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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Brian France
Mike Helton
January 26, 2011


KERRY THARP: To usher in the 2011 NASCAR racing series, please welcome NASCAR's Chairman and CEO, Brian France.
(Applause.)
BRIAN FRANCE: Thank you, Kerry.
I know it's been a busy week for all of you, been in and out of team headquarters, and hopefully the information you picked up has been worthwhile, and we really appreciate the support in this particular week.
Let me tell you one thing I can say for sure, and that is the level of competition has never been greater. You heard it all tonight. And we have the best racing in the world.
I look at things year to year and over longer periods of time. Let me just say what a difference a year makes for us. Think about last year sitting here. We've come off a Chase that wasn't our most exciting Chase. We had questions about the competition, was it as good as it could be. We had questions about were we overregulating some of the racing action, and some fair criticism, some maybe not.
And so what did we do? We also had mentioned that and talked so much about marching forward with a green economy, taking some steps in that area. We talked about technology. And we talked about a lot of things.
But what we did is we listened to our fans very keenly. And the racing from the very beginning, the rule changes that were announced, implemented in the beginning, in the middle of the spoiler, opening up the racing, what did we get? We got the best racing that we've ever had. All the way down to the finale in South Florida where it was the closest championship and a dramatic come-from-behind by Jimmie Johnson, his fifth championship.
So we feel great about where this sport is. The fans have been clear, though, about one thing. They care about winning. They don't want drivers to just be content with a good points day or a good run.
So here's what's new for 2011. First, we're going to make the point system simpler and easier to understand. Beginning this year, we'll award points in all NASCAR series by one-point increments. Race winners will continue to get extra points for the win, and then everyone else is separated by one point.
So a driver who gets 43 points plus three bonus points for winning a race, winning the race and a point for leading a lap, for a total of 47 points for the win.
So a driver can earn another point by leading the most laps. Consistent with our past history. Second place, of course, gets 42 points. Third, 41, and so on. All the way down to last place, which gets one point.
So now everyone will know, when a driver is down by 10 points, that he needs to pass 11 more cars to take the lead in the point standings. Very much a simple, easy-to-understand system for us.
We're also adjusting how drivers qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. We will continue to have a 12-car field for the Chase. But the final two qualifiers will earn a spot in the Chase based on wins during the first 26 races.
Here's how it works. The top 10 in points will qualify for the Chase. Of course that's no different than we are currently today. But positions 11 and 12, the wildcards, will go to the drivers with the most wins who were not in the top 10 so long as they are ranked in the top 20 in points.
So the top 10 Chase drivers will continue to be seated for the Chase based on wins, and they will get a 3-point-each-win seating schedule during the regular season.
This puts emphasis on winning, even if you've had some bad luck. As an example, last year Jamie McMurray raced hard, collected two big wins during the regular season, Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400. He didn't qualify for the Chase.
In 2009, Kyle Busch, he had four wins in the regular season. He didn't qualify in the race for the Chase.
But under the 2011 format, both drivers would make the Chase and have a chance to compete for the championship. And going for the win, especially as we go through Bristol, Atlanta, on to Richmond, is going to create even more excitement and drama.
Let me make a couple of other announcements that we're going to do. First, pick a series. Drivers must pick a series in which they want to contend for a driver's championship.
Drivers can still compete in multiple series and still be part of contending for an owner's championship in one or more series. This move helps us highlight young drivers and talent in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Craftsman World Truck Series.
Let me announce another change for 2011. Qualifying procedures at NASCAR will now be set based on the slowest to fastest practice speeds. The top 35 in points will be grouped together and the teams that must qualify on time will be grouped together as well.
We implemented this successfully in the Camping World Truck Series in 2010 and it will be used in all three National series beginning in February with the Daytona 500.
It creates more of a fan-friendly qualifying format. But in case of inclement weather qualifying in the event cancels qualifying in the final lineup will be based upon practice speeds.
The same procedures stated in the rule book will be used to determine eligibility to start a race. So if weather cancels a practice session, then it will revert back to the setting the final starting lineup as we do now based on points.
Evolution of the Sprint Cup Series car. Saw it when you went around to all the team headquarters and shops this week. NASCAR continues to work with the manufacturers and teams to develop a new and smart look with a Sprint Cup car.
This evolved in 2011 model features a new front for the cars, for all the cars. This look will be more appealing to help the fans, to help further grow the manufacturer's identity.
So the outlook as we see it in 2011: We expect to see even more rivalries. No doubt our biggest stars are being challenged by a new group of drivers who are emerging stars in their own right. We saw the great performance Denny Hamlin did getting so close to winning his championship. Kyle Busch has certainly emerged as a contender for wins and championships. Kasey Kahne with his new team. Brad Keselowski in the excitement he brings to the table. Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne to name a few of stars that we can see will contend for wins in championships in 2011.
We also continue to attract huge stars from outside NASCAR. Having Juan Pablo Montoya, Danica Patrick, Ricky Carmichael, and Travis Pastrana racing in NASCAR is exciting for our industry and for fans and taking our great sport to new audiences.
So as Joie said, it all starts in the coming weeks at Daytona International Speedway. The track's new surface for the first time since 1979, and last week's test was a big success.
I think we can all remember what happened during that 1975 Daytona 500, one of the fastest, one of the most exciting races in history.
So as we get to Daytona, we get closer, we'll also remember one of our greatest stars. It was 10 years ago that we lost Dale Earnhardt, one of our fiercest competitors. Dale helped to build this sport to make it what it is today, and his legacy lives on.
So we'll join all of Dale's fans and his family and we'll remember Dale and what he meant to all of us.
So in closing, I know we have dinner here in a little bit after the question and answers that Mike and I will be taking some questions. But you can hear the enthusiasm of everybody that was on the stage. Ticket sales are up. Enthusiasm is up. You're going to hear some statistics in the Q&A. Energy levels are up. We finished so strong in 2010. So we are looking forward to a great 2011.
And thank you all for coming tonight.
(Applause.)
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much, Brian.
I'm going to ask NASCAR President Mike Helton as he is right now to join Brian on stage. And Mike and Brian are available right now. We'll have about 30 minutes for Q&A with them. This will be really your best opportunity to ask them questions.
We've got three wireless microphone runners out in the audience. And you know how this is played. I'll call on you to ask a question. You tell me your affiliation and we ask that you limit your questions to one question.

