NASCAR Charlotte 2013: Brian France talks 2014 schedule, driver fines, Air Titan and more

Streeter Lecka

NASCAR Chairman Brian France met with the media Saturday and covered a wide range of topics, including the 2014 Sprint Cup schedule, why he’s opposed to moving a race from Charlotte to Las Vegas, and drivers in support of him fining Denny Hamlin.

After another All-Star Race where track position and getting in clear air decided the outcome, the prevailing idea afterward was that it may be time to move the non-points event to a track more conducive to side-by-side racing.

An idea floated by many is shifting the race from its longtime home at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway to a short track.

If this were to happen, the ideal host would be the three-quarter-mile Iowa Speedway, which in recent years has drawn rave reviews from drivers and is still seeking to host a Sprint Cup Series race.

But in a press conference Saturday at Charlotte, the site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said the Sprint Cup Series schedule will remain as is for 2014.

France's comments also indicate that Charlotte will continue to host three Cup races next year — the All-Star Race, the 600 and an October Chase race. This was in response to Charlotte track owner Bruton Smith's stance earlier in the week that he was leaning towards transfering the fall race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"We have gotten a long way with our position in motorsports because we've had historically important events, like this weekend, that happen every year that people can count on," France said. "That said, if for one reason or another, a certain market is not performing as well, it may be a better opportunity. ... We'll take a look at it.

"My preference would be to keep the event here in Charlotte. That's always been my preference."

NASCAR also has little interest in accommodating drivers who wish to run the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, with France saying it "was not a priority."

No driver has ran the double since Robby Gordon in 2004 because of logistics and the narrow window between the finish at Indy -- roughly 3:30 p.m. ET -- and the start of the 600, which takes the green flag at 6:19 p.m. ET.

"We don't have an active discussion about that with Indianapolis," he said. "... It's not on our front burner to work on that."

During the 30-minute question-and-answer session with gathered media, France touched on a variety of topics, including:

  • He defended fining Denny Hamlin $25,000 earlier in the year for commenting negatively about the Generation-6 car and criticizing the quality of racing at Phoenix. According to France, some drivers voiced their support for the fine, saying it was justified.

    "I can't tell you how many drivers came up to me after the Denny Hamlin comment and said, ‘You got to do that or we won't be able to help ourselves from time to time, I'm glad you did that,' " France said. "They all know the line. They all know exactly where it is, because we talk about it. I talk about it directly with every one of the drivers, every one of the owners.

    "But it shouldn't be confused, and it never should have been confused, as a policy to stifle the drivers' personalities. It's quite the opposite. We want them to have emotion, even if we don't like to hear it, one thing or another. That's the emotional part of sports and NASCAR that we would never want to take away from."
  • The introduction of the Air Titan track-drying system has been a success, and prevented the Cup and Nationwide Series races at Talladega Superspeedway from having to be cut short.

    As for why other tracks haven't begun using the Air Titan, which is owned by NASCAR, France cited costs and wanting the system to be vetted thoroughly before investing.

    "In fairness to different tracks, they hadn't seen that work in a real live condition," he said. "Now they have. My hope is that we will get the cost down, number one, and that every track who is in risk of having rain will be using the system.

    "But that's why. It just takes the industry a little time to realize that it really works, all of us to get together and implement it."
  • Regarding the high-profile penalties issued to Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing that were either overturned on appeal or dramatically reduced, France said NASCAR is not concerned about its ability to mete out punishment and govern the sport.

    France believes the appeals process is doing what it was intended for, allowing teams to have an independent party review sanctions. However, in his estimation NASCAR needs to do a better job presenting its case before the appeals board.

    "We'll be looking at, are we making our case as strongly as we could have," France said. "The teams certainly are. They're very good at that. But that's why you have a system to give drivers and owners and others a chance to make a case that maybe we went too far or whatever they may think. That's the system that we have."

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