NASCAR Media Conference
Topics: NASCAR, Car of Tomorrow
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we don't like the fact that the independent teams or in particular a new owner looking at coming in the door has a daunting task to compete. And the concept of having to have five teams, three teams, you know, that's why you haven't seen a lot of new ownership like a Ray Evernham come into the sport, in our view. You see Roger Staubach being a lone exception coming in next year. But by and large, we don't see -- that means the opportunities aren't there for young drivers. It means opportunities aren't there to create the next Rick Hendrick and have the success. It ultimately means we don't field as many competitive cars as we'd like to field. We're going to have to address that. You're going to see some very clear policy to do that. But one of the things I want to say to all you guys is that when you talk to the team owners about this Car of Tomorrow, or the inspection process, we come at it from very different views. We actually have very much competing agendas often. We all agree on safety. Everybody's working as diligently they can, the team owners and us. But after that it's often we're in conflict. If I'm Jack Roush, I've got five teams in the Chase, life is great. I played by the rules, I don't want to see one thing change. I don't want to see the Car of Tomorrow come in. I don't want to see anything about multi-car caps or whatever we might think about doing. I don't want to see anything change. But our problem is we've got to look out for the future. We've got to look out for Eddie, The wood brothers, Cal Wells and others. We have to look out for new team owners who want to come into the industry, come into the sport. That's not what Jack Roush is interested in, and I don't blame him. I wouldn't be interested in that either. I think when you think about all this stuff, the Car of Tomorrow, all these crazy numbers of what it's going to cost, that's all an attempt to really stall that project. It's not going to get stalled because it's going to do a lot of the things that we all want to see. We all want to see more safety enhancements. That's going to allow us to do it. We all want to see a less aerodynamic car out on the track so we can see -- and we want to make that envelope a lot narrower in terms of these slicked-up cars, all the money they spend to get every little thing, we want to box that thing up, bring it back into the old days where you might have a slingshot (indiscernible), more along the style of racing that the trucks have. It's pretty simple. It's not a hard thing to understand. What was real interesting that I've read and heard, the first thing we do when we're looking at major policy, we go talk to the industry, often years in advance, depending on how significant it is. So the Car of Tomorrow, which we've been working on for, I don't know, two years or longer, we began to have those conversations. As we get clearer on what we want to do, we get clearer with them. Mike and I last winter sat down with every team owner and we asked them, What's the best way to roll this out? They said, What you really wouldn't want to do is in a given year have half the races on the old chassis, and then the Car of Tomorrow the other half. That would cost us a lot of money. It's not uncommon for us to rebuild. That's not a significant cost, sheet metal, just not significant. It's not uncommon for us to build eight or 10 cars at the drop of a hat. So, not an issue. Let us cycle out, give us a good year, year and a half, let us know now - and we did - and let us cycle these cars out. Try as best you can to start the new year, if it's '07 or wherever you're going to roll it out, have as many events under the new Car of Tomorrow as you can. That's exactly what we did. That's exactly what Mike ended up authoring. That cost issue, although there will be some cost, it won't be a lot. Won't be a significant amount to the teams or we wouldn't do it. We wouldn't saddle them with some big giant cost. It wouldn't be in our best interest. But we want to get all those benefits of the Car of Tomorrow. We're not going to wait forever to do it. So there's a balance. We think we've got the right balance. On our inspection process, Mike, you might speak to that a little bit, too, with the shocks and certain things on the car the last few weeks.
