The Making of the Brand

More than 75 million Americans follow NASCAR today, but it wasn't always a mainstream sport. In fact, according to CEO Brian France, in 1948, when his grandfather William H.G. (Big Bill) founded NASCAR, it could only be watched on-site or occasionally on regional television. By 2001, however, while working as the brand's marketing chair, France brokered a deal for NASCAR to be aired nationally on FOX, NBC, FX and TNT, changing the sport for good. Today, NASCAR ranks as the second-most-popular regular-season sport on network and cable television. As the grandson of the NASCAR founder, the 44-year-old CEO has grown up alongside the sport, watching it develop from a small, regional pastime to the national obsession that he runs today. During an hourlong Live Talk on Monday, June 4, at noon ET, NASCAR CEO Brian France will take your questions about his life in NASCAR and how he brought it to the masses.


West Point, VA: Will Nascar be switching to ethanol?
Brian France: We are currently under development with a variety of alternative fuels that would be more ecofriendly than currently exist. As a matter of fact we're looking at a lot of things both small and big to do our part in keeping the environment green.

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Jacksonville, IL: I know that Kyle Petty CEO of Petty Enterprises is in favor of franchising of race teams. What is your stance and why?
Brian France: We look each year at the merits of franchising or other similar concepts. However, what we don't want to do is close off the market to potential new teams. If we had the version of franchising that have been proposed, for example, Toyota might have been restricted from joining NASCAR. So our view is to keep the markets as open and competitive as possible.
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Folsom, CA: When does NASCAR intend to apply the rules fairly to all drivers without bias to the driver's popularity with fans or the NASCAR governing body?
Brian France: We always try to apply the rules fairly regardless of the popularity of a driver. Case in point, we just penalized Dale Jr., in one of the stiffest penalties we have had to put on a team. Realize that there are 43 teams and hundreds of competitors who are competiting in NASCAR's events every weekend and we will always try to treat them all as fair as possible.

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Palm Bay, FL: How does it feel to know that the price of a ticket has got out of reach for so many "old school fans"?
Brian France: Of course the prices to NASCAR events are set by individual tracks in each market. I can tell you every track is very sensitive to their ticket prices and almost all of them have tried to figure out ways to make NASCAR events affordable and excessible especially to their best customers.

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Garden City, GA: Where do you see NASCAR 10 years down the road?
Brian France: I'm often asked where NASCAR will be in 10 years. The truth is of course nobody can predict the future. But my hope is that several important milestones could be met. First, I hope the Car of Tomorrow has a full ten year plus run and makes the racing better, safer and more affordable for our teams. I hope the mainstream sports media continues to improve its coverage of our sport. I hope the expansion into some new markets can materalize and give fans in different parts of the country an opportunity to see NASCAR up close and personal. There's a lot more things but generally we just want to see this sport make the kind of progress that puts NASCAR in its proper place with the other great sports in America.

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Canton, Ga. : Why can't nascar go back to running a car just like the ones that come off the assembly lines of each car maker? Wouldn't that shift the focus back to car and driver and away from just the driver?
Brian France: We could never go back to a place where the cars are right off the showroom. Safety and competition advancements just prohibit it. However if the "new car" does what we think it will, it will put even more emphasis on the driver because the teams will have far less room to change the car mechanically.

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Kennewick, WA: A couple drivers have hinted or outright stated portions of NASCAR races are fixed. What is your position on this and is there an unfair advantage for the "big money" boys?
Brian France: NASCAR has the most difficult job in sports to officiate its events week in and week out. 43 teams all competing at once with a safety element that few sports have to be as mindful of as we do. That's why when we throw a caution as an example, we'll always air on the side of safety. Sometimes those cautions help some and hurts others but I can tell you when it comes to officiating any part of a NASCAR event we have one goal - safe racing equals great racing.

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Davenport, IA: Is Nascar considering changing the top 35 rule of qualifying? It would seem to penalize and guarantee failure for new teams which would appear to outsiders that you are discouraging growth and new start-up teams.
Brian France: We're going to look at the top 35 starting procedures through the summer and towards the end of the year to make sure it's doing everything we want it to do. We'll make a decision in the offseason as we look towards '08.

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Allentown,Pa: With all the issues surrounding the Car of Tomorrow, why pull up the full changeover to 2008?
Brian France: We now know that the "new car" is now meeting and exceeding our objectives and it was our hope that we would ultimately be able to speed up the full roll-out of the "new car." However, our objectives are one thing and the teams needed to decide if it was better to have only a one car program beginning in 2008 and they have. I'm real happy that beginning with the Daytona 500 that we'll be building our future around the "new car."

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Blacksburg, VA: Is there any possibility of having a "Legends" race, with Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, etc. racing for charity or whatever, but just a chance to see the Greats race one more time?
Brian France: While we don't sanction it, the legends of our sport do get together at various tracks to both sign autographs and sometimes some exhibition racing. Personally, I love seeing our heroes of the past join us whenever they can at NASCAR events.