Q. A number of competitors have lobbied for maybe not awarding points from 25th on down so there wasn't some cars that had been involved in crashes out there on the track, maybe impeding the racing. What was your decision to stick with the 1-through-43 point system rather than maybe stop scoring points after 25th and lower?
MIKE HELTON: The net result of not having points past 25 or 30, or just pick a spot back there, is the fact that -- and I'll go back and remind everybody. We've got 43 cars and 36 Sprint Cup races.
So if you don't have points or the ability to collect points from a position on back, if you have a couple of bad races and can collect no points whatsoever, you've got a greater challenge of closing the gap over the course of the season.
So we've stuck with the tradition of having points all the way through when we made this change. We stuck with that.

Q. On a percentage basis, the margin between first and second is virtually identical under the new system to the old system. And under the new system you're punished more for a poor finish than you're rewarded for a good finish. So aside from bonus points for wins, which you guys already had under the old system, how does this put more of an emphasis on winning to go 1 through 43?
BRIAN FRANCE: I'll tell you a number of things. You're right on the math, although it's slightly better for a win than the old system, albeit just slightly. What all the models do say is it's going to -- of course we don't -- everybody don't know how they're going to race, but they race similar to how they always race, the Chase, the regular season tightens up. Most importantly, though, we didn't make a fundamental change in wins or anything else because there's always a balance. We like that balance.
This is a goal for the -- the most important reason is simplicity. And this allows us a way to communicate the standings in all motorsports, has complicated formulas to add up to tracking someone's -- the standings.
This is a very, I think, straightforward way to do that.

