NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Conference
Topics: Sprint Cup
January 22, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR Research and Development Center and our annual event of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, which this year wraps up the tour. I want to give a special thanks to Scott Cooper and his staff, his whole team at Lowe's Motor Speedway, for doing such a great job in organizing things this week. It's a great job; thank you.
As always, I've turned mine off, so I'd ask you to please turn off your cell phones, or at least mute them, during the press conference portion of this event. We'll appreciate that.
We also appreciate the great turnout today and throughout the week on the media tour. All of us in the industry appreciate what you, the media, do. So we thank you for your efforts. We're going to move right into the program, so we're going to roll the video.
Obviously our first segment this afternoon unveils the 2009 Drive For Diversity driver lineup. At this time I'd like for him to come up and present the 2009 D For D class. Please welcome NASCAR's managing director of public affairs, Marcus Jadotte.
MARCUS JADOTTE: Thank you, Jim. It's truly a pleasure to be here again at this annual event and an honor to once again announce the members of the latest Drive For Diversity class. The 2009 class is absolutely loaded with talent and potential, and it builds on the success of the 2008 class that tallied 14 wins, 43 top fives, 90 top 10s, four poles, and the program's first-ever track championship.
As the video touched on, this year's D For D initiative has been boosted by the recent announcement of Max Siegel's participation in the program. Max and his team will manage the initiative going forward. This is great news for the Drive For Diversity program and great news for the industry overall. We feel certain that Max and his team will be able to manage the program and build on its past achievements.
The industry's commitment to diversity is stronger than ever before, as reflected in the 2009 D For D class. We have 12 drivers to announce here today, the biggest class ever. Collectively eight teams are new to the program for the first time this season.
The face of our sport is defined largely by the athletes who climb into cars every week across the country. Let's meet some of the bright young talent that will help us change that face as the Drive For Diversity 2009 class.
First I'd like to introduce McKenna Bell of Carson City, Nevada, who will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Position One Racing. In 2005 she became the youngest driver to win a championship in the 42-year history of Champion Speedway.
Kristin Bumbera of Sealy, Texas, returns as a Drive For Diversity competitor for the second season and will race in the NASCAR Camping World Series East for Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Racing. Kristin won two races last year at All-American Speedway. She is the first female to lead the points standings in the Texas late model series.
Returning to the program for a second year is Michael cherry of Valrico, Florida. Michael raced in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Addis Motorsports. He was Rookie of the Year in 2009 at Motor Mile Speedway in the late model division and finished fourth overall in the points standings.
Jonathan Gomez of Twin Falls, Idaho, will race in the NASCAR Camping World West Series for RTD Motorsports. Last year he won a championship, a Rookie of the Year title, and 13 races at Magic Valley Speedway.
Next up is Katie Hagar of Nobleboro, Maine. She is another returnee for the program. She'll race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Golden State Racing. Katie was the first female to win a race at Canaan Fair Speedway.
Next up is Pauly Harraka of Fairlawn, New Jersey. Paul returns this year for another year in D For D and was the first driver in the program's history to capture a track championship at All-American Speedway, capturing 11 wins in just 18 starts. He'll race in the NASCAR Camping World Series West for Bill McAnally Racing.
Next up is Laura Hayes from Wilton, California. Laura will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for James Racing. Before switching to stock cars, she won 12 national, state and regional go-kart titles with more than 100 victories.
Next up is Juan Pitta from Galt, California, who will race for Bill McAnally Racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Last year he finished fifth at All-American Speedway. He also has seven go-karting titles to his credit.
Next up is Megan Reitenour of Miamisburg, Ohio. Megan will race for Leicht Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. She is a three-time Ohio state champion in the Bandolero and Legends Series.
Next we have Natalie Sather of Fargo, North Dakota, who will race for Total Velocity Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Sather has an extensive open-wheel background, having won the Midwest Championship in the American Sprint Car Series in 2007.
Next we have Jonathan Smith of Beacon Falls, Connecticut, who's returning to the program for the third season and will run in the NASCAR Camping World East Series for Fadden Racing.
Finally, Emily Sue Steck of Holmes, Wisconsin, who will race for DMT Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Emily won the 2007 Rookie of the Year at LaCrosse Fairgrounds, along with the Most Popular Driver award. Emily was also awarded the NASCAR Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2007.
Ladies and gentlemen, here they are, the 2009 Drive For Diversity class.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Marcus. Thank you, class of 2009, and best of luck for a very successful and rewarding season. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is one of the most exciting projects in the history of our sport. Set to open next year in downtown Charlotte, the hall is going to provide the showcase that NASCAR and NASCAR's millions of fans deserve. When this project began, there was immediate interest in the induction process. Today we officially announce the details of the process, and I wanted to walk you through some of that.
Each year we're going to have five inductees. That elite group will come from an initial list of 25 candidates. Those 25 candidates will be determined by a 20-member nominating committee. The criteria for nomination will be twofold, simple but significant. Nominations will be based on accomplishments in the sport and contributions to the sport.
As far as eligibility goes, former drivers must have competed in NASCAR for ten years and be retired from racing for three years. For non-drivers, they must have worked a minimum of ten years in the industry. For both drivers and non-drivers, potential candidates with shorter careers may be considered if there are special circumstances.
As far as the voting goes, there will be 48 ballots total. 20 will come from the nominating committee, 27 will come from a group of former drivers, former owners, former crew chiefs, manufacturer representatives and media. One ballot will represent the results of a nationwide fan vote.
As of right now, the timeline for the first Hall of Fame class looks like this: The list of candidates will be announced in June. The voting will be wrapped up by September the 15th, and we'll announce the results in October. We plan to have the first induction in May of 2010. It's going to be exciting, especially when we announce the first class of inductees.
And I should point out to this crowd that of the 48 ballots cast each year, 14 will be allotted to members of the media. You will definitely have a voice in this process.
So without further ado, and to continue with our Hall of Fame segment, we're going to hear an overall update on the project, and to take us through that please welcome the executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Winston Kelley.
WINSTON KELLEY: Thank you so much, and thanks to Jim and Brian and the team for allowing us to be a part of the process here this afternoon.
The two most asked questions that I've gotten over the last two and a half years that I've been involved in the project, it doesn't seem like that long ago in March of 2006 that Brian announced that the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be here, and in some regards it seems like a long time ago. But the two most asked questions that I've gotten is when are you going to open, and who's going to get in.
