Helton Pleased With Reax To NASCAR Changes, Still Concerned With Attendance
NASCAR President Mike Helton this week sat for a two-part interview with FS1's Danielle Trotta and addressed the state of the sport as the midpoint of the '14 season approaches. Trotta noted the new Chase format and knockout-style qualifying "have been the two changes everyone is embracing." Helton said NASCAR has been "pleased" with the results so far, as the qualifying format "has grown a lot of interest" at the track, on TV and on social media. Helton: "It's fun to watch, and sports should be fun. The Chase format was an element to put emphasis on winning. I think that's happened early in the season." Helton noted the on-track product has been "good" this year and said, "The product is a priority and a safe product for everybody." However, race attendance is "something that the whole industry uses to judge success, and that's something that we've all collectively been working on ever since the swing through the economy." He noted there are signs attendance is increasing, saying, "We're encouraged by the uptick." Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 to begin the year and has his first multi-win season since '04, and Helton said fans are “very happy” with Earnhardt's success. He said, "There's a large following there, and we're well aware of that. ... But I think it's the tried and true mixed with the young blood that's always been good for NASCAR" Helton: "When you have a season where a veteran now who is so very popular has success, that brings the whole with him" ("NASCAR Race Hub," FS1, 6/18).
CHANGES COMING TO '15 SCHEDULE? Helton in part two of the interview said NASCAR is "shooting for mid-summer" to release the '15 schedule. He said the "ripple effect" of when a race is taken away from one track and moved to another is "hard to explain, but with a 36-race schedule in a matter of 40-some weeks, it's hard to move one and not impact another." NASCAR when creating the schedule works "with the racetracks, the race teams and our broadcast partners to come out with what we feel like is a reasonable schedule, if not the best one we can do." FS1's Steve Byrnes following the taped interview said, "What perked my ears up was a possible schedule change. We have a new broadcast partner next year (NBC), and I really think we could see ... the biggest shake-up in the schedule that we've seen in 10 or 12 years" ("NASCAR Race Hub," FS1, 6/19).