Q. Can you talk a little bit from a competition side what will you do about penalties? I mean, in the past penalties can be a deal breaker. Clint Bowyer, he managed to come back and finish tenth last year, but how will you rate those bonus points -- I'm sorry, rate the penalty points over that, and will owners who do not qualify for races still get points?
BRIAN FRANCE: I'll say this: It will be proportioned similarly. Obviously the numerical number will be different. But it will be similar penalties for similar infractions.

Q. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Rick Hendrick both kind of made call for shortening more races. Is that something that's been discussed seriously this off-season or possibly will be in the future?
BRIAN FRANCE: We have. And you see we've done that over the last several years. I think you see with Atlanta being a 500-mile race, going to Kentucky, that's a 400-mile race. California going to Kansas, you're seeing that's a 400-mile race.
We already -- we awarded the second one in California. That is a 400-mile. So the core fan does like the traveling a long way, likes to see, depending on which track we're talking about.
So there will be alterations as we go down the road to shorten them up by a little bit. But I don't think -- we're not in any -- no expectations from us to make any drastic changes. But 100 miles changes a complexion of a race depending where you are for sure. And we're going to continue to look at that. And we'll look at the Nationwide events where we want to have good separation between a Sunday and Saturday show, and those will be looking at the length of Nationwide events as we go down the road.
We take all this into consideration.

Q. I'm not quite clear on what the adjustment of the replacement is for the seeding system that you had, the 10 points for Chase seeding under the old system. What's the adjustment there to clarify, will there be an adjustment? Will there be seeding anymore?
MIKE HELTON: Yeah, it's three points. It's the same number of points for each win to seed the top 10 in the Chase field as it is for the bonus points to win a race all season long. The 11th and 12th place, if those are cars that enter into the Chase by wins and not by points, their wins do not count for seeding. They get the benefit of getting in the Chase. So they don't get to count the wins and get the bonus points for the wins.
But the 10 point that you're accustomed to now becomes three points to seed the Chase.

Q. In the models that you ran, would this have created more Game 7 moments, and how do you expect this to create more Game 7 moments?
BRIAN FRANCE: It does, but not dramatically. But it does. I think the wildcard feature is pretty significant in how we looked at that. Because you think about it, you can get hot late and get in, if you're running 15th or 16th, you're just about out of the picture, if you were at Bristol or certainly going into Richmond.
And I think in the beginning of the season wins are going to matter because you may need those wins if you should have some D and Fs down the road.
So everywhere you turn you see that we may not take leaps in some instances, but you'll see a steady march to making and featuring winning as more and more important part of this sport. It's always important. Don't misunderstand me, but we're going to -- with our policies and approach -- we're going to try to feature that.
We still have 43 teams. And, by the way, it would still be true depending on what race a driver's running, if he has a fifth-place finish, this is not a contest obviously with one team or another, so we have to have a level of consistency that is measured as well. But we're shifting that balance.

Q. Why did brand identity become important again and how did it become important again?
BRIAN FRANCE: Talking about the manufacturers? What do you mean?

Q. I'm assuming, you referred to brand identity as far as changing, getting the manufacturers more brand identity. But my question is what happened when the new car was implemented? Why did it happen and how did it become important again?
BRIAN FRANCE: It's always been important. That wouldn't be accurate. When we've gone to common templates and ultimately the new car, we still had a huge eye on trying to make sure the bowtie or the Ford oval, whatever else, and other branding elements were featured into the car.
Now, we can debate -- we diminish something here or there, so it's never not been important. It's just a step to enhancing that, which is what the manufacturers will really appreciate. And we're working closely with them and the teams to do just that.