MIKE HELTON: Kind of closing the topic on the Car of Tomorrow, we began this process back in 2000. Talking about it made sense for NASCAR, taking a clean sheet of paper and building a whole new car from the ground up for several reasons. The primary reason was safety - and still is. But if you were going to do that, and you couldn't accomplish, and we eventually decided you could not accomplish the ultimate safe car with the current stuff. You know, we've done a lot of things in the current car to make it a lot safer, particularly around the driver's compartment. But even in doing that, while the guys have adapted to it, we certainly shrunk their world in there. It's more difficult for them to get in and out. It's certainly a great deal more difficult for the fire and safety teams to service a driver that might be hurt in the current configuration. That plays into it. Crush zones that you get from the nose of the car, the door of the car, some of which you can accomplish. But the maximum amount of current technology we know that you can take benefit of, you basically have to start over from scratch. So that's where we kind of got to. You guys have heard us talk about this future car or the next generation. It kind of landed on the Car of Tomorrow two or three years ago. It's not a new topic. It's one, like Brian says, we've been in the industry for several years talking about. Now as we get close to it, it all kind of comes together, whether you're talking about NASCAR reconsidering and really taking a giant step in figuring out what to do with a car owner and how many cars he should or what's healthy, as well as the competitiveness of the sport. Guys like Roush, Hendricks, they've got such machineries in place, they don't want the box to get smaller. You can't blame them for that. Jack Roush has absolutely played by the rules. He's done everything correctly. He's done it well. He's done it the most efficient as anybody out here. He's showing signs of success from it, and there's nothing wrong from that. We've got no problem with that. The problem is what the future of the sport's going to look like if that's the trend. If you have to have that kind of a level of elitist, so to speak, what happens to the rest of our community? Who can and cannot get in the sport because of that? That's the only problem we've got. We don't care if Jack has five, six or 10 cars if it's good for the sport, but we don't think it's good for the sport. Now we have to address that. That's a big move for us. Getting back now, the Car of Tomorrow kind of fits in that to a certain degree. Once we get past the point that says, All right, the only way we can make a car as safe as we can, and nobody is sitting here saying we can make one that's bulletproof, we may hurt a driver again, we may have a driver die in a race car again, but it won't be because we haven't tried not to. This is the ultimate try not to, whether it's the SAFER barrier or the HANS device or whatever. All these things add up. But this is kind of the last frontier of closing that last six, eight or 10 percent on making it a hundred percent safe today by today's technologies and all that stuff. Once you make that decision, what else can you do with this car? Well, you can build a car that recaptures, if you will, the inspection process, that minimizes or if not eliminates the dependency on incredible amounts of engineering and aerodynamics engineering around shifting sheet metal around and what have you, moving rails up and down, all these things that the mega teams can do, have developed, the whole twisting of the car. That's an opportunity that the Car of Tomorrow presents itself for us.
BRIAN FRANCE: To correct that.
MIKE HELTON: To correct that.
BRIAN FRANCE: It's a bullet now.
MIKE HELTON: The other thing is that, Oh, by the way, it gives us the ability to minimize the dependency on downforce that we've gotten to, particularly at the intermediate tracks, like a mile and a half track, where there's only one way to get around the racetrack, and that's at the bottom of it. If you don't go there, you don't get around anybody else, so to speak. That's all because of downforce. That's what the speed in the corners, the handling, the feel, the comfort level, all that's relative to the aerodynamics of the car, and that's downforce. If we could back downforce up even by 20 to 25 years by this new model, without creating a God-awful critter out there that's doing this.
BRIAN FRANCE: Or hard to handle.
MIKE HELTON: Then that's a good thing, we think. That's an accomplishment for the Car of Tomorrow. But then when it comes back to the inspection process, this also helps us in that area. What NASCAR is faced with, and we do our inspection process, we were the first guys to do it, I think most all of them do it now, I don't know about the Formula One guys, but we do it out in the open. Our garage stalls, everybody parks next to each other. We kind of adapt to Indianapolis because it is what it is. But even our inspection process at Indy is open. There's no barriers, there's no walls that keeps you from getting in there. They're enclosed, but pedestrian walkways, that's the way we do inspections. We do it every weekend that way. We're doing it out here in front of God and everybody right now. And we do that for two reasons. One is to afford the industry to help us in the inspection process. But the biggest reason is for everybody in the industry, particularly the competitors, to have confidence in that process, that there's no games being played by NASCAR. That's part of it. The other major part of it is, in the last three to four years, we've hired better people, smarter people when it comes to what they know. We got more engineers on our payroll than I ever thought we'd ever see in our whole lifetime. We're up to almost 13 engineers, I think 13 engineers now, working at the R&D center, trying to stay ahead of the game, against the engineers that the industry's got working for them. Where there's aerodynamicists, tire engineers, metallurgists, all these different specialized functions that are in our sport now, we're ramping up to stay toe to toe with them. We can't stay toe to toe with them, but we're trying to get ahead of the game on our perspective. We've got this weekend over 120 officials that cover both series. Tomorrow just during the Cup race, there will be over 85 inspectors, officials, scoring people out there doing it. You see the numbers of people we have in our inspection process, before the qualifying, before the race, after the race is over with. We move those around, we train 'em. It's mandated now that these inspectors have to go to training courses at the R&D center in Concord to stay up and be reminded of not just the rules and regulations and what the rule book says and what the standard interpretation of that rule book, but it's also a matter of the philosophy of NASCAR, is that we're here as a service organization to keep the playing field level, and that's what our job is. We're human. The people that work for us are human. But we go to the ultimate -- we're not the ultimate, but we'll go to the ultimate to keep it that way. So when the conversations come out of a Dover situation where the shocks cause such a (indiscernible) here a couple weeks ago, there's nothing wrong with those shocks that came to Dover. There was nothing wrong with the cars after the race was over with, the inspection process, as it is standardized for everybody else in that process. When the 48 and the 5 rolled up on the platform where the height measurements are taken, when it first got on that platform, it was in the red. But less than 45 seconds later, it was in the green.