So we know we're going to open in the spring of 2010, in May of 2010, and now we know the process. So there's nobody that's been looking forward to this announcement any more than we have with the team.
I'm honored to be here representing a literal army of people that are developing the Hall of Fame. Many of them are here today, members of our advisory board, Paul Brooks and Blake Davidson, our day-to-day contact with NASCAR who we're thrilled to have with us here today; Amber Wells along with members of our team, Buz McKim, Leslie Horne, other folks that are helping us, Christian Cingolani, Don Smile and Debbie Robinson and others, so literally hundreds are back working on the project from the city of Charlotte and other areas, as well.
We wanted to take you briefly through where we are, and as a refresher to some, it may be new information to others, that we're located directly across from the Charlotte Convention Center bordered by Martin Luther King Boulevard and South Brevard Street. The Hall of Fame property, the five and a half acres, contains much more than the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It's the NASCAR Plaza that Lauth Properties is developing in conjunction with NASCAR, a 20-story, 390,000-square-foot facility that will house Paul Brooks and his staff as well as the NASCAR media group here in Charlotte, a couple of major studios that Jay Abraham and his team with the NASCAR media group will operate just on the Stonewall Street side of the property. Those that are on this side can see where that is. And the NASCAR media group will also manage a newsroom and a television and radio studio that faces out into our NASCAR ceremonial plaza area that will keep the area very exciting and invigorating.
In addition, we've got a new ballroom that's an addition to our Charlotte convention center. It'll seat 2,500 people banquet style, over 5,000 people theater style, and you can see where there's a bridge that connects the convention center right here in this area where guests can walk across. There's over 500,000 people that come through the convention already each and every year and can use the Hall of Fame as a place to do receptions and have their dinner or lunch over in the ballroom, and we've already booked major events and conventions such as the National Rifle Association coming in May of 2010 because of the combination of those areas, those two assets.
We've got 1,000 parking spaces and a garage that's underneath the ballroom that the Hall of Fame will share with the office tower, and then of course the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You can see in our office space area where we'll have a restaurant and retail space. There's our Hall of Fame ceremonial plaza where our commemorative brick program is now being unveiled, and people can purchase bricks with a replica of their favorite driver, over 40 of the historic and current drivers as well as racetracks and other insignias, race teams, as a part of the ceremonial brick paver program.
I wanted to walk you briefly through some of the elements that are being developed within the Hall of Fame. Once guests come into the Hall of Fame, they'll go down a general ramp. We look at it as four levels. They'll go downstairs into a theater area. As you can see here on the lower part of the slide, it seats over 250 people multi-purpose where we'll show an orientation film. We can show live race broadcasts of Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Series races. It also can be available for private events. It's got its own concession area and entrance for private events to go on there while the rest of the Hall of Fame is open, or if it's open for a Saturday night race and it's after hours for the Hall of Fame.
After folks go through the orientation film, they'll come into what we call the Great Hall. We look at that as the Times Square of NASCAR, where everything kind of comes together, and we'll have several exhibits there that we'll be able to change out on a regular basis, so guests that come multiple times can see different things. It's also where we can have receptions and various gatherings, press conferences and things of that nature. It's also where the interactive elements start, where fans can interact with -- you see here at the top of the slide, our fan billboard that is attached behind what we call Glory Road. Glory Road also has multiple concepts and aspects to it. It'll educate folks on the current Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Series tracks on which we currently race. It starts out flat, gradually banks up to 33 degrees so you can see what it's like to be on 24 degrees of banking here at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
We'll also identify a number of the historic tracks. We can position 18 cars on this area and theme them different ways to show different historical aspects and current aspects of NASCAR racing.
Then when we go up into our third level, a couple of other major exhibit spaces. One is our Hall of Honor. That is where the inductees, the five per year that Jim just referenced, will be forever immortalized. We'll have an exhibit for those five inductees for the year following their induction, and then they'll be immortalized there forevermore.
When you walk out of that area, the area that's adjacent to the Hall of Honor, the oval area right here, it's what we call our Race Week Experience. It takes guests, whether they're hard core fans or very new to the sport of NASCAR racing, through what a current race team goes through, what the officials go through, what each and every one of us goes through every week and what it's like at a race shop, how cars are put together. It shows the circular nature, the fact that cars come back from the racetrack, they're torn apart, rebuilt, how they're built from scratch, how they're fabricated, put together, the engine programs, how all of that works.
You can see the transporter, the blue area right here, it shows how we get to the racetrack. People don't get the opportunity to go in the locker room at Panther Stadium, Bank of America Stadium. This is our locker room. It will give folks an opportunity to see how we get to the track but how the teams operate, an inspection area, how qualifying works, the race works, how races are reported on as well as a victory lane and a pit stop area that they can see how these teams change four tires and put in fuel in 11 and a half to 12 and a half seconds and see just how hard it is to put lug nuts on and take them off.
Then once you leave this area and go up some steps, it takes you back in time. In the upper area here, we refer to it as Heritage Speedway. It takes you through the history of NASCAR, an area that talks about what led Bill France, Sr., to get that group of men together in Daytona Beach in December of 1947 to form NASCAR, and then the founders' area that Jim referred to that there's going to be an acknowledgment of those who built the sport, what happened at the Streamline Hotel. The first area takes us through 1948 to around 1971, and then the transformation that started in 1972 when the schedule was changed and R.J. Reynolds and then many other sponsors started getting involved with the sport.
In each one of the areas, the milestone moments, the organizations and the people that brought this incredible sport to life over time, and then the last area shows us how this sport has evolved, both technologically, safety, the R & D that goes on not just here but at the race shops.
And then wrapped around that area, we call it the NASCAR Vault, the artifact rich area. We tell folks we're more than just a Hall of Fame, we're more than just a museum. We're also an entertainment attraction, but we have all of those elements. More the museum element is in the vault space where we'll have a lot of different themes. It'll take people through time, with themes that can be changed out regularly. As an example, the first one will be some of the families in NASCAR, the champions and diversity that's been involved in NASCAR over the many years.
Also upstairs in the corner is an area we call the Greatest Finishes Theater, where guests can go in and punch up one of the 50 greatest and most exciting finishes in NASCAR history.