Q. Brian, how did you guys arrive at the three bonus points? We've had drivers and owners all week calling for a much more dramatic bonus. How did you settle on three? And how do you believe that that creates more an incentive for winning?
BRIAN FRANCE: I said it's slightly better. It's not -- it's not out on the margins. And if you change it too much, because winning ought to be more important. We ought to feature it and we ought to work on it. But we have to be careful because, as I've said, there's still 43 teams out there. And you can't expect a great season to just be measured on wins alone.
And so it's a fine line between balancing with the point structure or any other system, the idea to focus, to motivate drivers to win, want to win more, take chances, et cetera. And part of that is that if they have somebody win five in a row, two and three might be a rain situation, a road -- some luck of the draw, that might alter the championship in a way that wouldn't be proportioned.
So there's a balance, as you can hear -- and you've heard us talk over the years. All we're saying is wherever we turn or wherever we can to manage the balance and consistency of winning you're seeing us take steps towards the winning portion of our rules package and procedures.

Q. Brian, can you give any comment following rumors in Korea and Germany that in long term Hyundai and Volkswagen will join NASCAR racing?
BRIAN FRANCE: There's nothing to report. I will say that this is the premier opportunity for car manufacturers in auto racing in North America, and some would say the world. And my expectation is we get a lot of looks and interest, and we are open to talking to somebody under an approach that current manufacturers have from a competition standpoint.
We don't have anything to announce, but there's always discussions, and we'll have to see how it goes over the long run.
But I will say one thing: We've got great manufacturers in this sport that are helping us heighten competition. Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge, all four, we're very lucky to have those companies working with our teams and helping us put the best racing forward.

Q. Mike, we've heard the term that you wanted to simplify the points to give the fans a little bit easier understanding of it. My question is what if a Nationwide driver wins one race and wins a championship and a full-time Cup driver running Nationwide wins 10 or 12 or 14, how are you prepared to explain to the public that the champion won one race and somebody else who didn't get points won 15 or so?
MIKE HELTON: I don't think the point structure makes any difference on that argument. I don't think it makes any difference if we use one that Brian just introduced or we're using the one we used last year.
But to your point, there comes with the decision to have drivers declared to only collect championship points in one series -- there comes some issues with it.
But we think it's worth it in order to promote and create more of a clearer understanding on the difference between Sprint Cup and Nationwide races or Camping World races, and we think that -- I don't know whether we can ever explain it to everybody, but we think that those issues are worth the bigger goal of getting more attention paid to developing drivers. Not collecting points won't stop a Sprint Cup driver by being any worse a driver than he is, there's still going to be good drivers.
But the attention and the identity of the developing drivers we think is expedited with this move. And it comes with issues that we'll have to work through. But we think it's worth it.

Q. Saturday's going to become a bigger show at some tracks which have qualifying on Saturday as well as the Nationwide race. Was there any consideration of giving a bonus point for the pole? And if it was considered, why was it declined?
MIKE HELTON: And we've had that conversation for 25 years about giving points for qualifying. And what stops us and still today is you have to have a finishing position in a race. You have to have a race, and you're going to have a winner to a race.
There's on more than one occasion throughout our seasons qualifying can be eliminated. And we have a provisional method, and it's changed a little bit today as we announced to have a field set.
But weather can stop us from qualifying. So we can argue whether this is the right decision or not. But our decision's always been that if you go in to pay points for something, then those points should be earned.
And in an inclement weather situation and we set the field by the rule book or by the practice speeds, you can make a debate at that point that those points were not necessarily earned in the traditional way. So we've stayed away from putting bonus points on qualifying.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Dale Earnhardt. Much has been made of his legacy and, in his death, of safety. But I'm wondering, looking back on his legacy and life, what you feel his greatest impact was on the sport and why you think no one's really been able to fill those shoes in 10 years.
BRIAN FRANCE: I think it's a lot of things. One is the performance on the track, the way he did it. You know, a true tough-guy on the racetrack, the intimidator. The way he carried himself. The way he was connected to the sport in terms of how he operated, just how he worked so closely with my father.
It's any number of things. It's just how he carried himself, plus his accomplishments.
And I'll tell you one little thing about him; that he was going up through the ranks and his public speaking wasn't at this point very notable, but what he did, he went and spoke at the Press Club in Washington D.C. Many of you may remember that. Did a great job for a guy who wasn't known to be a good speaker. And I asked him. He said, I really, really worked on that.
So I'm just giving you one example. There's so many. He was just the whole package of persona, performance and character.

