Q. We're all familiar with the challenges in the economy going on these days. Where do you see opportunities for NASCAR that maybe you haven't looked at before or new things coming on deck for 2010?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, to me it's about making sure that race teams, starting with the teams, that they have their new business model figured out, because it's changed drastically. Same with our tracks. So I would say that's still the priority.
Obviously, we're on our way to doing some things that are going to be more appealing to what we see as an emerging green economy, where new companies, new technologies are coming out. They're going to need to build their brands, build their companies' awareness, their technologies. We're going to be a very, very important place for those companies to invest in in the future. We're doing a lot of things in that area that will give us a chance to convince them to join into this sport.
And then, you know, we obviously have a variety of things. We've got a new car coming online that everybody is very excited about in the Nationwide Series. We have the car in the Sprint Cup Series, I think where most of the teams and drivers have now figured that car out and then some, and the racing always can be better, but we're looking to keep building on that.
Then we're going to have an historic thing. It's very likely that Jimmie Johnson is going to be a reigning four-time champion. I can't say that with any more admiration than I have, what that means to the historic dynamics of this sport, and can he go for number five? We'll be looking at all the things you would expect us to look at in the off season to make the racing in 2010 even better.
Q. The hot topics this year were the Jeremy Mayfield situation – how confident are you in the drug policy you have? And also Talladega, the drivers were so critical there. What are you looking at doing specifically there, if anything?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, look, taking the first things first, on the drug policy, we believe that we made the right decisions to make an already tough policy even more tough. We think we have to do that with the circumstances that go on in the country today and in sports in general, and the fact that we have a 200-mile-an-hour racecar, we think it was very imperative that we improve our follow, which we did. We will stand behind that, very clearly.
In the future, when it comes to Talladega, there were a lot of things that were sort of in my view mispresented. We had an exciting race. I know a lot of people will debate that. In Talladega, when you look at lead changes, whatever else, we had an exciting race. But we always look very carefully at Talladega in the fall, because it changes. It was the bump-drafting that we didn't create a new rule, but what we obviously did was made sure the old rule was carefully followed.
But usually what comes out of Talladega in the fall, as to what we adjust, if anything, but usually we'll make adjustments going into Daytona, because it's a similar package for the teams, the superspeedway, plate racing, all that. We always learn things out of the last Talladega race that serve us better when we kick off the Daytona 500.
I know our group has already had some tests. We tested Monday and Tuesday after with various packages at Talladega. We'll be looking at those in the future. Those are our signature races, no question about it. Starting with the Daytona 500, going to the Pepsi 400, going to Talladega twice, those are the highest television-rated races. We've got to make sure that the racing is safe for sure, and then we need to make sure that it's a typical Talladega, Daytona kind of race. That's what we'll be working on.
Q. Brian, I'm sure you saw there was a story this week talking about how a lot of top teams still have inventory available for sponsors next season. By my count there are at least five teams that ran the full season this year that are either going away next year or looking to scale back because of sponsorship. With all that in mind, do you think there will still be full fields next year? Is it a case that maybe NASCAR needs to adjust its business model for a Sprint Cup team? It seems, with the economy getting back in things, the cost structure is out of whack.
BRIAN FRANCE: The cost structure is a function of the free market and what is available at the time in terms of sponsorship, in terms of other related revenues that the teams can obtain. We had this same conversation this time last year when the economy was even worse. There were a lot of predictions.
There are always teams at this time of year that are under-funded, that are looking for sponsors. That's not anything new. I think clearly the sponsorship market is tougher than it's ever been in my memory. I don't anticipate that getting remarkably better. Although I will tell you we're starting to see, get inquiries in our New York group, the teams which do the selling of the sport, they're starting to feel the ice thawing on that. I think you'll see some companies over the off season that are very close to joining us at one level or another.
It doesn't mean it will be all perfect from a sponsorship standpoint, everybody will have everything that they want from a sponsorship on the car standpoint, you know. For that matter, the tracks are working hard to renew and secure their track sponsorships. They're doing a pretty good job of that.
My sense is it will be difficult, but it's going to be fine. It will get better because we still have the best value proposition in sports. Despite any of the other dynamics going in or around us, it's still the only place you can brand on the playing field in the manner that we do. We're very proud of that, and we've always built around that, and we will continue to.
Q. On the topic of cost containment, is there any low-hanging fruit left? If there is, what areas would you like to go into to contain costs?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, there's no low-hanging fruit, but it's a core competence of ours historically to be able to take costs out of the system. It's fundamental to us. We've been talking about it for 60 years. There are a lot of motorsports divisions that sometimes it's important and sometimes it's not, depending on who you are.
The reality is there are some things left. I talked about accelerating policy that obtains that. You'll be hearing about the scoring, electronic scoring, that we use, and we have used, and can we go fully electronic. If we did that, what would it save the teams who have to provide scores, other related things. It's in the millions of dollars. We'll be looking at that obviously very carefully. We'll be looking at anything we can on the track's behalf, on the team owners' behalf to do things that don't affect the quality of racing, per se. I understand that's sometimes a subjective proposition, but what are the things we can do to take their cost model down. We'll be working very hard on those over the off season.
Q. This has been the first full year of the no-testing policy. The policy is announced for next year. It relaxes the restrictions a little bit and broadens the universe of racetracks they can go to slightly. Do you anticipate looking at that on a year-to-year basis and perhaps as the economy improves to evolve back to the policy that was in effect prior to this year? Have you seen any perceptible effect of the no-testing policy versus testing on the level of competition?
BRIAN FRANCE: I would answer this way. There's some balance between no testing at all, which is the best savings equation for the teams, for sure, and having testing the way it was done in the past, which was a lot of testing. There's more publicity for the markets when teams are testing, getting the events revved up in advance. Rookies, teams that are behind from a competition standpoint, can make up some ground in the testing deal if it's available to them. So there's some perfect balance.
We obviously have chosen to go the route of the cost savings, knowing that that has some consequences that are not perfect for all the things I just described.
As we can dial it back, as the economy gets better, we will. I don't think we'll dial it back to the level we were two or three years ago where there was an enormous cost, some benefit, but too much cost. So we'll be dialing it as we go, as we watch the economy.
Q. The Chase format was intended to do a lot of things, like get more publicity during the time when football is starting up, the baseball playoffs, so forth, maybe cause more excitement. With Jimmie about to wrap up his fourth straight championship, there's a lot of people complaining it's become boring. This year particularly there hasn't been a whole lot of excitement. What is your feeling about the Chase? Is the format right? Does it need changes?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, look, what I wouldn't want to do is take away the accomplishment that Jimmie, his team, as I said earlier in my remarks. In this format, to dominate four straight years is incredibly difficult to do. But we could not have predicted anyone having as good a performance as Jimmie has had, to be able to achieve what he did, therefore taking away some of the things that the Chase will deliver in normal sets of circumstances.
To me, it's all in how you want to look at it. If you want to look at it that some of those teams that you would think would have been closer coming into today, you're missing that, yes, but you're getting a performance that's historic. You know, you can certainly look at it any way you want. But obviously we look at the adjustments in terms of the format every year anyway. You've heard me say that. We will be looking at that again to see if we can make it better.
But we love the premise of the Chase. History, specific performances dictate how it plays out. That's where we are today.