That's just a brief thumbnail sketch and overview of -- I've skimmed over a lot of the interactives that you'll see in there, but that gives you an overview of what's in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
From a time frame standpoint, the NASCAR Plaza building is scheduled to be concluded in March of 2009. The development of the Hall of Fame continues throughout this year with final exhibit development, the specifics, the artifact acquisition, developing the linear media that the NASCAR media group is doing, actually fabricating and building the exhibits, developing all the interactive elements and developing all the operational components, everything from ticket price to hours of operation. Exhibit installation starts in the fourth quarter of this year through the first quarter of 2010 with our grand opening scheduled for May of 2010 followed by our initial induction ceremonies.
A couple of quick slides that can show you where we are. This is from the convention center. You can see into the Hall of Fame and the office tower and the TV studio that Jay and his team will operate, and then looking back towards Stonewall Street, that's a picture that Leslie took just a couple of days ago on top of the convention center, our bridge and our convention center expansion, the ballroom.
I'm delighted to be here. Look forward to answering any questions you have later, and thank you to Scott for allowing us to be here, and maybe next year at this time we'll have a little sneak preview for all of you folks. Thanks to Scott, Jim and Brian for allowing us to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Before I introduce our next speaker, where is Amber Wells? Where are you sitting, or are you standing? Hold your hand up, Amber. I don't mean to embarrass you, but this young lady who works for NASCAR was on the airplane that splashed down in the Hudson River last week, and Amber, on behalf of all of us, number one, we're delighted to see you; and number two, her faith and her attitude following what happened will certainly serve as an inspiration to all of us in this industry. So thank you, Amber.
It's my pleasure now to introduce NASCAR's chairman and CEO, Brian France.
BRIAN FRANCE: Good afternoon. On a bit of a somber note, Robbie Weiss, who runs our broadcasting, who was set to join us today, has had a very serious medical emergency and is in serious condition at a local hospital. I've summoned Paul Brooks to be with the family, so we're pulling for Robbie in a very difficult situation.
I don't know about you, it's kind of hard for me to do that right after talking about Robbie -- I don't know about you, but I am ready for the season to start after all. It's been an interesting and challenging off-season for everyone. The Daytona 500 is just around the corner, and fans will once again start debating the on-track topics rather than the off-track topics, topics they typically debate like whether three-time champion Jimmie Johnson can win a fourth Sprint Cup title. Can Ryan Newman win the Daytona 500 again? When will Jeff Gordon get back into victory lane? How will two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart fare as a driver and an owner? Will Carl Edwards pick up right where he left off last season when he won three of the last four races?
NASCAR race teams are eager to get back at it, and this season promises to deliver plenty to talk about. In tough times like these, strong people tighten their belts, put a little extra zip in their step, and focus on the things they do best. In our sport, that's racing, and no one does it better than our drivers and teams.
Last year I stood at this podium and pledged we would hold the line on major changes, and we have. The sport and the fans have been through a great deal of necessary change over the last ten years. Now we're in a period where we're letting those changes mature, and you know, the changes are working well. Things like the new car, realignment and the Chase are proving to be good for the sport and good for competition.
Despite the fact that there are no major changes, the NASCAR management team has been extremely busy this winter working with teams and tracks to face the challenges of the economy and keep our sport moving in the right direction.
One of the key areas we're zeroing in on is helping the teams develop a new business model to fit today's ever-changing economy, exploring ways to manage costs much smarter, working with our media partners to explore additional ways to take our product to our fans, meeting with our tracks to brainstorm new promotions for ticket opportunities for our fans and continuing our efforts in diversity, working hard to facilitate opportunities for minorities and females on and off the track.
I'm proud to say the entire NASCAR industry is getting behind this very important initiative. You saw a great example of that earlier when we introduced this year's D For D class, and I'm proud to welcome to our team someone as talented as he is passionate about this sport to help us, and that's Max Siegel. The future is indeed bright for this most important initiative.
I want to tell you something else today that's ever increasingly important to the industry of NASCAR and to our comprehensive approach to making this sport, which is to make this sport greener and more environmentally smart. What that means to us is we want to do our part to be a better partner with the environment. That's not only important to NASCAR, but it's really important to our fans, and they've told us that not only are they concerned about preserving the environment for the outdoors, but they're also concerned about high fuel costs, global warming, and energy independence.
We recognize this must be one of our priorities moving forward, so last June I chaired an internal committee meeting with former vice president Al Gore, who's an authority on this subject, in conjunction with the event at Infineon Raceway. In that meeting we discussed ideas for what we can do as an industry to become greener and smarter.
One of the recommendations was to have a point person to coordinate with the industry, and as a result, NASCAR has hired Mike Lynch as a managing director for green innovation. Mike is responsible for planning and executing a comprehensive industry-wide green initiative. He comes to NASCAR with nearly 20 years of experience in strategic planning and working with major companies on breakthrough technologies. Mike is in the process of developing an industry-wide multidisciplined strategy, green initiative, to include all NASCAR departments, drivers, teams and tracks.
Mike will work with the entire industry to identify the best green practices among the facilities, transportation, operations and everyone. It's important, however, to note as we embark on this strategy, there are already significant efforts underway. Track operators such as International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, are working diligently on the issue of recycling as just one example. NASCAR partners such as Goodyear, Safety-Kleen, Waste Management, are leaders in their respective industries and environmental ambassadors in their own right, and they're setting benchmarks to that dedication to keeping NASCAR green, as well.
There's an exciting new development that I also want to mention. NASCAR recently announced the acquisition of Grand American Road Racing. Grand-Am kicks off the season this weekend, one of the biggest events in all of auto racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. 2009 promises to be a memorable season for Grand-Am, and we're looking forward to helping Grand-Am Road Racing in the Americas and maybe beyond.
Ultimately throughout NASCAR, there are a lot of people working in a lot of areas doing everything they possibly can to make sure our sport continues to succeed. Our fans as we've said many times are the most loyal in sports, and we really appreciate that loyalty. They have come to expect the best racing in the world, and we're going to keep working with our teams on every front to ensure it stays that way.
I'm extremely proud of my role with NASCAR, continuing the six-decade tradition established by my father and my grandfather. Both of them believed in surrounding yourself with smart, strong people who share a common passion, and that's NASCAR racing.
We certainly have such a team at NASCAR today, and in just a moment you're going to meet some of our key team members and hear from them directly. But in closing, I want to thank you personally for your time today. As Jim alluded to at the outset, the media's coverage of our sport is much appreciated and much needed by everybody at NASCAR. So enjoy the rest of the program, and we really appreciate all you've done here all week in Charlotte. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: This next segment is one you should find interesting. It's designed to give all of you a different look at the various phases of NASCAR's business model and how we're all working together to keep this sport strong and growing. We're going to introduce members of our management team, and after some initial discussion up here, then we'll open it up for questions for you.