Q. I understand that you're going to a simpler point system, but you said you listened to the fans. And the fans that I hear, simpler point system really wasn't on the radar. There was a long list of things ahead of that. What made you decide to go in that direction now ahead of a lot of these other things?
BRIAN FRANCE: We weren't talking about it, and we didn't -- but we did, we definitely communicated with our Fan Council. And it's intuitive. We have a point system that's hard to describe for ourselves.
We were sitting around trying to articulate every portion of it. Mike and I couldn't -- we were unable to do it. And then that tells you that's not intuitive enough.
And auto racing in general has always had a sort of unique system to their sport. We just thought this was the perfect time no matter what you do with the Chase or what you do with anything else, let's simplify it so people can follow.
And, listen, we saw with -- going back and forth, Denny, Jimmie, Kevin, through the fall, and it was -- you needed a mathematician at the end, and you still might to some degree. But it was complicated to follow that.
You knew somebody was behind and whatever. This will be easier for our fans and for our announcers and others in the booth to cover what is at stake at any given time during a race or the season.

Q. Brian, with the last system in place, you guys tweaked it along the way, will this new point system be also a moving target as you see things that need to be changed here and there?
BRIAN FRANCE: I don't know about a moving target. I think we try to put the right balance every year forward that, as I said, rewards consistency, takes the steps towards making winning more important, but not to be too out of balance and creates dramatic moments that everybody likes to see.
I will say one thing that was very clear to us: When the competition was tight down the stretch last year, the performances, the competition level, there's no doubt about it, it got raised. It was exciting. It was electric, and that's what we're all about.
So as we take steps down the road to improve things, that's the kind of thing we want. Now, obviously it's got to be fair. Obviously it's got to be organic and sensible. But we like the idea that big moments are created by the best drivers and teams in the world.

Q. This is a little bit of a follow-up to David Newton. Not so much why you changed the points, but what else are you looking at? Because the list that -- the feedback we get, the list of things wrong with the sport is very, very long, and I know you're not pleased with attendance, and I know you're not pleased with television ratings, so what your plans and what are you looking at to attack some of those issues?
BRIAN FRANCE: There's a positive start to the season.
(Laughter.)
Look. We're very satisfied with the most important thing, the level of competition. Obviously we want to be trending up, not down, and television ratings we want to see the economy get better. We want to see a lot of things with attendance improve. Of course, we want to see the driver merchandise, the drivers become more popular, we want to see -- so we're doing the things -- we also want to be good stewards of the responsibilities that we have, taking the sport in a smart, green direction, bringing technology forward to help our manufacturers and our young fans. We want to enjoy, consume NASCAR and different mediums in different ways.
So it's easy to pull out one thing or another. And we're 63 years old. Every sport is going to have periods where, for lots of reasons, you're in a peak or a valley.
But over the long term we're very confident that we've got the right partners, our collaboration with our teams, we're setting ourselves up to work through any issues that we have, take the sport in a smart direction over many, many years and make sure the business models for all of the NASCAR community work properly. That's an important thing.
And we're going to have moments where you can select something that's not going well. That's fine. But we are on our course to deliver the most exciting racing in the world, and we're going to get there. We are there on that.

Q. Mike, how does this Chase system work in the unlikely event that all the race winners are in the top 10 in points? Would you only have 10 drivers in the Chase?
MIKE HELTON: No, there will be 12 drivers, with all the winners of the top 10, we'll fill 11 and 12 by points as well. There's always going to be 12. Wouldn't be any more than 12. If there's five drivers that are tied in theory for the opportunity to get 11 and 12, then we would break that tie via the rule book to fill the 11 and 12. But there will always be 12 drivers.

