SBD/Issue 172/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NASCAR Meets With Drivers, Team Owners To Discuss State Of Sport

Helton (l), France Lead Meetings Between
NASCAR Execs, Team Owners, Drivers
NASCAR officials yesterday held two meetings with team owners and drivers to discuss "how to improve the NASCAR product, including on-track racing and ways to entice fans that may have stopped watching or attending to take another look," according to Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Suggestions included "changes to the car NASCAR utilizes in its Sprint Cup series; changes to the tires; and reduction in horsepower in the engines." Almost a dozen NASCAR execs, including Chair & CEO Brian France and President Mike Helton, as well as ISC Vice Chair & President Lesa France Kennedy, "led the discussions." France said that there were "many suggestions made about the new car and he would be open to adjustments to the car if it didn't dramatically change the financial model of owners." Not all Cup drivers attended the meeting, "in part because of the late notice of the meetings and drivers' previous commitments." France: "We're going to do more of it because it was productive. We do a lot of communication with our teams and drivers, mostly at the track. We'll still do that" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27). NASCAR VP/Communications Jim Hunter: "Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new form of communication" (ESPN.com, 5/26). 

NO SOLUTIONS PROVIDED, YET: FOXSPORTS.com's Lee Spencer noted the "overwhelming response from the competitors was that the open dialogue was valuable, yet no one provided concrete solutions." It is "unlikely that any advances will come to the car before" the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and "perfecting the product must be the first step." Spencer: "Only time will tell how responsive the sanctioning body truly will be. Still, there is a sense of comfort knowing the lines of communication are open" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/26). But ESPN's Marty Smith said, "Ultimately, the biggest thing that came out of this, though, was the fact that NASCAR held it at all. It's certainly not their typical style of ruling. It's been a dictatorial style forever. The fact they held this meeting was huge for everybody." ESPN's Dale Jarrett: "In talking to the drivers, they felt like this was the best meeting they had been a part of. A lot of things were talked (and) they felt like that they were going to get a lot of results" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 5/26).

REPAIRS NEEDED: In Birmingham, Doug Demmons wrote if they "really want to know how to improve the sport, NASCAR should invite fans to the meeting." Fans likely would suggest that there are "too many boring races at boring, cookie-cutter tracks," and that "no one knows from week to week when the race starts." In addition, while ticket prices "have come down out of economic necessity," they "don't need to be jacked back up when the economy starts to improve" (AL.com, 5/25). ESPN.com's Terry Blount suggested six improvements for NASCAR: Greater emphasis on winning; allow adjustments to the car; shorter races; "make qualifying meaningful;" "double-file restarts for lead-lap cars;" and "don't allow Cup drivers to compete for the Nationwide title" (ESPN.com, 5/26). FOXSPORTS.com's Spencer wrote under the header, "NASCAR Needs To Talk About Its Problems" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/26).

DRUG TESTING A HOT TOPIC: The AP's Jenna Fryer noted "drug testing was a main topic" of yesterday's meetings. The "secrecy and lack of an official list of banned substances led many drivers to worry their careers could be put in jeopardy by a failed test for a simple prescription." Driver Mark Martin said, "If you're taking something as prescribed, I don't think you're going to lose your career. I feel much better now than I did before the meeting." France indicated that he was "confident the issue had been adequately addressed" in both meetings (AP, 5/26).

NASCAR Has No Plans
To Settle With Mayfield
BATTLING FOR POSITION: France Sunday said that NASCAR "has no plans to settle the dispute" with team owner/driver Jeremy Mayfield, who is suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy. France: "We'll defend the policy. We're very confident about the policy" (ESPN.com, 5/24). But SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said that NASCAR "could be in for quite a fight" with Mayfield's lawyer, Bill Diehl. Diehl represented Smith in his divorce and has represented Lowe's Motor Speedway in "various legal matters." Smith: "Bill Diehl is a junkyard dog. I don't mean that other than he is tough. Tough lawyer, brilliant man. We don't need this lawsuit in our sport, but it appears it's going to happen" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 5/24). Smith said if Diehl does file a lawsuit, "there will be a lot of people that will get tired of depositions." Smith also "joined the call of some drivers who say that NASCAR should reveal what caused Mayfield's positive test." Smith: "The best thing to do is let's bring all of this out. You need to know what drug we are talking about. Let's have clarity on that and put it out there and maybe then we can deal with it better" (ROANOKE TIMES, 5/24).

POP QUIZ: NASCAR Sunday during the rain delay at the Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 "randomly drug-tested 10 crew members from 10 teams," an "apparent tweak to the first three months of in-season testing." NASCAR waited until after the scheduled start of the race "to inform teams and ordered individuals to report for testing at the end of the race." But because rain delayed the start, crew members "were seen entering the infield care center, where the tests were conducted" (AP, 5/24).

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