NASCAR's Helton Hints At Sprint Cup Schedule Change In '15 Season
NASCAR President Mike Helton on Friday "appeared open to a long-awaited revamp of the Sprint Cup Series schedule," saying that the "arrival of television partner NBC in 2015 ... could coincide with a different-looking schedule after next year's version," according to Jeff Gluck of USA TODAY. Helton, speaking at NASCAR's season-ending press conference, said, "While we may not think it needs to be tweaked or changed, others (in the industry) have influence on our decision to make it better. And certainly we keep an open mind of that" (USATODAY.com, 11/15). FOXSPORTS.com's Lee Spencer wrote the "underlying message in Helton’s words was the collaborative shift must continue in NASCAR." It is the "open exchange of ideas between the sanctioning body, shareholders and fans that will allow the sport to persevere for generations to come." The dialogue between NASCAR and its competitors "has never been stronger." Helton: "You've seen over the last few years a broadening of our leadership and then more engagement ... where the business of NASCAR has more people involved in it to help the industry be better." Helton also touched on NASCAR's "new crop of young guns," and the sport's "dedication to improving the product." He discussed "putting the best track forward," and listening to the fans (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/15). Sources said that Road America in Wisconsin "could host its first NASCAR Sprint Cup race" in '15. The track has hosted the NASCAR Nationwide Series since '10 (SHEBOYGAN DAILY, 11/17).
DEFINING MOMENT: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted Helton "stands by NASCAR's decision" to remove driver Martin Truex Jr. from the Chase for the Sprint Cup and put drivers Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon in after the manipulation scandal at Richmond Int'l Raceway in the final race before the Chase. Helton believes that NASCAR’s penalties and new rules have "had the desired effect of keeping teams from using team orders to manipulate the finish of a race." Helton: "It was a defining moment" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/15).
SETTING PRECEDENT? IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti was forced to retire on Thursday following injuries he sustained in a crash in the Grand Prix of Houston last month, and SPORTING NEWS' Pockrass noted Franchitti's doctors "advised him that he risks significant permanent injury if he drives in a racecar again." That type of diagnosis is "exactly what worries some NASCAR drivers about the implementation of baseline concussion testing beginning next year to help determine whether a driver should race after suffering a concussion." The ImPACT test that NASCAR will use can "help determine the impact of a concussion as it measures verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time." But Helton on Friday "wouldn't go as far as saying that Franchitti's retirement validates NASCAR's decisions to implement baseline testing" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/15).