Q. Brian, kind of a follow-up to an earlier question, too, I think that you talked about where this idea came from to a certain extent. But how long has this idea really been seriously talked about, and where was the germ of the idea? Where did it actually begin?
BRIAN FRANCE: It begins in our planning processes that get formalized more and more throughout the balance of the year. Obviously in the off season which is very short for us, we do a lot of heavy lifting, analyzing ideas that we've heard through the season, or have been thinking about, and in some cases for many years.
So we'll do more looks at it. We'll talk about timing. And then finally what happens to us now, this is a good thing, that this collaborative effort that we've had where Mike and I meet with every team owner, every driver throughout January, pretty short period of time, we get their input. And we don't -- there are lots of varying opinions, and sometimes we'll get some really good input that we'll use. And we do.
And so it comes in various stages for us. We do a lot of heavy lifting in December, I will tell you that, to get things to a place where we can present it to the tracks, to the drivers and team owners in January, when we make our final decision very soon after that.

Q. This is I think the third change to the Chase you guys have made or to the point system since you brought the Chase in in 2004, and then you changed it in 2007, and now this. It almost seems like you guys are adjusting the system based on what you've seen the previous year in the Chase. Somebody didn't get in, yet they won a bunch of races, and you're altering it for various reasons like that. Whatever happened to coming up with a system, putting it out there and say, Guys, this is what it is, you either make it or you don't?
BRIAN FRANCE: Think about it another way. Think about it right now, every league, every tournament is looking at the very thing we're doing right now. They're looking at -- the NCAA tournament talked about expanding. A lot of teams, they ended up doing two. The NFL is talking about adding teams to the regular season. Baseball's talking about adding an additional wildcard and so on. And golf has done various things. College football's bowl and that, I don't know how any of it will play out. But everyone is looking to make sure that they're delivering the right championship format, the right regular season that meets the times of today.
So I suspect that is an ongoing process, and some will make big changes. Some will make what they consider big changes, what you might think are small. And that is the nature of big-time sports, to get it right and make sure that we have the right approach in a given time period.
MIKE HELTON: I have to step in on this because we talked about moving targets, changing, not changing, changing too often, why not leave it alone. The fundamentals of what we do are still the same.
It's race cars on racetracks. Same thing stick and ball sports. But everybody, including NASCAR, in every form of entertainment, every form of sports, has to keep working on elements to stay relevant and to grow and to maintain, I guess, its opportunity against a changing marketplace or a changing environment or a changing generation.
Yeah, when you asked about a moving target, everything we've got is a moving target. It always has been. We're always going to look at stuff that we think in our opinion based on the input we get and the knowledge we've got and the experience we've got, we're going to make adaptations to it so we make the sport better.
We don't ignore a change or make a change just for the sake of ignoring it or making it. We do things when we do it for the betterment of our entire community.
And the changes that we talked about today, it's a big deal to go from 43 to 1. One point per position, based on the fact that for so long we've had the point standings we've got.
But the relativity of that is that we wanted to give fans an opportunity. Every form of motorsports championships is complicated. You have to be a really hardcore student or you look them up to figure out how it's calculated. Including ours for a long time.
Our goal was, with this change, was to give a fan an opportunity whether that fan is five years old or 85 years old, an opportunity to sit in the grandstand without technology or anything -- although there's a whole other topic on technology at the same time -- but being able to look at the racetrack and in their mind understand the fact that one position on that track is worth one point. And we think they've got a better opportunity to get more engaged in the race by being able to understand it.
If you're watching it on television at home, the TV technology delivers it for you on television on radio. If we're sitting in the control tower or media pressbox, all that's delivered to us. But we were thinking about the fact, and have for a long time, is if a fan can look at that and in his mind calculate quickly that one position on the track is one point, then that may be engages him a little bit more in the race.
But everything we do is to make the sport better for the entire community. Everything we don't do doesn't mean we're never going to. We know we have issues to address. And you saw three of our guys, Paul Brooks, Steve Phelps, Marcus Jadotte, up here this afternoon. But we've got a host of talent today. And I promise you, we haven't spent the last 365 days just working on these topics that we announced today. There's a lot of moving parts and pieces that we deal with every day. And we've got a lot of talent, more than we've ever had, in NASCAR.
And we work on the issues that are maybe in some cases of the day, but we also work on issues that we think advance and promote the sport. Things that we decided not to do over the off-season this year, they're still there. All the research is still there, all the due diligence, all the models are still sitting there. We can go back at any time and pick up where we left off and look at them again. And that's, I think, a solid way for us to run this sport.
But I think all the steps we take are for the better of it. And some of the steps we don't take are not necessarily wrong, because we're always going to get a variety of opinions on what we should or shouldn't do. But at the end of the day our job, if we do it right, is to lay it out for everybody, and the guys in the garage area know what the rules and regulations are, and they know that they're competing against everyone else with the same standards, the same rules and regulations and on the same playing field.
The other stuff is just about being relevant. It's more important for us today more than ever for us to be relevant so we can compete in the entertainment world.
BRIAN FRANCE: One thing. I failed to mention this. There's several people -- there's a lot of people that are joining us, and I wanted to recognize a couple people. First, my -- that took time to be with us. My sister, Lesa Kennedy, from IMC is here. And Tony Stewart is here. And he's a busy guy, so we're happy to have Tony here. And then Marcus Smith with Speedway Motorsports is here.
Thank you all and others that I won't mention for joining the media and us today.