BRIAN FRANCE: But not uncommon for us.
MIKE HELTON: In our standard procedures, that's okay because we work as hard to prove a car legal as we do illegal. Take the same two cars back in Vegas, the 48 and the 5. We rolled them up there. They weren't right. We rolled them off. We aired up the tires. We rolled them back up there. They still weren't right. We rolled them back off. We checked things up underneath the car. We rolled them back up there, they still weren't right. We do that almost every weekend, whether it's the 88 or the 12 or the 2 or the 8 or the 6, doesn't matter. Any car that goes across that platform gets the same deal. We roll 'em up there. If they're not right, we take them off, we have the air pressures that we put in the tires in the prerace inspection. We allow them to put that same air pressure back in those tires so we try to recreate the prerace inspection the best we can in post race. That's common. That's standard procedures for us. Under that same standard of operation in front of everybody that was around there to witness it, those cars rolled up there and had the same opportunity to be right, and they were right in less time, quite frankly, than most other cars have had.
BRIAN FRANCE: To make a correction, yeah.
Q. Why do you think there was such a reaction to what happened at Dover?
MIKE HELTON: Because they got beat. Number one, some of the guys, some of the quotes I've read, I'm assuming they were accurate, are from misinformation, where guys said, It took them 24 hours to get that car right. If it took us 24 hours, that car would have been wrong. I can help you with that one. We've taken the Hendricks 25 car in New Hampshire, we're not bashful, whether it's Felix, Roger Penske, Rick Hendricks, Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, it's a car number to us. The personalities are not a part of it. We're not going to let the inmates run the prison on us. That's the way Bill Sr. did it, that's the way Bill France did it, that's the way Brian France tells us all that work in the organization, he says, Look, socially if we go out to dinner, go out and hang out and do things together away from the racetrack, that's great, because there's a bunch of great people in this sport and we have a lot of fun together. But when we're inside the parameters of this garage area, we don't know them. We're strangers when it comes to it.
Q. Let me ask you this. From what it sounds like, you're depending a great deal on the Car of Tomorrow to solve some of these problems, at least some of these problems. You're not actually going to change the inspection process in any way at this point.
MIKE HELTON: Let me come back to that in just a second. Let me close on the shocks up at Dover 'cause that seemed to be a hot topic last weekend in Talladega. It seemed to have died down now.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thankfully.
MIKE HELTON: I was there. I was at the inspection process. Everybody saw the car during the race and it looked funky. I'll also tell you that every car that went through turns one and two or three and four in Talladega probably wouldn't have fit our measurements as they were going through turns one and two, three and four. We haven't found a inspector yet that will run out there and stick a (indiscernible) on in the middle of the turn.
BRIAN FRANCE: We're still asking some of the guys.