First, please welcome back to the stage, managing director of public affairs Marcus Jadotte; NASCAR media group chief operating officer and vice president, Jay Abraham; from our New York office, Jim O'Connell, vice president of corporate marketing; NASCAR's vice president of racing operations, Steve O'Donnell; our vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton; NASCAR's chief marketing officer, Steve Phelps; and of course, our president, Mike Helton. Brian is already up here.
We're going to start with -- Brian, I'm going to start with you. There's been a lot of talk about manufacturers, so what's your take on the manufacturers? The question that's being asked is can NASCAR go on, and what effect will the manufacturers' current situation have on NASCAR? What are your thoughts on that?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, for starters, we were pleasantly -- we were very happy that they got the initial bridge funding as part of the rescue package, so that was a good thing.
As I've said a couple different times over the off-season, you know, to focus on what it means to NASCAR, I believe kind of this is the point, because it's really what it means to this entire country, all the jobs it represents, and that's what has got our attention, to make sure we're as good a partner with all the manufacturers as we possibly can be to make them successful, get them through a difficult time, because if something were to happen, the bigger issue isn't NASCAR or its teams, although they're a big part of our past, historical and all that; it's rather what it would mean to -- those millions of jobs we talk about, a lot of those are NASCAR fans, so we're zeroed in on helping them be as successful as they can and get through a difficult time.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, one of the other questions that people are talking about is maybe NASCAR's drivers need to be more accessible. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MIKE HELTON: I think they are accessible. As a matter of fact, I think our drivers are the most accessible athletes in all of sports, and maybe that comes from knowing -- we know a lot about what they do as opposed to some of the people that may make a statement like that. But we see them in action. There are a lot of demands on their time and schedule and their asks.
But I've got to tell you, I'm proud of our guys. I think they are supportive of their role in this sport. They're all conscientious about it. Certainly from time to time a fan or a media interview may not work out right, but when you look at our sport, and we've got 43-car field in the Sprint Cup garage, and 30 of those guys carry the burden of representing our sport maybe today, and you compare that to a football team has a 43-member roster, and so the other sports have so many more athletes to spread that responsibility out, maybe more so than -- certainly more so than we do. But I strongly disagree when I hear that our drivers need to be more accessible, they need to be more supportive. They are. Just, they are.
THE MODERATOR: Steve Phelps, who's our chief marketing officer, another hot topic, what's NASCAR doing to help the teams that are struggling right now?
STEVE PHELPS: Well, I think everyone up here and all the departments at NASCAR, it's our responsibility to try to help the teams. I think we do a good job of doing that. I'll focus on two key departments that are doing the lion's share of sales and marketing. The first would be the New York office headed up by Jim O'Connell, and the lead generation they do and the opportunity for us to package deals from an official standpoint that have team and track relationships with them.
I'll let Jim speak about that after I finish.
The group that I'd like to focus on primarily is really our industry marketing group. Our industry marketing group is a relatively new group over the last two years, headed up by Jill Gregory and her team. It's a group that had a little bit of a different function when they were located in New York, and that was lead generation, and we have that with Jim's group.
We thought we needed to have a stronger presence in the Charlotte area where the teams are and really create stronger marketers and create packages that the teams could go out and sell themselves, and that's what they've done.
Jill's group has gained the trust of the teams, and they're with the teams each and every week, whether you're talking about the Camping World Truck Series or the Nationwide Series or the Sprint Cup Series. They're out in the marketplace trying to help the teams secure sponsorship. They're out trying to help the teams create packages that will be meaningful for sponsors that are looking to get into our sport. And they try to create meaningful points of difference from team to team, driver to driver, that create something special that that sponsor might look for.
They're also responsible for going out and trying to help the teams develop research through our research group out of our Charlotte office headed by Brian Moyer, and they create great packages from a data standpoint so the research they provide stays strong, that it gets appointed different, not just versus each other, but more importantly with other sports and entertainment vehicles out there.
We think Jill and her team have done a tremendous job, and we'll continue to do that and help the teams in any way we can. It's more important what they do now more so than any time in its history based on the difficulty in the economy.
THE MODERATOR: Jim, do you want to follow um with maybe some additional details?
JIM O'CONNELL: In conjunction with the industry marketing group, we're doing a number of things on a daily basis, providing research, best practices, sending along leads, making introductions. I think the most important thing we do every day is when we're out talking to potential partners about getting involved in NASCAR, we tell them the importance of being involved with the teams and the tracks and the drivers. In fact, since I've been in NASCAR, every official deal we do includes a commitment to the industry, so they have to spend with one of those three constituents.
We do it for two reasons; one is we all know the bread and butter is making sure we have a well-funded industry, that our teams and tracks and drivers, et cetera, have the money to race each week, and that's paramount; and secondly, from an official point of view, we know the most effective partnerships out there, the Cola-Colas, the Bank of Americas, the AFLACs, the Mars, Gillettes, et cetera, are fully integrated. They have the official piece, but more importantly they have a piece along drivers and tracks and teams. We've seen that model work time and time again, and that's the way it's going to work the best.
You saw the announcement this week with Ask.com coming in. We're thrilled that they heeded our advice that aside from just being the official NASCAR, which we're thrilled about, they're doing a primary sponsorship of the No. 96 and the Hall of Fame, and that's a model to follow and I think it'll be tremendously successful.
THE MODERATOR: Robin, there's been a lot of talk and a lot of things written during the winter about rules and procedures. What new rules and procedures can we expect in 2009?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Just to follow up with what Brian said earlier, we're holding the line on the Sprint Cup Series. There's a couple of small little things just in the inspection process, so we don't anticipate any rule changes at all there.
Nationwide Series is roughly the same. We're holding the line there with the anticipation of bringing on the new car in 2010, giving teams an opportunity to develop and work on that throughout the summer.
The buzz lately here has been some of our meetings that we've had with our Camping World Truck Series, and we're continuing to meet with the owners and an internal group to discuss some potential cost savings with their travel budgets and possibly people that they take on the road with them, just trying to work through some of these times. But we're still in the discussion stages of that, and we hope that we can have some stuff solid within the next week for sure.
