Brian France: Embracing technology will fuel closer racing

Brian France, CEO and Chairman of NASCAR talks with the media at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France wanted to get one point across during his mid-season meeting with the media at Daytona International Speedway, it’s that NASCAR will use all the technology at its disposal to enhance its product on the race track.

“Our goal is to use a lot more science than art for us to keep up, solve issues, create rules packages on the intermediate tracks and alike that produce closer, more competitive racing,” France said Friday in the Daytona media center. “That’s a stated goal. We’re doing a number of things to achieve that.”

NASCAR has given senior vice president of racing operations Steve O’Donnell purview over its research-and-development center in Concord, N.C. Though the tech center works hand-in-glove with NASCAR’s competition department, it has been split off from competition to give the group at R&D “more clarity and more autonomy,” according to France.

France cited the evolution of tandem racing at superspeedways as a problem NASCAR needed to solve technologically, given that the majority of fans expressed displeasure with the two-car hookups.

“We going to use more science than we ever have to get those rules packages where we want them,” France said. “Even when we get them where we want them, they’re going to change. That’s just the nature of this business, the nature of the teams, and so on.”

NASCAR already has begun experimenting with rule changes this season, shortening the side skirts on the cars to lessen downforce, for example. Rule changes this year will inform the development of the next generation of Sprint Cup car, which will be on the track in 2013.

France indicated NASCAR is open to any suggestion that will enhance the quality of racing, short of measures that border on gimmickry.

“I’ve heard, ‘We ought to throw a caution every 10 laps’ — that’s nonsense,” France said. “We won’t do gimmicky things, but we will do things that incentivize performance, incentivize wins. That we’re open to — the wild card does that, but it does it in an authentic way.”

France also said NASCAR is receptive to ideas that mirror the shorter attention span of today’s society — shorter races, perhaps, or two shorter races replacing one long one.

France also acknowledged that it’s time to get down to serious negotiations with NASCAR’s broadcast partners, given that current TV agreements come to term after the 2014 season.

“We’re getting into the timeline where were having serious discussions about what the future will look like. We have our incumbents (FOX, ESPN, TNT and SPEED), some of the best partners we’ve ever had. We’ll have to see how that goes.

“The good news for NASCAR and, frankly, any high-powered sports content is there is a lot of demand for it. So the sport will be in very good shape, and we’re looking forward to those discussions and how they materialize.”

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