Q. Obviously for years there's been talk about Cup drivers and the Nationwide series. Why did you choose this rule over others, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
MIKE HELTON: Well, the most important element was for NASCAR to maintain its open policy for anybody who wants to compete and has the credentials to compete can compete in any series that they want to compete in. We don't restrict a Cup driver from participating in another form of racing, including other forms of NASCAR racing. And so we – the desire was to protect that. But at the same time there's also a desire for the Truck Series, the Nationwide Series to have a more specific identity of its own and not be confused with the Cup Series or vice versa.
Q. Mike, at the end of last season Brian [France, CEO] was talking about how he wanted to put more emphasis on winning than ever. It seems like with this proposed point change it goes back to putting it more on consistency. Can you explain what led you to the system you're looking at right now and what are going to be the advantages of this beyond being simple?
But the strength of all three national series now at different levels gives us the option to look at new programs, and this is the one that we landed on. And the hope for this is that in the Truck Series when you have Cup drivers participating in it, which we still will, and the Nationwide Series when you have Cup drivers participating in it, which we hope and we think still will, there is a level of focus and a level of exposure offered to younger drivers who have personalities that deserve to get attention and be developed along the way, as well.
MIKE HELTON: Well, our goal was to make it simple, so we start there. We feel like we have a model or actually several that accomplish that. But we get to the one that makes it simple.
We can continue enhancing the attention to and the appetite to win with bonus points and how we apply those to a basic simple structure to start with. You can also do things with the events themselves, the field that goes into the Chase, the Chase events to continue to encourage and put a high appetite on winning races. The points models start off with a simple system, but we can accomplish the attention to winning with bonus points and other pieces.
Q. I understand that NASCAR has a very short off-season to make these decisions, and I don't know if this analogy really fits here, but baseball, for example, you don't go to preseason and not know if you're going to use the DH this year. Is there any risk of NASCAR's credibility being compromised or questioned because you're so close to the start of the season and the teams and the drivers don't know yet what the rules are going to be?
MIKE HELTON: Well, I think we have a better understanding what the rules are going to be than maybe the general public does to start with because we've been having conversations with drivers and car owners since last summer about some of the changes that we're getting very close to and that you're hearing about in our conversations.
And I think the credibility of our final decision is actually better because of the collaborative effort that we put into it today as opposed to what might have happened in the past to get to the final decision so that when the final decision is confirmed and NASCAR, who's the governing body and responsible for making the final decisions, right, wrong or indifferent, our appetite and our desire is to do it correctly and have one that makes sense and not one just for the sake of changing things.
So we've spent a good deal of time having conversations, and I actually think that helps our credibility particularly in the garage area. And if you have it there, then that transfers out a lot quicker, a lot better.
I would remind everybody is that one of the things unique to NASCAR is that we've got 45 or 46 independent teams out here. We've got a host of independent track operators. Where the other leagues can get everybody together because the league owns the sport, and they all make decisions collectively together.
We're a little more unique. We've got independent stakeholders, and I think in us wanting to do our job right and be good stewards of the sport and make good decisions for the entire industry, it takes us longer to go through the system and weigh out the balances between a conversation with it might be a series sponsor or it might be a group – it might be the racetracks, the promoters, or it might be the broadcast partners, and certainly it's important to be hooked closely with the owners and the drivers because they're the ones who – the other part of the delivery of our races on racetracks. So it takes us more time.
Q. Is there enough time for the fans to digest it?
Our system is just different, I think. The most important part is that it ultimately works and has credibility. And I believe the way we do it now, the last two or three seasons, is more credible than us making a decision telling the drivers before we walk in here and announce it and say here's what we're going to do, and they have no opportunity to ask us why we did it or any input in it. I think today's system works much better for everybody.
MIKE HELTON: Well, as an older guy in this business, things move a whole lot quicker than they used to, and I think everybody's habits are a lot different than they might have been 10 years ago. So I think people digest things quicker, they get through the process of debate off things quicker and they absorb them quicker and they go on. The biggest thing is for us to make the correct decision that everybody in the garage area and everybody in the grandstand understands that everybody has the same opportunity and are operating under the same rules, and that's I think the biggest step that we must take.
I guess the more time we leave a topic out there to be debated and discussed, the longer it takes to have a final answer. So there's a balance of getting the right answer as quickly as possible and going ahead and putting it out there rather than putting it out there for debate for six or seven months, I guess.
But I think that our fans, as long as we maintain the core elements of the sport, tweaking the points, tweaking the Chase, tweaking different components in the sport, they're quick studies. And by the time we announce our final decisions and the time Speed Week opens up, in today's world with all the opportunity to debate it and discuss it and to wash it out between all of our stakeholders, I think the season will start off with, "OK, let's go."