THE MODERATOR: What we try to do, you'll have an opportunity to ask questions afterwards, but what we try to do is take questions that almost everybody was asking and pare it down. That's why I'm asking those particular questions up here. You can certainly ask follow-ups at your leisure when we conclude.
BRIAN FRANCE: John Darby was telling us at lunch that we've had 15 new teams at the various national divisions come through the R & D center to get certified or registered, so while it's difficult, what we are seeing with the cost structure coming down, frankly to operate teams at all of our national divisions, it starting to get some interest from maybe some new team owners who thought the mountain was too high to climb at one point, so that's encouraging.
THE MODERATOR: Steve O'Donnell gets very involved in the scheduling process for NASCAR, and one of the things that I know you have asked is what goes into the process for realigning a date or dates such as what happened this year with the Labor Day switch between Atlanta and California. It actually involved a third track. But what all goes into that?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Well, we get realignment requests really annually, and some of those work for the industry and some don't. I think in this case last year we sent out a letter to all the tracks, usually about this time, asking for any realignment requests they may have, and obviously we review those. In the case of last year, Atlanta had put in a request to see if they could move off the date that they had. California was looking to see if they could switch, if there were any opportunities out there, and in talking to the two groups, SMI and IFC, we realized there was an opportunity there to really benefit both.
A third party with Talladega was involved because we needed to switch a date there. In order to make this all work, it was fairly complicated as everybody knows here. The dates are tough, and moving them are even tougher. But we were able to work within the industry, with our television partners, with the tracks, and then really take a look at this from a fan perspective and think that long-term does this really work for the industry as a whole and does it really work for the fans. And this was one we felt was a real home run for the industry, so it was something that we moved forward with, and we'll continue to have the same process in place for this year, as well.
THE MODERATOR: This will be the last warm-up question, Jay, and of course if any of you have questions for Marcus, since he has been up here and sort of explained one of his programs, you'd be free to ask any Q & A. Jay, what is NASCAR's media group? What role do they actually play in the day-to-day operation of NASCAR?
JAY ABRAHAM: We see our role as really connecting with the fan. We're responsible for creating entertainment products and communicating what goes on in the sport to the fans. Last year Brian made it a strong point and of course strategy for us to return to basics. We found that being able to create entertainment products that explain and depict the core values of this sport for the fans, both the core fan so that they remind themselves why they became core fans, and then also for the casual fans to understand what it is about this sport that makes it so unique and so unusually compelling is what we feel our core role is within the sport.
And to that end, for those of you that may or may not have seen the movie we just released, "The Ride of Their Lives," once again that's a depiction of the history of the sport and what it is and the family values and the competition and the excitement of the sport that brought the fans into the sport.
Projects like that we feel are critical to communicate the values and the benefits of the sport and what separates it from all the other stick-and-ball sports.
THE MODERATOR: We're now going to begin our Q & A session.
BRIAN FRANCE: We did a thing similar to this a couple years ago, three years ago, brought our talented team of people up at some conference or whatever, and I got back to Florida and I was kind of proud of myself, and my father said, what did you do that for, and I told him. He said, now we're going to get recruited by all of our competitors, seeing how sharp our guys are. Don't ever do that again. He probably would not be too thrilled. Our guys get to showcase their talent.
THE MODERATOR: If you have a question for any of us up here raise your hand, and we'll come around with a wireless microphone. We ask that you state your name and affiliation.
Q. In honor of Ed I'm going to ask a twofold question. For Brian, you mentioned that you wanted to hold the line on change to satisfy the core fans. Do you have any evidence or tangible results of that working a year later, that your core fans are happier with the changes you've made? And one of the things we've heard here this week on the team side is I think they're looking for direction from NASCAR on how you guys are going to make everything okay three, five years down the line. You talked about a new business model. Do you have concrete evidence what you're doing there that's going to make things better?
BRIAN FRANCE: We do. It's pretty simple. What we wanted was to sit back with the basics and hold the line because we wanted the focus to be what happens on the track. Every metrics that you look at, that was what was the predominant discussions that happened last year with our fan, and that's exactly what we wanted as opposed to lawsuits and other crazy things with business elements that go on around the sport. So we feel like that was successful.
And the three- or five-year-down-the-road point for our teams is, you know, we've been in business over 60 years, so this is a business model and a sport that will endure. And yes, there are changing circumstances with economy that we have not seen this difficult in a generation, and that is making -- it's accelerating our efforts to take cost out of the system. You hear that from us frequently. Changes incidentally, and lack thereof, also help in the cost model. The more things we have to change often cost money in the short run, so we're trying to hold the line on that, as well.
The bottom line is and the reality for us is we're not adapting to something that won't be effective for a year or two. Obviously the new car and all the things that go around how we're set up all look to many, many years down the road of having a stable, competitive and safe motorsports organization that everybody can benefit from.
MIKE HELTON: And just to add to that, I think the working with the teams, the tracks, all the stakeholders in the industry is NASCAR's role, and it's an ongoing work in progress. And a lot of that comes from the support that you see represented from the different departments in NASCAR that exist today. I don't know of another sport that takes its role as a service provider to its stakeholders as serious as the France family does and gives us all opportunities to do what we do.
So that model that Brian talks about is a work in progress, and it starts with listening. It starts with listening to tracks, it starts with listening to teams. And what gives us hope and confidence in a trying time is that working model that we have to listen to teams and to react. Now, we're not always going to react exactly the way they may individually ask us to, but each of their individual issues go into our thought process. It could come from a rule-making process that Robin does. It could come from a marketing or licensing issue that Steve Phelps or Jim O'Donnell or Paul Brooks gets involved in. It could come from a broadcasting aspect, a communications aspect.
But when we talk about working with the teams, we do the same thing with racetracks on models that make sense. We offer up what we know to teams to help them make their decisions, but the independent businesses that make up NASCAR, the team owners, the track owners, they make their own business decisions at the end of the day. What we do, though, is we learn from listening to them what we might be able to do and the reaction we might be able to do from our side as the police of the sport to help them along the way.
There's some things that we can't help them with, there's some things that we give them the recipe to help themselves with, and it's up to them to see how the pie comes out of the oven.
But when we talk about working with the teams on the business models, that's what we're talking about. And that's not really something that's new at NASCAR. That's what's made NASCAR perpetuate itself for 60 years.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The relationships here with our teams and with all our series directors, everybody we have here in the R & D center, we've got a pretty nice open-door policy, and we don't just wake up one morning and decide to cut RPM or wake up one morning and decide to do a car or anything like that. A lot of these ideas are guys that are saying, hey, can you look at something, I see something that's a little off normal on our budgets or where we're spending money or where we're chasing things.