MIKE HELTON: Having said that, there's a responsibility. I was there. I didn't see Dale Jarrett. I didn't see Ryan Newman. I didn't see those guys, Greg Biffle, that everybody quoted last week in Talladega. I didn't see them there. But they had a right to be and could be. I was there. They were right. If they were not right, we would not have passed inspection. Having said that, what we saw we didn't like. What they had figured out on the shocks, I say we didn't like it, we ultimately didn't, but at that moment we said, Wait a minute, what caused that? So we took their shocks and we took six other cars' shocks back to Concord, the R&D center, to try to figure out what had happened. Once we figured out what happened, then the decision was, Okay, well, that's how sophisticated they got now with building shocks. They did it within the rules. They did everything right. They did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong. So then the question is, All right, they did it correctly, and that is what they accomplished. Now do we want to leave it alone and let everybody catch up with them, or do we want to capture it right now and stop it? And because of concerns about, quite frankly -- two concerns. One was a safety concern, because these things, the way they were being built, created so much pressure that it could become dangerous for somebody working on it or somebody having to take it off a car at the racetrack, that's one thing. The other thing was that this is so sophisticated and quite frankly so complex and almost fragile against the rules that there's a high likelihood that somebody will roll their car across the platform and that shock won't work just right, and they will build it illegal. We'd just as soon not be faced with that if we can avoid that, all right? So we made a decision quickly after Dover, I called Brian up and I said, Look, this ain't right. Brian and I have had a lot of conversations about not willing to change things toward the end of the season, whether it's the Chase or not. But the last couple of seasons, we'd just as soon not have to change anything. This is one of those things we said, We need to capture this one because it's going the wrong direction. Everything was aboveboard in Dover, but that's not the direction we need to go. So that's why we issued the bulletin last weekend.
BRIAN FRANCE: Tighten it up.
MIKE HELTON: To tighten it up. Not radically change anything, but simply tighten it up where we get through this season without that direction going that way. Now, having said all that, Mike, to answer your question, we will continue -- we continuously change inspection procedures. The teams don't like this. This is why it comes back sometimes, Well, these guys are favoring so-and-so or doing this, because what they don't like is they don't like us changing procedures. But one of the reasons we change procedures is so no one gets complacent with exactly what we're doing. To go a step further, we'll change procedures possibly in inspection through '06 before the Car of Tomorrow gets here. But what we are able to do with the Car of Tomorrow is we're able to build the mousetrap now that NASCAR has over 50 years of experience watching the development of and learn from the things that we may have let get too far down the road with the aerodynamics, the suspensions, the (inaudible), all that. We've learned from that. Hopefully we can capture those things to where NASCAR going down the road with police the sport better.
BRIAN FRANCE: Easier.
MIKE HELTON: So that Richard Childress or Cal Wells or Eddie Woods or anybody don't have to jump through hoops to stay competitive out here, and they're competitive more consistently and don't have to go after enormous money to chase being competitive. And our inspection process works in that way. So there are some things that will come different in the inspection line with the Car of Tomorrow that we kind of built into the whole process. The templates is the biggest thing. We're working on a uni-template, one big monstrous looking piece of puzzle that just sits down on top of the car so we get away from this twisting deal. We're looking at the dimensionals regulations in this car that we can now capture at one moment and declare that's as far as you can go with it and not give them tolerances like we've had to adapt to in the past. And the tolerances came over time when one body style was not competitive against another body style. So we started building in tolerances, if it's an inch and a half or two inches. Then what this gave the teams the inspiration to do, and they chased it, they chased those two inch es to try to figure it out. So that's the evolution of what we learned in the sport, and now we can apply it to this new car and do a better job at the racetrack helping the teams stay in the box.
BRIAN FRANCE: I think there are almost 80 templates in some form or another in these aero cars of today. Number one, it's going to be a much bigger, broader box, which will be much easier for us to police. Not all these cracks, curbs, the rest of it. As Mike says, it will be one big template that sort of fits snug and tight or it could be infrared or digital that we might be able to do the Car of Tomorrow in. We're looking at how we can let technology be even more specific, more clear with the teams. But if we do it right, the race -- we always say that and we always mean that. The racing ought to get better if more teams have an opportunity to show their stuff and not be a victim of how much money you have, then that's going to help us. It certainly helps us with new team owners. We need that bad.
Q. Is the current plan to have the Car of Tomorrow in competition 2007?
BRIAN FRANCE: Yes.
MIKE HELTON: Yes.
Q. Would you phase it in anywhere next year?
MIKE HELTON: Possible. The only possibility there would be a plate track. Because we start off in a plate track, we'd just as soon not start off at a plate track with something brand-new.
Q. If you ran a second Talladega next year, would you start with Daytona 500 in '07, and that would be it?
MIKE HELTON: That's what we're trying to work through right now. What Brian said earlier, the first go-around with the owners, when we understood this was a serious topic, it was really going to happen, was (inaudible) at the racetrack, and we're still working through that to finalize it.