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St. Augustine, FL: With their best showing of the year last week at Lowes, do you feel that Toyota is capable of winning a race this year in the premier division of Nascar?

Brian France: I think Toyota should have an opportunity if things went perfectly for them in any given race. I know that Toyota thought the NASCAR competition would be difficult but I'm not sure if they could have ever dreamed it would be so fierce in NASCAR. But they have a way of staying with things, making steady improvement and always achieving their goals. I have a lot of confidence that Toyota will just get better and better as time goes on.

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Miami, FL: I have been a long time fan of NASCAR. I would like to know why this sport is the only one that changes the rules from week to week. Are they just looking out for stockholders?
Brian France: We really don't change our rules week to week however each race course is different and because their is the mechanical element that affects motorsports there are times when we have to make a rule adjustment. Hopefully for us those are as few as possible.

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St. Thomas, PA: As a loyal NASCAR fan my entire life and also a fan of Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jr. said at his leaving DEI news conference that he would not consider himself worthy of driving his late father's number 3. With this being said, why not retire the number simply because it hasn't been raced since Earnhardt's untimely death and also because his own son doesnt consider himself worthy to drive it?
Brian France: Well that's how Dale feels today and we will certainly respect him. But as to retiring the '3' forever, that's not something we would typically do and would want to be very careful as to always working closely with our team owners should we make such a decision.

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Sheridan, WY: I am a new race fan and just getting into NASCAR. It seems like a fun sport to follow, but I am interested in what you are doing to increase minority and female participation?
Brian France: I'll tell you that when it comes to diversity we know we have to get it right. And right to us means putting the time and resources forward to developing opportunities with talented people of all walks of life who want to participate in NASCAR and have the talent but don't have the opportunity. We have many programs that I believe over time will help discover this new talent pool and keep NASCAR looking like it should - a diverse American sport.

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Sudbury, MA: After just attending the races at Richmond, Darlington AND Charlotte raceweeks, I'm still dismayed why you don't provide enough (and larger) jumbotrons. We bought friends for their first race at Memorial Day's 600 and couldn't see, with the drunks standing up in front of us. More Jumbotrons would have helped. We attend at least six races/year and are considering giving it up because of this issue. Thanks!
Brian France: Over the last few years, most of the tracks on the NEXTEL Cup circuit have ordered more and bigger jumbotrons to make the events more fun to attend. I think as new technology continues to rollout even more, our tracks will take advantage of this new technology.

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Charlotte, NC: High-banked ovals have always produced NASCAR's most exciting race moments, but In recent years NASCAR has increased the number of race dates at 1.5 mile flat tracks. In my opinion this has produced a number of races on the schedule that are, quite frankly, boring to watch. Will you do anything to encourage these flat tracks to make the kind of changes that are required to produce the kind of exciting entertainment your family has always been so good at?
Brian France: There have been more mile and a half tracks added in the last many years but I think for the most part we've had some excellent races on those tracks. Homestead-Miami is an example as our drivers say is one of the best and most exciting tracks they race on. However I will tell you that we think the "new car," because of the aerodynamic advantages, is going to produce great races on the mile and a half and all speedways.

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Mascoma Lake, NH: Have you considered broadcasting the Nascar Races on the internet for Free? Have someone sponsor the broadcast to pay for the costs if necessary. Also why do you not offer the ability to watch past races.

Since it is SO difficult to get tickets to races I'd like to be able to watch them at least.
Brian France: Currently NASCAR is available from more outlets than ever before. Of course we've got to work carefully with our current rights holders to make sure we're taking advantage of new media opportunities as well as protecting the value that they have purchased.

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Grand Rapids, MI: I'm about to quit watching NASCAR because of all the commercials, it has as many if not more commercials than a movie. What can be done about having more of the race and less commercials?
Brian France: We're working with our TV partners closely to make sure as much of a NASCAR event that can be aired gets aired and really there is no additional commercials in terms of time that are airing today as has been in the past.

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Warsaw, IN:  Any chance that there will be nascar racing in New York City?
Brian France: ISC has a stated goal of hoping to open up a facility in the greater New York area. To date, they have not been successful but hopefully in the future there will be an opportunity for them to build a track in New York.

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Las Vegas, NV: What is your biggest challenge with the owners, sponsors, and drivers that you face on a day to day basis?
Brian France: I think keeping all of our key stakeholders satisfied is the hardest part of not only my job but probably any commissioner who runs a major sport. Everyone who has a big stake in NASCAR wants to make sure their issues are always being addressed so that without a doubt is the most difficult part of my job.

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Grenndale, IN: When are you going to give KY Speedway a race? After all, a lot of Nascar teams run tests there and they like the track. Thanks
Brian France: First we have both a Busch and Truck race in Kentucky. We also have NEXTEL Cup events right down the road at both Indianapolis and Michigan so while we would like to accomodate every track it's obviously not possible.

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Brian France: I always enjoy getting a chance to talk directly with our fans. Lots of good questions and I'm always surprised the close details our fans pay attention to as they follow our sport. So have a great week and enjoy the race that's going on now in Dover.

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