You look over the years, and this year everything is under a microscope, and you're saying, what are you doing to help the teams. Well, it's not just this year that we're helping the teams. It's every year there's something that is done that's small or under the radar. You know, ten years ago for safety or for cost we took the third tire changer off of Pit Road, and we worked on other things and we worked on Pit Road speeds and we worked on electronics for Pit Road speeds. Somebody brought up, man, the engines are turning too much RPM, and that's where we're spending our money. Well, RPM is one thing. If it didn't cost extra money, we probably wouldn't care that much. But when they come to you and say my engine bill has gone from A to B and this is why, then we look at it. We limit it with gears.
We're constantly talking to the teams and listening to them, and it's hundreds of phone calls a month that are in and out of this R & D center with the directors, and myself with guys that I trust and talk to or guys that come and bring something to our attention for us to evaluate. It's not always what is portrayed to us is an issue or something to go look at, but definitely most of the time where there's smoke, there's fire, and we go out and -- so it's not just this year, it's every year that we're working on stuff.
Q. Mike, back at Homestead in November, you announced the testing ban and said NASCAR's position was "no means no." We've been going around to shops all week, and they've been telling us, oh, yeah, we're going to Rockingham, we're going here, we're going there. Greg Biffle said this morning he ran 218 miles an hour at Texas World Speedway. There's one team supposedly that even tried to rent out Twin Ring Motegi in Japan to go testing. Are you guys satisfied with what you intended has worked out, how it's intended, and have you interceded with any teams and told them to back down on what they're doing?
MIKE HELTON: First of all, if I remember at Homestead, the question was "what about Daytona," and that's where my comment, "no means no," was around Daytona, the question about whether or not there would be testing in Daytona. But no does mean no. But in the context of what NASCAR has the ability to enforce its policy, and we have that ability with tracks that we have business relationships with. We don't have that ability at test facilities, proving grounds, tracks like Rockingham or College Station. We don't have that ability to enforce a policy. So that far reach that we would like to have is not enforceable, and we're not going to have a policy or a procedure or a rule that we can't enforce fairly across the board.
That's a part of the basis of a policy that we come up with, is that everybody in the garage area has to feel like it's fair to them. Now, we hear the same thing you hear. We know what's going on out there. But it's also a matter of us not being able to enforce that.
And I think there's a consciousness among the teams that's deeper today than there was when we announced it back in November. Some of the owners, some of the drivers and crew chiefs, car chiefs, that said, man, we're going to do this, we're going to do that, that didn't unfold the way they intended it might, or the way they were thinking about at that time. But there's still some of it going on.
But we believe that the suspension of testing that we announced in November for the '09 season has accomplished a lot and most of what we wanted it to accomplish, and that's, number one, economically for car owners. It is a big impact. We're hearing things just in the month of January. I had a driver tell me his own personal expenses in January were down almost $200,000. I had a car owner tell us just in the month of January that their expenses were down almost $300,000 because of not testing. And that's just in the month of January.
So that means that that decision was a good decision to make, even with the lack of the ability to define no meaning no as broadly as we might like to. I think we accomplished what we were looking for.
Q. Brian, the last couple of weeks we've gotten a lot of releases from tracks that have announced discounted ticket plans, rolling back ticket prices. Even Daytona has done some of that. Is there a growing concern that despite some of these efforts that at least through the next quarter -- the first quarter of 2009 that with the economy that some of these people simply may not be able to make it to the track?
BRIAN FRANCE: Absolutely. I mean, there's no question. You know that when you read the stories like I do and know what's going. They're worried about their jobs, they're nervous. People have lost their jobs. And I think that's what you're seeing, the tracks trying to be sensitive to that.
The NFL cut their playoff tickets, the pricing for those, trying to do everything they can, and we're trying to do everything we can. The tracks are leading that charge, and they're just trying to be sensitive to their best customer.
Q. For Brian or Mike, with these economic times, are you re-thinking the four-team limit at all? What do you see the difference between an organization that builds cars and fields cars for themselves, and an organization that builds cars and fields some of those cars for their own team and sells them off to their affiliate teams?
BRIAN FRANCE: We've been clear on that, and these economic times don't change that. There will be a four-car limit, and there are clear lines as to how to be a supplier in the sport, to in theory help our teams get started, amortize some of your costs if you're an existing team owner, export some of your services or engineering or whatever, and that will -- we still will permit that. If there is any confusion with one group or another, we'll clear it up.
MIKE HELTON: And Brian is exactly right. We have not changed our mind on this. As a matter of fact, it's probably stronger than it's ever been, and we believe it's the right thing to do when we announced it. We believe it's the right thing to do today. That move of a cap of ownership on cars that you've got on the racetrack was a piece of a bigger puzzle with the rules and regulations on motors, on tires, on different things that we've done over the past several years, and in an effort to minimize the barrier of entry for car owners because we have to have race cars to do what we do, and they come from car owners.
As Brian mentioned earlier at lunch when John said that he's already had 15 new Sprint Cup owners to come through to get certified -- chassis certified for the '09 season, that means there's hope out there. That means there is belief that there might be opportunity to enter a car in a Cup event, a Sprint Cup event, and that's important to us. So that policy that we created wasn't about limiting any individual participating in the sport. It was a step in trying to build a broader opportunity for owners to be able to participate in the sport. So we still very much believe in it.
BRIAN FRANCE: One last point on that. The path we were on, which was going to be five, six, seven -- you heard from some of the team owners, I'm on my way to eight, what that would have done is it would have made it virtually impossible for the news we heard today, which is 15 new team owners. When you are coming in with a one- or two-team approach, and the super teams are the only -- and that's the model that is successful, that would have been a huge deterrent for new team owners, and that's why we did the limit in the first place.
MIKE HELTON: One final point on this topic. If we had not done that, and let's say there could have been an owner out there with eight or ten teams, and in today's environment with car owners moving around to try and survive and our interest in keeping the quality of the racing on the racetrack at the fans' expectations, imagine what it would be like if an owner that had eight or ten cars had financial problems and shut his garage down, how hard that would be to supplement the field of cars in the Cup garage. Relate that to today's environment. That's not what we saw in the crystal ball four or five years ago, but it's part and parcel to the decision we made.