Q. Along the lines of what you're talking about, Mike, how much consideration did you give or will you give down the road to maybe the same number of points for guys 30th or 35th on back? Is there a cost savings to those teams, and also the safety factor?
MIKE HELTON: I don't know if it's a cost savings or safety, either one. We have regulations in the garage that makes sure that a car is okay when it comes back out, if that's what you're referring to on safety. We've got minimum speeds that we have to implement for cars that come back on the racetrack.
But the one thing -- and we do look at it a lot. Look at it often and look at it constantly. The one thing that keeps us from changing that, that more often than not you can have a race where someone has trouble early in the race or is out of the race two or three laps into it. And another driver could work hard all day long, particularly today with their level of quality and the finishing the cars we've got, the count of cars we've got finishing, that works hard all day long, struggles, just works really hard up until the last lap and has a problem and he could be the next guy in the garage area.
So he gets the same number of points for working hard all day long that the guy that only had two laps under his belt got. So we've always kept that separation in positions mainly driven by that. We can manage the cost. We can manage the safety from other ways. Not the points.

Q. Forgive my jaded mind here. And maybe you can clarify something.
BRIAN FRANCE: You're forgiven. I understand that.

Q. With the point system -- and I understand the idea about simplicity, but in this era where you put everything together, attendance, television ratings and things like that, it seems like this points system now creates an illusion of a closer points race than maybe what you had, because you had a greater disparity with the old system. Is this as much about just -- as you talk about your game set in a moment, just an illusion of trying to tighten everything up more so? And also can I just ask, there was at some point talk about expansion of the Chase and why that wasn't done, please?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, the last part of your question first, we looked at a lot of things and we thought this was the right step at the right time. But I would totally disagree that, first of all, it tightens things up organically. And second of all, the win to get in is not a small thing. And that does create excitement. It will. It will make starting with the Daytona 500, which is a big enough event anyway, that winning that would be paramount. It will be a little extra special because someone will know it will go into the bank to possibly get into the Chase if they should fall outside of the top 10.
So we like the changes, and we think that they build on the excitement of what we saw last year with the Chase.

Q. Brian, as you've listened to the fans and reacted accordingly, and with the overhaul of the point system and of the qualifying procedure, I've not heard anything about the top 35 rule here tonight. Why has it been important for you to maintain that when you have the opportunity to change it?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, no new news on that. We looked at that. That was just not something that we thought made sense. And we were focused on the Chase -- and, by the way, when I say simplifying the points system, depending on how you feel about it, it's no small thing to figure out how to do that just the right way where it still works the way the old point system, but reflects a simpler, easier way.
So the top 35 has not been on the table.
KERRY THARP: Mike, Brian, thank you very much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.



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