Q. If you did it for Talladega, the second Talladega next year, then everybody is going to be saying that you're throwing another factor into the Chase.
MIKE HELTON: That was a concern of ours. The feedback we got from guys in the Chase was, Don't matter, we're going to build a new car for Talladega anyway. It's a one-off deal of its own. See, that's part of this deal of the cat-and-mouse game. I don't want to get into it using you guys in the middle, we'll get through all that.
Q. We don't care (laughter).
MIKE HELTON: The truth of the matter is that in the dialogue with guys in the garage area, they all admit it's going to at best or at worst (indiscernible) 60% of the cars that they have to use today. And it could be as low as 40%. In other words, if a guy's got 10 cars, then this new car, they can do it with six at worst, and may be able to do it with four.
Q. So the car is less specialized based on where it would race.
MIKE HELTON: That comes from policing it. That comes from taking a clean sheet of paper and us policing the car in a matter that it doesn't matter if that car is sitting in Martinsville or Sears Point, it can be competitive.
BRIAN FRANCE: It's the same car.
MIKE HELTON: Now, that doesn't stop anybody out there from building 36 cars, but you don't have to. See what I'm saying? That's the deal that saves the back end of the sport. That's the deal that opens up some of the barriers of entry to where if I wanted to be a car owner, I'm not scared to death when I start looking at everything out there today.
Q. The multi-car limits, what is the number you're looking for? Are you looking for two cars per owner or three cars per owner?
BRIAN FRANCE: We haven't arrived at that. But very shortly we're going to be announcing a long-rage policy that will speak to that. Obviously to a Roush or a Hendrick, Mike has done everything right, they've got five, maybe a sixth on the way, they're going to be impacted more. We're just trying to take it all into consideration. We'll come shortly here with an answer. It will be some number much lower than today. It will be a cap.
Q. In other words, they're not going to be able to say that the wife owns this one, the driver owns that one, I own this one?
BRIAN FRANCE: I'm sure that some might think about that. But we think we'd work through that dilemma, and we'll be able to have a policy that works.
Q. Will the existing teams be grandfathered in?
BRIAN FRANCE: There will be a phase period. Won't do it tomorrow. There will be a phase period where you'll phase down from five to four to another number.
Q. What about the other series, like for Roush, three or four truck teams, three our four Busch teams, or are you only talking about the Cup level?
BRIAN FRANCE: Only the Cup level now. But we're certainly looking at the trend lines in the Busch, who are the team owners, how many cars they have, all the rest.
MIKE HELTON: The cap would be on a per series basis.
BRIAN FRANCE: That's correct.
Q. Roush is looking at running five Busch teams next year. I think a lot of that is in response to having their testing cut so dramatically.
BRIAN FRANCE: That could be.
MIKE HELTON: All part and parcel. In the meantime, if you look at the things that we've done in an effort to minimize the impact of the mega teams, the engine rule that we did four or five years ago now, single engine at the event, the gear rule this year, the impounding procedures, the conversations we're going through right now about the possibilities of how the new tires next year.
BRIAN FRANCE: Testing.
MIKE HELTON: The capturing of the testing to where it minimizes the disparity between the multi-car teams and the two-car teams, those are things that we're doing to complement the whole big picture of things. We've had I think some successes. The single engine deal showed success. The gear rule has captured the aggressiveness that was going on chasing rpms. It had already crossed the 10 thousand barrier, now they were looking for the 11 thousand rpm barriers, trying to get to those. The gear rule backed that that down. We're now keeping them in the low 9 thousand. There's no reason for them to chase 11 thousand rpm because it's not going to do them any good. Those are things that NASCAR does that kind of gets lost in the shuffle. The impound rule, and this is inaugural year of it, it will take us a while to get it completely through the sport, but the impound rule is a reaction to watching almost two seasons going on out here. There was a season of qualifying and a season of racing. You guys have been around long enough, you saw all the work, them pulling out motors, before we did the engine rule, but the specialized oil, all that work that went into a car that qualified, and basically rebuilt the thing for racing.
BRIAN FRANCE: Big expense.
MIKE HELTON: That's the reason for the impounds. Qualify what you race, get rid of all the snake oil, ghosts and goblins from qualifying. Focus on racing.
Q. Why has there been such a reaction to the Car of Tomorrow? Do you think it's just the change part of it? I'm pretty good at building these cars, why am I going to have to learn to build a new car? Is that some of it?