Q. Is NASCAR considering making the testing suspension a permanent ban, and if not, will it be a year-to-year kind of review process in determining when it would be reinstated?
MIKE HELTON: We went into this with an '09 vision, and we will let the '09 season unfold, and at some point, Robin and John Darby will start the process. I'm assuming they're going to start getting input probably two weeks ago on what 2010 may be like. I know we've been moving around in January up here. Some of the crew chiefs' wives asked us to put testing back in next week (laughter).
But I think what we do in fairness to the decision is we let the '09 season unfold, we watch and key our eye on the circumstances that drove us to make that decision and see how they might change in either direction, and then sometime in the summer make the decision for 2010.
Q. You talked about being encouraged by the new ownership coming in. How discouraged are you to see Petty Enterprises go away and the Wood Brothers non-competitive and DEI forced to merge? And was NASCAR able to do anything to prevent that and to try and preserve that bit of your history?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we have very limited ways to influence that one way or the other. It is disappointing to see the traditional teams that have been with us like the Pettys or the Wood Brothers since the beginning. But they haven't entirely gone away, of course. But it's reset in a different -- in different circumstances with new team mergers. But that's the reality that we're going through.
You know, you're seeing -- the economy has spotlighted teams that were struggling mostly in performance on the track, and now that sponsorship is even more difficult to come by. It will spotlight those teams that in the last few years for one reason or another, maybe no fault of their own, circumstances, bad luck or whatever, just simply haven't performed at the level that they need to, and that economic model is under a lot of pressure with sponsorship that is contracting.
MIKE HELTON: If you step back and look at NASCAR as a business and industry, which it kind of is, but what we do recognize and are proud of the fact is that it's also a lifestyle of sorts. So when you talk about a Richard Petty or a Bud Moore or the Wood Brothers, then that's when the lifestyle kicks in, when your thought processes work through it.
Richard Petty is a huge brand in NASCAR, and it's part of our heritage. Whether or not Richard Petty is represented on the racetrack, either as a driver or as an owner, he will always be a big part of our heritage, and so will the others, Bud Moore, Glen Wood, Lenny Wood. They'll always be part of our heritage. But if you step back and look at NASCAR as an industry, and think about it when you pick up a newspaper or see it on television or hear on the radio the fact that somebody in another industry struggled and had to shut their brand of that industry down, whether it's in the electronic industry or the food industry or the beverage industry or whatever you might read, which we unfortunately pick up and read a lot about today, but when you step back and look at NASCAR as a business, as an industry, from time to time you have that happen in a business cycle.
Along the way what NASCAR has done in response is, and this goes back to Brian's grandfather, and still exists today strongly at NASCAR is for us to look at ways to offer up as much hope as we can, and evidence to that is the winner's circle, the TV owner plans and the financial programs that team owners get participation in based on their competitiveness on the racetrack, because we believe in our heart and soul, our product on the racetrack depends on competition.
So our elements of reward, if you will, whether it's the prize money, the entry blank for the Daytona 500, or the plans that owners can participate in to help them out are based on competition. And that's what delivers our product correctly to the race fans, and so we have to maintain that.
But along the way in the history of the sport, there have been business programs that NASCAR has instituted for car owners in hopes to give them the ability to, in a slow time, survive to turn it around, so to speak. Most of the time, a lot of times, that works. Sometimes it just doesn't work. And in tough times, it's tougher. And that's part of what we've got going on right now.
Q. Brian, you said in your speech earlier that there were -- that you had a meeting concerning greener racing or motorsport, and today earlier in the day we heard Ford Motor Company, how important hybrid technology is for the road car business. My question is in the long-term future of Sprint Cup racing, can we expect maybe a race car with a hybrid technology?
BRIAN FRANCE: You know, I don't know. What we're really interested in -- the answer is no one really knows yet what is going to be the emerging -- is it going to be biofuels, is it going to be something else. The jury is still out on that. Ethanol is used by one of our competitors, and it turns out as an example that it puts more carbon emissions into the atmosphere than fossil fuels and creates food shortages and you know the other issues.
The good news is we want a comprehensive industry approach to going green. Both of our two buildings that are being built in Florida and here in North Carolina are LEED certified as an example, and we have this big energy footprint that we carry from market to market, and that will be something that we'll be looking at.
The reality of what goes on at the track would be more symbolic than anything else, but I will tell you having met with the manufacturers for unrelated reasons, our green strategy over the summer, Mike and I both, but we did hear from all the manufacturers, that's a great thing that you're trying to get out in front of it because they're working on all kinds of different technologies that are going to drive cars in the future, and we're going to be side by side with them, and we'll have to see how that unfolds.
But certainly when somebody asks a question, well, what are you doing, so four or five years down the road, you'll be in a good place for the team owners, a good steward of the sport, well, that's one of many parts of the things that we think we have to do that will be important, not necessarily tomorrow morning but way down the road, whether that's diversity, whether that's figuring out a really, really smart green strategy for the whole industry to participate in. Those are the kinds of things that we are working on for the future.
Q. Back in December at the motorsports marketing forum in New York, you were quoted as saying that you will not have a 30-year run like your father. Some this week have questioned that comment and suggest that that might limit your effectiveness as a leader. So one, how would you respond to that? And two, because it seems like you've kind of left it open-ended, can you clarify how long are you going to be around?
MIKE HELTON: I'm not planning on a 30-year run myself.
BRIAN FRANCE: This gets misunderstood whether whenever I say something like that, and it simply means that my father was 32 years the CEO and the president of NASCAR and ran the company. And all I said is that that's not in the cards for me, and I don't think it's a smart thing for the sport. That doesn't mean I won't have a long run; I hope I do. I hope I'm doing what I'm doing -- I really like what I'm doing, and I like working with the industry and the great group of people and Mike and I side by side. So that should not be misconstrued. As long as we're having fun and we're making progress as an industry, then I would love doing what I'm doing.
But I am 46 now, so I don't think I'll be 76 and still talking to you. That's probably a -- that doesn't mean a short window, but it doesn't mean 30 years, and that's really where we are.
MIKE HELTON: Let me just footnote that a little bit. And this comes from experience, and some of you have known me when I did different things. But when you say people ask about how that affects Brian's effectiveness as a leader, let me answer that one for you. It doesn't. And we're all sitting here and he's our leader, all right, so that's where it starts, because he's the chairman of the company that we all work for.
