: The primary reason why it wasn't was with the combination of events that we had, particularly the Busch Series and the Cup and the Cup drivers who participated in the Busch Series, we felt like this type of system could promote a driver from the Cup garage to go back into the Top-10; then race the last ten races in that series and become the Champion without running the entire season. And that's not what the intent of this program is. So it's basically come down to the Cup involvement that goes back and forth into the Busch and the truck series. The NEXTEL Cup is the ultimate, where you have the drivers, the Cup drivers competing against each other every week.
MIKE HELTON: That's not changing. We have heard and have a lot of input from competitors about making the points at the back end the same at some point; whether it's 30th, 33rd, 40th or what have you. So we started asking well, why? Why would you do that? Well, that way I don't have to come back out. Well, you don't have to come back out if you don't want to. But they feel like they should. So instead of addressing that by points, because it's driven by a few competitors based on their reaction to very few race tracks. So if you establish that type of a point position, it's not good across the board, not at all 36 races. So we can approach the issues that they had by other ways, by rule making process and a standard that the car has to meet before it can go back out, raising the minimum speed, we can do different things to accomplish that without messing with the (inaudible).
Q. The leader after the 26 races, is there anything in place to sort of compensate him or was there something considered to compensate him for potentially having a huge lead wiped out and having a bunch of guys much closer to catching him?
MIKE HELTON: There was a lot of dialogue and conversation about that and we ultimately landed on the strength around the Championship. That's what we think is the prize apple in our sport and anything else that you do, whether it's the guy leading after 26 or what have you, to take away from that, is not the right thing to do. A little bit of that, though, led to us spreading the economics to the Top-10 a little bit more. So if a guy was running second or third and had a bad run, he -- still being locked into the Top-10 the rewards are better.
BRIAN FRANCE: Add to that, what Mike just said, there also is a 45-point advantage that will have over the 10th place driver. That could be very significant because what we're talking about is tightening things up, more drivers and all those things competing, those could be very, very valuable points under the new system. They are valuable now.
Q. Whose exactly brainchild was this idea and once you got the big idea, you went to your dad, what specifically did he suggest?
BRIAN FRANCE: The author of this plan was a number of people within NASCAR. We don't personalize things within the organization. Frankly, it was a work-in-progress so that's the answer to the first part. My dad had a lot of the same concerns that had been raised by our drivers, and by many of you in the media, was to make sure that if we -- we didn't exclude anybody who legitimately had a chance to win a Championship. That was something that he felt strongly about. He wanted us to look at ramifications, sponsorship, all kinds of things, and he was consistent with a lot of people, and he did it early, so that helped us get a good quick start.
MIKE HELTON: After 26 races it is what it is. Whatever is in the chase, starting the 27th, finishes the entire season that way.
Q. How will you guys regulate the potential for teammates that are not in contention?
MIKE HELTON: Same way we do today. We're mindful of that. I think in the past several years, the team ownership has expanded. We have been very mindful and having dialogue personally with team owners who were involved in the points battle towards the end of the season, but also mindful of that issue from day one, from the first race in Daytona. So far we have not seen it be a factor on the racetrack but if it becomes one we'll react to it.
Q. Obviously the guy who has led the most races will probably be in the Top-10 after 26 races. This is a new system; haven't seen how it works yet. But is it more likely, less likely or about the same under this system that the driver who wins the most races also will win the Championship?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's a little hard to tell because there's still a huge consistency dynamic to this -- to the new system because it is ten races over all the tracks that we talked about, two and a half months, still going to play a role and, you know, it's going to be tighter, more people are going to be competing. And how will that affect things? We know it's all positive because -- what we're seeing is you are going to have to race harder; you are going to have more people around you who are trying to seize that Championship - that's what we're all about, competition - and how that exactly affects who wins the most. I suspect that if I were a driver - and I don't think this is any different today - I want to win every race anyway, or win the Daytona 500, in every step I do because it's all about momentum too. Guys want to, you know, in mid-September, August, they want to be gearing up to having their team in a position to be able to compete in the final stretch, the Chase for the Championship.
Q. How did you arrive at the 5,050 figure for the leader?
MIKE HELTON: After a good deal of conversation about that, after 26 races, everyone has a certain number of points. We talked about zeroing out the Top-10 and giving given (inaudible)^ 60 points or 45. That didn't seem to be right. That just didn't seem to make sense for the 10 folks that were racing for the Championship to have less points than the guy in 11th or 12th. So the concept was -- is that those -- whoever is participating in the Chase for the Championship, whether it's ten or fifteen, should be at a level higher so we came up with 5,000 based on the fact that after 26 races no one can have 5,000. We started with the 5,050 at the top of the conversation, the mathematical equation that ultimately got us to that point after the philosophical conversation.
Q. When you did your research on this, over the last ten years how many different Champions would you have, had this been in place over the last ten years?
MIKE HELTON: Not many. Maybe two, I think if I remember correctly, two or three. And what you don't know though is if this format was this place over the last ten years, how strategy would have changed and made that different anyway. And that's an unknown that we have to factor into this.
JIM HUNTER: This is going to conclude our press conference today. On behalf of NASCAR, I'd like to thank everyone for coming. We look forward to seeing you back here Thursday. Thanks.
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