MIKE HELTON: That's a lot of it. It's a change. You can go back and talk about when we first introduced the Chase, the groundswell from it is because it was a change. Well, you know, the way we did it, it's not broken, why change it? We needed to elevate the sport. So now you talk about the mechanical side of the sport that teams have geared up to do and have sophisticated their own organizations to the point that we feel like it's dangerous to the sport, the future of the sport anyway. They don't want to give that up. It's kind of like if we all lived in the same neighborhood, the same subdivision, we all liked the way it was, but we had an association that made changes for us, but we all liked it. Then all of a sudden they came to us and said, All right, look, we've had three kids hurt on their bicycles because of mailboxes. Everybody has to do away with mailboxes and put them on the side of your house. Shit, I like my mailbox where it's at. I might fight it, but at the end of the day, three, four weeks from now I'm going to get used to getting my mail from the porch.
BRIAN FRANCE: And it's better for the neighborhood.
MIKE HELTON: Better for the neighborhood.
Q. If you come out with the Car of Tomorrow, tighten the box up, we don't have any room to make any changes, we can't be creative.
BRIAN FRANCE: Good. I think that's good. Let the best drivers and teams on the track. We don't want engineers winning races. I think it's great. If we tighten it up, they're complaining about that, that's great. It's the drivers, it's who's got the best team chemistry, who makes the calls on the race, when to pit, all the strategy that goes on. That needs to be the biggest determinant. There will always be an engineering side. If we can diminish that, we're all for it, that's great. If you want to be in a technology contest, we're not a place for you anyway. We're a competitive side-by-side best racing in the world. Formula One and other people would rightfully say, We're the technology people. That's true. We don't want to be.
Q. What about the fan identity factor? A lot of fans out there identify with Chevy, Ford. All of a sudden have you 43 boxes that are different.
BRIAN FRANCE: The good news is that the cars, if you look at them, look at the Chrysler, they're going to more of a boxier car. Well, we happened to get a little lucky here on that. You see even the Toyotas, the Camry and the Avalon, everybody's coming with a more boxier car. Cadillac, a lot of others. Especially Chrysler. That's good.
MIKE HELTON: But Monday morning after Atlanta, we had two in Talladega, but Monday morning after Atlanta, if you want to hang around, unless you put this car sitting out here today against the Car of Tomorrow, you won't be able to tell a difference in the grandstand. You got to put them side by side to see.
BRIAN FRANCE: Then you really can.
MIKE HELTON: You can see the differences. You can see the windshield sitting up taller. The greenhouse, instead of doing like this, it's like this. You can see if you put them side by side. But if you put five or six of the car of tomorrows on the racetrack painted up.
Q. What about the difference between -- you're talking about the difference between the car that we're running -- that is being run today and the Car of Tomorrow. The difference between the makes will be significant enough that they will be obvious?
MIKE HELTON: Again, go look at the noses out here today. Most of the differences in the noses, except for the Dodge, it's debatable even I think in their own ranks, there will be enough grill differences and enough of the headlight differences by decals and a enough of the taillight differences by the Car of Tomorrow, where it's not going to be that far removed from the car out here. That's the identity that's out here now, the opera windows, the headlights, the grill and the taillights. That will maintain enough of that identity on the Car of Tomorrow, just like we've done on these. It just won't be -- and these we argue and we feel like are not aerodynamic differences, they're cosmetic differences. That will still be the same.
BRIAN FRANCE: We can't have it both ways. We can't have all the cars look just like they do on the showroom and still have the competitive balance and being fair that we need. Obviously, a Ford on the showroom might transfer to a track.
MIKE HELTON: We've learned.
BRIAN FRANCE: We've had to blend that line, unfortunately for the manufacturers, a little bit. Mike says cosmetically we recapture --
Q. Start phasing in next year?
BRIAN FRANCE: We had decided that. What we're telling you is there's some thoughtful policy that we've been working on for a long while, and we will have some version of a hard cap, some phasing to begin the switch this whole idea that you got to be a super team to win. That's really where we're at now. That's something we've got to adjust.