We get up every day and recognize the fact that the France family created this business, this sport, and the France family still very much is in charge of it, and Brian is the face of that family that sits in that seat today. I knew his grandfather. I worked and learned a lot from his father. I worked and learned a lot from Brian. And I can tell you the passion that his grandfather had and his father had, Brian has, as well.
But today's business is different, and Bill and Jim France recognized that several years ago when they started creating and allowing us to build a different NASCAR from a management level.
When I became president in 2000, I knew I wouldn't be chairman and CEO if Brian wanted to be, because Brian was the one that was deserving of that role, and thank goodness he wanted to take that role. But along the way, we were able to expand the management, spread out the responsibility, and this goes back to the comment I made earlier, about the awareness that Brian and his family have as a service business in this sport and all of the stakeholders and the families that make a living off of it. This building that we're sitting in is representative of that, of that commitment.
So when someone questions Brian's effectiveness as a leader, it may be different than his father was, but it's no less effective, and in some cases it's much more effective, because he allows all of us to do what we do. He gives us our guidance, our direction, but he also depends on us. His father did, too, but his father didn't have as many people to do that with, and fortunately the way NASCAR has grown, and I'm not talking just about the company, I'm talking about the sport, as it's grown, it takes more people to share that responsibility.
And that's what you see today. Today is a 2009 version of NASCAR, not a 1948 version, not a 1979 version. It's a 2009 version, and I think it's the right version for today.
Q. For Mike and Robin and Brian, the business side of the sport, the marketing, all that stuff is an important part of it, but is the racing good enough today? I know there is more passion for the league, there's more competition, there's more of all the statistical kind of stuff. But can the leader be passed under the green? Is there enough battling for position up front? Is the racing good enough? And sometimes if you think about the rules as a business, whether it costs the teams money, do you have to balance that out with the idea that you might want to have to change this car to make the racing better? How do you work through all that?
MIKE HELTON: I'm trying to remember all the questions you had in that one. To answer your first question, yeah, I think the competition is pretty daggone good right now. We run a 36-race schedule, we run it at a variety of playing fields. Circumstances like weather, whether 15 drivers are on their game or only four of them are on their game, all of them play a role in how good a race might be. But when you talk about the entire Sprint Cup season -- and we can talk about Nationwide and the Truck Series, but I'm assuming you're specific about the Sprint Cup since you asked about the car.
But I think competition is as good today as it's ever been as a whole. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the level of the current chassis has been reached yet. I think there's still cycles of opportunities for that to get better. And I think there's evidence in the 2008 season that there was a lot of advancement made from February through November at a lot of different places.
And the more we leave that alone and the more we allow the teams and the driver and the crew chief chemistry to apply itself to that car, the better that's going to get. And in the meantime as a whole, though, I still take the position, and I feel very strongly about the fact, that this car is right.
If we get to a point where Robin and John convince us that it's not, then we may look at it. But along the way, we know that there's going to be drivers and some car owners -- I think it's a lot less today than it was this time last year, a whole lot less today. And a lot of that comes from us not messing with it, because once we move that target, everybody has got to start over again chasing it. If you leave that target alone and they know that that's the wall they're running to, then they've got a better shot at making that product work right, and I think that's the smarter thing for us right now.
Q. What is the status of drug testing, and are you recommending doctors to perform these tests?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think it goes back to last year where NASCAR announced that we had amended what we thought was already a fairly stringent policy, and we put just as a reminder kind of three things in place, where prior to the season we've mandated that every driver be tested. Spencer Luters is actually heading up our program. We've had over 130 drivers come through already and submit to tests.
And then all the team owners are required to have their crew members tested, and prior to NASCAR giving a license out to any crew member, we've got to have proof that they've obviously passed the test. So those are kind of the first two factors
And then moving into Daytona for Speedweeks, we've implemented random testing where we approximate about 12 individuals per series would be tested, and the way that will work is AEGIS personnel, who's the laboratory, will perform their tests. It will be an independent test. Those personnel will be on-site in Daytona. They've also been on-site here at the R & D center to administer the tests. So it will be independent of us. It will all be run through AEGIS, and Dr. Black is the person who we rely on as our outside expert for the program.
We anticipate probably in Daytona alone, we're looking at a minimum of at least 36 to 40 tests just at that racetrack, and that will continue on at each track.
Q. For Brian, you spoke about reaching out to Al Gore last summer. Have you also followed up with other people in the new administration?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we've reached out for Al Gore not from a political standpoint but as being an authority in global warming and having produced some great material on that, and he was a good influence for us. We are certainly reaching -- this is a confusing thing for some, that we're not a political body, that we're a racing organization. So our view on the new administration or the new Congress or whatever leaders are elected is who we get behind. That's how it needs to be. So there's no political issue with Al Gore; it was as an authority on an area that we thought he could help us with.
Q. This is for Mike or Brian. Is any consideration being given to trimming back Cup weekends to two days in an effort to save money for teams and fans?
MIKE HELTON: There's consideration for anything that makes sense right now, and we'll continue that all the way through the year, whether the variables may change on us or not. So we're going to keep on open mind to that. In the meantime, I think for the past two or three seasons we have tried to be very efficient at the racetrack, not only for the racetrack itself but also for the teams and the competitors. There will be some tweaking in '09, but it won't be hugely visible.
But as we go along, like I say, if there's a new way of doing something, we're going to be open-minded to it. But going into the '09 season, there will be some small changes here and there, but there's also a responsibility to the fans at the racetrack to unfold the things that we're doing. There also has to be a consciousness to the fact that we have suspended testing, so what happens if the racetrack has a higher level of importance to it. You're not going to see much difference going into the beginning of '09.
Q. One little follow-up on all this, the idea that Mike has just touched on, the accelerating things that we can do to take costs out of the system, we'll do that. The circumstances dictate that we should. But it's important to note that everything that we do will have consequences, including cutting back testing. We've got a lot of rookie drivers and others that would be more ideal if they had more seat time in those tests. We recognize the cost of picking up the cost benefit of not having tests outweigh that. But there are always consequences when we look at accelerating taking costs out of the sport.
MIKE HELTON: And the biggest thing for us, everybody on this stage and everybody that we get to work with, is the decision-making process has a lot of ripple effect to it, like Brian said. But the end result is that we need to protect the quality of the race car on the racetrack. Job one is safety.
But the decision making processes that we make today in tough times, and sometimes they're tough decisions, have to keep the quality of NASCAR racing at the level that NASCAR fans expect it to be.
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