LAS VEGAS—In a departure from Myers Brothers Luncheon speeches of recent years, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France talked more about NASCAR’s future than about its immediate past.
“I want to take a moment… a little pivot from my normal welcome remarks because, of course, this week is all about celebrating this year,” France said on Thursday at the annual event, which is part of NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion’s Week, the sport’s annual postseason celebration.
“I want to tell you a little bit about the future because, in my career—and I’ve been at this a long time—I’ve never been more excited about what’s going on in our industry than right now.
“I say that because of all of the innovative things that are happening.”
Virtually all stakeholders in the motorsports industry were represented in the Encore Ballroom, where Darlington Raceway officials, represented by track president Chip Wile, were recognized with the coveted National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contributions to stock car racing, stemming specifically from Darlington’s immensely popular throwback theme for last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
“Innovation or ideas can come from anywhere,” France continued. “But it’s the people in this room that execute those ideas—our track operators, our race officials, our teams, our team personnel—they’ve embraced what we’re doing in a way that is unprecedented in motorsports.
“I’m talking about little things like the Air Titan system which helps us get our events completed in a timely way, that little things that make a big impact.”
But it was the big ideas, such as the revamping of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, that really captured the imagination of race fans worldwide, France said.
“Many people thought it couldn’t be done,” he said. “They didn’t think you could have an elimination style format in auto racing. Didn’t make sense… They also didn’t think that the level of competition could rise, that our teams could step up to the moment and do things they never thought possible.
“But you know what? They have. And all of you in this room have embraced that, our tracks, everybody, our marketing partners, have understood the importance of raising the level of competition to our fans. They love it.
“That gives me great assurance we’re going to have a good future. I want us to have an exceptional future. I know now, with the industry working so closely on big things and small things, that we’re going to have an exceptional future.”
The largest, most immediate manifestation of that future is just around the corner.
“That future will start in February of next year,” France said, “and you’ll see the completion of Daytona Rising, the huge commitment the tracks across the industry that I believe will follow suit in various forms to reinvest, make our fan experience better than it’s ever been.”
DARLINGTON’S THROWBACK CONCEPT A WINNER
With the Bojangles’ Southern 500 returning to its traditional place on the calendar on Labor Day weekend, Darlington Raceway capitalized with a throwback concept that captivated competitors and fans alike—and earned the track the National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award in the process.
First presented in 1958, the Myers Brothers Award, named in honor of NASCAR pioneers Billy and Bobby Myers, recognizes outstanding contributions to stock car racing. According to track president Chip Wile, the scope of the throwback weekend far exceeded initial expectations.
“We felt like, if we could get eight or 10 teams on board to really showcase what we’re trying to accomplish, we felt like in 2016 we could get more, in 2017 we would get more, and so on,” Wile said.
“But the response that we’ve gotten from everyone in the industry has been incredible. It was a fully integrated plan that made our event something special for the fans.”
Remarkably, Darlington Raceway, which has hosted at least one event per year in NASCAR’s top series since opening in 1950, boasts just 12 full-time employees.
“We’ve been selling a concept for two years, and now we’ve got something to hang our hat on,” Wile said. “I look for 2016 to be incredible.”
In accepting the Sherwin Williams Fastest Lap award, Matt Kenseth, in typical droll fashion, quipped, “I’m really looking forward to moving up to full-time next year in the 20 car. Maybe I can win a few more of these.” The reference, of course, was to the two-race suspension Kenseth incurred for wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville…
In accepting the NASCAR Champion Crew Chief Award, Adam Stevens facetiously characterized himself as “an unlicensed psychologist and a part-time weather man” for his work with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
NASCAR National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award winners:
· NMPA Myers Brothers Award: Darlington Raceway
· Buddy Shuman Award: Clay Campbell, President Martinsville Speedway
· NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award: Sunoco
· Chevrolet Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeff Gordon
· 3M Lap Leader Award: Kevin Harvick
· American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Kevin Harvick
· Coors Light Pole Award: Joey Logano
· Duralast Brakes “Brake in the Race” Award: Kevin Harvick
· Freescale “Wide Open” Award: Kevin Harvick
· Goodyear Tires Award: Kyle Busch
· Ingersoll Rand Power Move Award: No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team
· MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Sam Vernatter, Hendrick Engines No. 4 team
· Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 team
· Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Kyle Busch
· MOOG Steering & Suspension Problem Solver of the Year Award: Greg Ives, crew chief No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team
· Sherwin-Williams Fastest Lap Award: Matt Kenseth
· Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Kyle Busch
· Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Brett Moffitt
· Champion Sponsor Award: Mars, Inc.
· Champion Crew Chief: Adam Stevens