Q. Brian or Mike, Roush/Yates engine combination serving as a limiting factor for teams coming in?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's not helpful. Any of those kinds of things serve as a barrier to entry. You know, the one place to get the greatest engine in the world. Well, that's not -- when we see that, we don't like that. Sometimes it takes us a while to make an adjustment or change direction. We fundamentally don't like that. It's why we have the gear rule. We didn't like they were going to Asia and all over the world to find these exotic metals, chasing, as Mike says, 11 thousand rpms. We're not saying we can solve every problem. We're not that smart. But philosophically, we have a very clear view of what we're trying to get done. We will do our best to narrow those gaps, take down those barriers to entry and put things more in the hands of the best teams and the best drivers, not the best wallets and best engineering, the best we can. That's our goal.
Q. Isn't that easier, though, for somebody like Staubach and Aikman coming in? They don't have the technology to go right on the track and compete at that level. To me, that would make sense, the engine thing. Cal has had to get Childress engines because one single-car guy cannot afford to do his own engine program. It would be ludicrous.
BRIAN FRANCE: We're not saying they have to in the new deal. If you think about a single-car team, there's the testing advantages, there's the sharing of information you don't get if you're not part of a super team. There's the development of drivers, development of crew chiefs, development of this, that and the other thing. Those begin to work against the small independent team. Without debating that you can ramp up faster if you have associated with Joe Gibbs as opposed to going out by yourself, there will always be some of that. We're not worried about who can cooperate. It's these teams that are just pure teammates that we have to have clear separation. That we think will be an advantage.
MIKE HELTON: Our approach to the barrier of entries is not just at the car owner level. It's at the supplier level. It's at the labor level. It's all these levels that we shoot for. There's not one big brush that we can swipe over and fix everything. But the things -- the rules and the regulations that we have made over the past few years, the Car of Tomorrow, the future rule, are as much about a Peter Giles coming back and building Ford motors, all right? Or a Carl Wagner building competitive cut motors. We think the gear rule helps that because they're not now saying, Well, I'm going to build this range of motors because I can't compete on the Cup side. I'm not going to put $10 million into a plant to try to compete. Then they sit there and say, Well, wait a minute, now that there's a gear rule over there, all I have to do is compete against 9500 rpm, can I do that. That will take some time. As we advance the policing of the sport around the engine area, that will get better, weighing parts and pieces, mandating dimensions on the parts and pieces, that hopefully gets better down the road.
BRIAN FRANCE: Overnight, when we announced the gear rule, no one knows this, but overnight we got calls from engine builders that at one time in their careers were revered engine builders who were pushed out in light of this Roush/Yates conglomerate that could only build something chasing 11 thousand, all the exotic things going on. We got calls. Hey, maybe we can get back in the game now. That's something that is in our brains now. It will take a little time for them, will take a little more time for somebody running a Ford to go, That engine is as good as a Roush/Yates. That brings the cost down. You have one single supplier. What happens? Costs go up. We open up more suppliers, we'll bring the cost more in line for a new-car team or an independent team coming in.
Q. You're talking about doing away with the five-point bonus for leading a lap, teammates pulling over, letting their buddy having a lap.
BRIAN FRANCE: We haven't given that --
Q. Anything about the Chase? Have you looked at for next year and beyond altering the Chase in any way?
BRIAN FRANCE: Like we always say, you want to let it play out. There's one point last year where you said, Oh, my God, Kurt Busch is going -- this is going to be worse than the old days. But yet things worked out differently. It's very close. The super teams, Roush, actually struggled, for whatever reason. I don't know why. We got to let it play out to see. Again, if we make changes, there will be very slight adjustments. One thing about the whole "winning" concept that you hear, I know people have written about, talked about, if they don't win, how can they be a champion? You have to win at the right time. You have to play well at the right time. In any other sport, you can have a lot of wins, but if you don't win in the playoffs, you're out. If you're in the college Bowl games or trying to get to the Bowl games, you can go 9-0, but if you lose a critical game down the stretch... So being the best team, you got to be the best team at the right time. We're not all that hung up on -- Jeff Gordon won three races earlier, so he should be in the Chase. They're not running well enough to be the best team right now in the fall. He'd admit that. We just went on wins, that wouldn't serve our purpose, as it would in any other sport. You won a few games early, we'll see in the Rose Bowl. Doesn't work that way. You've got to win or compete at a high level in our situation when it counts. Right now you're seeing most of the -- every race eight or nine of the top 10 running up front are the guys -- that's just what we want. That means they were the best when it counted, and they continue to be the best.
