France discusses thrilling start to 2016 season

NASCAR Chairman Brian France (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images )

NASCAR Chairman Brian France (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images )

After two photo finishes and a bevy of side-by-side racing to start the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France joined SiriusXM Speedway host Dave Moody on Friday to discuss the early-season returns on the new aero package employed in the sport’s top series.

“Well it’s off to a really good start obviously,” France said. “It’s not a situation where we’re willing to say everything is perfect because we’re always searching for terrific things on the racetrack.

“The low downforce [package], in combination with Goodyear producing a really good tire to match up to that, has given the drivers more of what they want and they’re putting on one heck of a race.”

The 2016 season opened with Denny Hamlin capturing the Daytona 500 by a scant .010 seconds over Martin Truex Jr. That finish was followed by a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway – the first with the new lower downforce aero package – that saw a record number of green flag passes for the lead (44).

And last Sunday in Phoenix, Kevin Harvick edged Carl Edwards to the finish line by the identical Daytona margin of victory of .010 seconds.

But it was the end-of-race, sheet-metal crushing aggression displayed by both Harvick and Edwards at the end of the race that most impressed France.

“You’ve heard me say many, many times, that’s classic NASCAR racing when that happens,” France said of the contact made between Harvick and Edwards at the close of Sunday’s race. “But it’s interesting to note that not all the drivers that we have, present or past, would have made the moves that Carl Edwards tried to do to get around Harvick. Harvick did a great job. They both did a great job. But that’s classic NASCAR. We expect that.”

In the wide-ranging 12 minute interview, France also touched on the potential of new manufacturers entering the sport, joining the current stable of Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.

“There is some interest, and by a couple of different manufacturers and we would be open to that in the right conditions,” France said. “I think a lot of the car companies are understandably looking at the terrific job that Toyota has done by partnering with NASCAR and the success and all the things that comes along with that. They’ve been an incredible success story for a car manufacturer looking to come into a sport that’s very difficult to come in, compete and win every weekend. But there’s an interest. And this is obviously the biggest opportunity in auto racing in North America.”

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