Bruton Smith, the eccentric billionaire whose Speedway Motorsports Inc. owns eight NASCAR tracks, held court in the Texas Motor Speedway media center on Saturday and addressed a wide range of subjects.
Among his comments were thoughts on the lack of drama in NASCAR, fuel-mileage races and the state of the Truck Series.
Here are some selected notes from his lengthy media session:
• Smith said NASCAR needs to work at "making the racing more exciting." He said NASCAR has made some good moves in recent years – notably double-file restarts – but needs to implement additional improvements.
"I think we can do better and we need to work at it diligently and make what we bring to the public better," he said.
Smith's primary suggestion to improve the racing is to slow the cars down and thus make it easier for drivers to make bold moves.
"It'd be more competitive if they were running about 10-15 mph slower," he said. "There'd be more action, more rubbing. And rubbing is racing, as someone said."
• Races with too many long green-flag runs are not exciting, Smith said, and he suggested a smaller fuel tank would force drivers to make more pit stops.
Fuel-mileage races, he said, are "boring, boring, boring." One solution could be a minimum number of cautions per race to serve as TV timeouts.
"This is what I have suggested – and you all can agree, disagree, throw things, whatever you want to do – I think in our sanction agreement, we ought to have a mandatory six caution flags during a race," he said. "Think about it."
• Drivers are "maybe not as eager" right now and NASCAR needs more racers who have a "mean streak."
"It would add a great deal to what we do, and we would have more drama if maybe some driver got out at the end of the race and hit somebody," he said. "I think that's what's missing. We used to have a lot of that."
Smith praised Kurt Busch as a talented driver who could provide some more action, but disagreed with the idea of Busch being an "outlaw." He said reporters shouldn't interview Busch and his peers right after the race when drivers might be angry.
Busch sometimes does things he shouldn't, Smith said, but "we used to do all those things and nobody said anything."
"I think we need to do more of that, a little more free-handed stuff," he said. "That creates a lot of drama. We need more helmet-throwing."
• Despite a decline in TV ratings and attendance, Smith is still supportive of the Chase. He sounded concerned, though, that the playoff drivers get treated with kid gloves.
"I think the Chase has been pretty good for the sport, I really do," he said. "I'm just wondering in the drivers' meeting Sunday what kind of instructions they're going to get: 'Don't touch these cars?' I don't know what they're going to say. ... If you're out there competing and you're not in the Chase and you want to win bad enough, you might bump somebody."
• There are no plans to make further adjustments to Bristol's racing surface after a drama-filled night race in August.
"Our ticket sales are awesome, so that tells me they like what they saw," he said. "Bristol is leading everybody (in SMI) on ticket sales. Our advance sales just keep going up, up, up. Maybe that's indicative what we did is right."
• Smith said it was "very favorable" that Pocono cut the length of its races to 400 miles this season. But he also pretended to forget the track's name and, when asked how much Pocono would be worth, joked, "Well, what's scrap value?"
• Though IndyCar's leadership is in flux, Smith said he's not interested in buying the series. However, he would have been interested about eight or 10 years ago, he said.
Smith criticized the look of the current IndyCars and said they need to be more of a "billboard" so viewers can see which car is which.
"You ever pay attention to when they announce those races? The announcer doesn't know who it is," he said. "He'll say, 'The red car is coming out of the fourth turn.' I'd like to know who's in it: Tom, Dick or Harry? But they don't know, they can't read the number. The numbers are much, much too small."
• Smith is unconcerned the new Formula One track in nearby Austin would hurt attendance at Texas because there is little crossover among the fan bases.
"Ten people we know are going to it, so we're not really concerned," he said. "... Go back and check it as far as you want to, but Formula One has never been anything in this country."
• No consideration has been given to moving an SMI race to give Las Vegas a second date, Smith said. He remains hopeful NASCAR will someday see the value in rewarding Vegas with another race.
"Maybe eventually the sport will demand it enough," he said. "I don't know. NASCAR controls that. We'll just kind of take it as it comes."
• NASCAR's current TV deal allots too much money to Daytona International Speedway due to the Daytona 500, Smith said, and he's pushing for a more even distribution. He's been told FOX's new TV deal with NASCAR will give his tracks more money, but he hasn't been told how much yet.
• Smith detailed his numerous attempts to get a track built in the New York City area. He first went to Long Island, where he said officials wanted to give him the land to build a track. But the drive from the city to the track was so long, he realized a potential track wouldn't draw a big crowd.
After that, he planned to buy land in Atlantic City and met with then-New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman five times. But SMI would have had to tear down an old horse track and pay $5 million for asbestos removal before building a track, so Smith backed out.
Then he was approached to buy the Meadowlands from New Jersey, which owns the complex. But when he looked at the New York Giants' stadium contract, it was too controlling because the Giants had say over what was built on the site.
Finally, he looked at Staten Island – as did ISC, infamously – but found the rules too restrictive. He could have bought the land for $55 million, he said, and was surprised ISC bought it for $110 million (and never got approval to build a track). There would have been a Kentucky-like problem with traffic there, he said.
• The Truck Series needs "a lot of help," Smith said. Sanctioning fees are too high and some tracks lose money by even hosting a Truck race.
Smith's wild (and apparently not serious) suggestion? Trucks should haul something, so NASCAR could put a 200-pound pig in the back.
"We could build a nice big harness for him, strap him down and then we have halftime," Smith said. "At halftime, if you're leading and I'm second, we switch hogs. That will be very exciting for the fans and also the crew members. ... I'm calling on all of you to help me sell that to NASCAR and put a hog in the truck."
Clearly, Smith was joking. Unless he wasn't?
"Let's imagine for a moment that we did it," he said. "I would buy a damn ticket to see that, wouldn't you?"