Q. You wouldn't have a problem if Rusty won the championship without winning a race this year?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I'd love to see him win a race. It would not absolutely be the end of the world. You know, in our situation, too, guys run in the top five, that's almost a win relative to other sports. You got 43 teams out there on any given Sunday. Any other sport, you got a 50/50 chance, it would be both even. If you're all even, you know... You can see the weight to winning, and I think winning, there's plenty of incentive. If you look at the last few years, we've added a few points, I don't know what it is, 10 points or whatever to a win. May add a little bit more because we do want to put a premium on winning. It wouldn't kill us if he didn't win. Hope he does, though.
Q. The TV contract, where do you stand?
BRIAN FRANCE: Coming close. We're getting down to the wire. Look to be here in the next, you know, four to six weeks or sooner making some firm announcements of where we're going to land, how that's all going to work out.
Q. Have you been heartened by the interest or is it a tough market? What's the marketplace like?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's competitive. But in the last three or four weeks, it's really -- we've been very surprised at all the interest from network to cable. We're going to come out just fine I think in that. Just trying to make the right deal with the right partner. The economics, we're very convinced we will get our proper value. We're more concerned about getting the right partners. We've got great ones now. We're going to make sure whatever happens, we end up with partners who treat us like our current partners do, a franchise sport for somebody, either the first half or second half. The packages may change. We may have some -- it may look a little bit different. I don't know, but it could. Then the final thing on TV is, you know, the Busch Series is up 27%, 28%. It's quietly doing NBA numbers. It's wearing out other sports. It's doing NBA or more regular season baseball, even better than that. In the new agreement, it's never going to be the Nextel Cup and it shouldn't be, but it should be a franchise of its own, treated as such, with promotion, announcers. We want to differentiate that series as we go down the road a little bit better. That is becoming a financial -- there's a lot of interest in that division, quite frankly. We'll see how it all plays out.
Q. Is there any consideration on your part about having maybe one network that everybody can identify with, like before when it was ESPN, had that kind of following?
BRIAN FRANCE: They think so. The ESPN guys would tell us they agree with you, you need one network, and by the way, we're it.
Q. The reason I ask that is because you're in a situation now, some races are on NBC, some on TNT. All of us have probably gotten calls, why is it jumping between the networks?
MIKE HELTON: Best answer to that is, remember what it was like before.
BRIAN FRANCE: We had six different ones. You know what it is? You're right, you want continuity. But also you want the powerhouse of the Time Warner. You're on CNN promoting to you the high heavens. You like that, even though you go off on NBC. Of course, NBC, any network, you like the factor of 90 million homes. Their prime time gives you promotion for the weekend, all the rest. We won't ever go back to the old days of being a chopped up. It will be cohesive. We have a mid-summer package, call it that. It will be a cohesive package. If anything, I think we can improve the Busch Series, a real home for the Busch Series, that gives it its proper due.
Q. Along the same vein as the Truck Series now?
BRIAN FRANCE: Exactly. The trucks are differentiated. We can all argue should it be here or there. They have their own announcers, their own graphics, their own feel. I think we'd like to get the Busch Series to have that kind of thing, including their own, you know, magazine shows during the week, within reason. Give them some identity that they deserve. That division is doing big numbers.
Q. Along those lines, there was some talk at one point about not giving Cup drivers points or some points money. Is that still in the process of being discussed?
MIKE HELTON: There's currently the plans in the Busch Series, financial plans in the Busch Series, that exclude Cup drivers that are top 35 in points. Tweaking those around a little bit, things we're looking at. But we're not going down the road yet anyway where we're going to not -- where a Cup driver cannot get points. We're not going down that road yet.
BRIAN FRANCE: We've got to wrap it up.
Q. Sprint had a big employee appreciation day on Thursday. In terms of the Hall of Fame bid, what does it mean to have their headquarters here, since NASCAR has a history of taking care of its title sponsor?
BRIAN FRANCE: Very little. I mean very little. It's going to be on the merits. That is shaping up. It's going to be who can put the best financing package together, who can put the best ideas together to house our future, our past, all of those things. It's one consideration, but we have -- if it was just that, we got more sponsored based in Atlanta in the sport by far. That would be it. In the end, it's who can do the best job with the enterprise of the Hall of Fame. We're getting down to, like we said, by the end of the year we should know where we're at.
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