France stresses support for Charlotte’s fall Cup date
As is often the case, NASCAR chairman Brian France didn’t offer up any bombshells when he stopped by Charlotte Motor Speedway’s infield media center.
France came by to primarily say again that NASCAR is satisfied with the new generation Cup car so far (you don’t think he is going to criticize it and then fine himself for doing so), to point out that the sanctioning body wants to make it better so competition is closer and to point out that someone had been hired to be in charge of development and innovation as that part of the process is separated from the competition department.
The biggest stir France actually made was a good one as far as fans in the Carolinas are concerned as he offered pushback against Bruton Smith saying earlier in the week that there is a 70 percent chance that he could move Charlotte Motor Speedway’s fall Cup race to his track in Las Vegas.
Smith is the billionaire chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. which operates CMS and the Las Vegas track and others. He used a television interview with a Charlotte television station to go on the offensive in a dispute with Cabarrus County officials.
The dispute is over $60 million in incentives that Cabarrus County said it would provide Smith after he threatened to find an alternate location for CMS when he was having difficulty getting zoning approval for ZMax Dragway.
This week, Smith complained about how much the property taxes on CMS have increased (welcome to the club) and since he’s not appreciated, he might move a race. His statements are largely seen as a bluff and a bargaining chip, similar to a pro baseball or football team threatening to move if the local government doesn’t help pay for a new stadium (or in the case of the Carolina Panthers, stadium upgrades).
If Smith really gets to the point that he wants to move a date, he would have to get approval from NASCAR. France said his preference is that Charlotte keep both of its races.
“My preference is to make the events where they are more successful,” France said. “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.
“That said, for one reason or another, if a certain market is not performing as well, it may be a better opportunity. We’ve seen that in the last five, six years or longer. We’ll take a look at it. My preference would be to keep the event here in Charlotte. That’s always been my preference.”
Too bad he didn’t feel that way about the races at North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, Darlington and Atlanta.
France did say that he doesn’t envision any new tracks on the Cup schedule for 2014, that he prefers NASCAR stay with its current television partners and that NASCAR isn’t involved with trying to make Indianapolis Motor Speedway and CMS adjust start times so a driver could compete in the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500. He also said the sanctioning body wants to use technology and innovation in making the racing closer.
“We’ll be going in a direction that I’ve told everybody, which is we’re going to use a lot more science than art in establishing the very thing that matters most, which is safety, of course, but also putting ourselves in a position to have the closest, tightest competition possible,” France said.
He also isn’t keen on moving a race date from a track struggling with attendance to a track which currently doesn’t have a date, which would be bad news for Iowa Speedway.
“We like the mix of historical, big events at venues that we race at year in and year out,” France said. “That would be our preference.”
Just as it found out that it had made a mistake by getting away from cars that looked like highway models, maybe France has figured out there is something important about history and tradition when it comes to tracks and race dates.