Q: The details of competition within the Nationwide Series seems to be one of the most difficult issues that NASCAR has been dealing with lately, trying to resolve participation on the part of Cup drivers, there are a lot of people waiting in the garage to find out and a lot of strong voices in the garage offering a lot of different opinions on that. Can you give us any indication of where that might be leading for next year, and, if not, when can we expect to hear something about that?
BRIAN FRANCE: You will be hearing about that in January. We want to see the Nationwide Series have its own identity, very similar to what college football does for the NFL. That's a great analogy for us. And what we don't want to see is Sunday and Saturday homogenized, just completely homogenized.
So we want to see Cup involvement, absolutely, fans want to see that, buy tickets, we get it. We also want to make sure the Nationwide Series is helping us find stars that stay there for a little while, earn their stripes and move up; back to when I think Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. might have been the last one, matter of fact, maybe one other, who actually went that way, the way we would like to see.
It's very crowded in how many seats are available in the Nationwide division, given so much crossover. So we'll deal with that. That's the kind of policy things that we will try to weigh properly and make sure that we are developing more stars with their own identity; at the same time, not throwing out a lot of things that are working.
It's delicate, how to do that, but we have been at this for a number of months studying the idea of making Saturday have a better – it's more so its own identity. But you have to remember, it's the second most popular form of motorsports by a wide margin. So whatever we would do, we have to be careful, we don't want to throw out too many things that are working properly. Everybody would like to have the ratings and attendance and sponsorship and everything else that goes with that series, but we'll balance that correctly. That's what we do. We have got Steve O'Donnell and his team have been looking at all of the options to make sure it's all balanced in a better way, and we'll figure it out.
Q: Everybody has had trouble selling out lately, but this is a hot championship race, and it seems like over the years, where this place [Miami] has embraced Orange Bowls, Super Bowls, World Series, it has not quite gotten its arms around NASCAR and its enthusiasm doesn't always show in attendance and just the fire around town. Is any consideration being given to the possibility of taking the finale somewhere where it might create more obsession and excitement on the part of the community, such as a Las Vegas, or even I've had countless fans say the NASCAR season ought to begin at Daytona and end at Daytona.
BRIAN FRANCE: Obviously you were not at the Zac Brown concert at Miami Beach last night, because in the rain, there was quite a crowd for that – I'm kind of kidding. (Laughter).
No, look, this has actually been a good market for us and I would disagree with that. I think we have had big crowds here. There's always the temptation and other tracks that would like to host the finale. Daytona wouldn't work from a spacing standpoint. It's too close to February and I don't want to be sitting here with three or four drivers who think Daytona would be the place they needed to finish the season; we might have our hands full trying to manage that one.
But we always have the issue – could it work better here or work better there. But this is a great market for our fans to come down, spend a few days, there's lots to do. It's also a competitive place. You know, the weather, the sunshine, the Keys are just to the south and the beaches to the east and on and on and on. But we understand.
But this is a great championship market, and the track has done a number of things over the years, not the least of which is to get the banking right where the drivers think this is a really fair track to settle things. You don't hear that somebody runs better here or there, but they like this layout. So we are pretty comfortable with this market and we'll obviously look at it as we go down the road.
Q: A lot of drivers have come in over the last couple of weeks say that they want shorter races, they want shorter, I guess, laps and times and shorter schedule; it's all short, short, short. You look at the NFL, they are running on Sunday, they run on Monday, they run on Thursday, they run on Saturday during playoffs and they run on Sunday. The buzz is a constant thing. Have you looked at changing the schedule to where we could see weekly racing, so we could see the buzz carried throughout the week?
BRIAN FRANCE: We obviously have limitations, because the size of our events and the idea that our fans have got to drive further, stay longer, makes that difficult to get back to work, etc. We don't have hometown teams, so every one of our events is a mega-event of some sort. So that's difficult for us.
We are looking at shortening races as we go along. We shortened California this time around; we think that made for a very good event. So on the margins, we'll look at when that makes sense to shorten certain races that we think will get a better competitive product on the track, if it was a little bit shorter, we look at Nationwide events, with that same thing in mind.
Q: Would it be better for the sport if someone other than Jimmie Johnson won the championship? And ratings, with the kind of hype and excitement and closeness, is that something that is not going to be an immediate deal; that we could see improvement, but it wouldn't be just the next week, is my question.
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I think the first part of your question, you know, I think Jimmie – that's a subjective thing. Jimmie can make history with winning five in a row, which is an incredible feat. And if he does, then that would be an unbelievable thing for him to do. So that's that.
On the ratings, you know, we did a lot of things for a while. Notably, we rolled out a car that was in the short run, not very popular with anyone. And we took a long time to figure out as an industry how to, you know, get past that. And then we did some things, as I said earlier, for other reasons – moving start times out of higher usage of television use in homes to accommodate more centralized start times. We changed networks. And we just had in the last few weeks, this championship heat up – really in the last two.
I don't suspect you turn light switches on, and you know, move the needle that way. I think over time, circumstances happen that are also out of your control. Things will happen and stars will come into this sport and make themselves a household name. There's some popular drivers, I think they will get going again, as well.
So all kinds of things are going to happen over time to drive ratings and interest level, and our job is to make sure that the environment to do that is just right.
Q: You said back in July you wanted to create Game 7-type scenarios, but in other sports you really don't see that every year, maybe every two or three years and baseball this year wasn't that way. And a lot of fans that communicate with us say they are just as disenchanted with the Chase in general, they want to go back to the other points system...
BRIAN FRANCE: You met somebody that's telling you that?
BRIAN FRANCE: OK.
Q: Obviously you do some fan research and all that, but is there a risk of turning off more people by making changes again, especially when you've got what you want right now?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, look, I mentioned to you that every – almost every league and tournament is taking a look at their playoff or format style. Some will do a little, some will do nothing at all and some might do something more drastic.
And so I don't know what we are going to do, if anything. And I will tell you, if we can make it simpler to understand, that's a good thing for us to do. If we can do – or have what we have now, which is as I said, Game 7, that could have been – we don't have a Game 6, obviously, and neither do a lot of other sports. But they have incredible big moments where the best teams have to elevate their performance. And that's what excites us as fans. That's what excites our fan base, and it excites casual sports fans who are going to look to this sport one day to enjoy as much as we do. If there's a plan for us to accomplish that, we will consider it over the winter. Right now we are obviously thrilled with where we are at and looking forward to Sunday.