AVONDALE, Ariz. – NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed the state of the sport Friday at Phoenix Raceway before fielding questions about racing on short tracks and road courses, management, the team ownership model, the 2024 schedule and more.
Phelps posted a record 19 different wins, including the first three playoff races, by a non-playing driver. In response to Ross Chastain’s video game in MartinsvilleHow Phoenix’s Sunday Cup run will be the ninth sellout of the season, compared to five last year, and ticket sales are up more than 20% this year from last year.
More: Full transcript of sports session status
Here’s what Phelps and COO Steve O’Donnell had to say about the various issues:
On the 2024 schedule:
Phelps: Do we believe there is interest north and south of the border? Yes, there is demand. you say Chicago street course. Ben Kennedy and Steve O’Donnell, whose phones are ringing from cities across the country, we’d love to host a NASCAR race in our city. Like I said, we have calls from both north and south of the border.
Whether in 2024 or not, I don’t know. All I know is that we will have another schedule difference in 2024.
Improving competition on short tracks and road courses
O’Donnell: Definitely looking at some aero changes for both short tracks and road courses. We have a lot of conversations with drivers in terms of looking at some of the power stuff. I think that’s a bit more complicated. There are some things that we have seen even through Garage 56 (the updated cap car NASCAR will run 24 hours for Mans next year) that we have seen from an aerial view can be placed next year for both short tracks and road courses.
We believe we are in a very good position, but with a focus on short tracks and road courses, the good news is that the intermediates continue to call.
Where groups can be more financially efficient
Phelps: We fully believe that having profitable teams leads to more competitive competition. If you look at it, there are two areas to do this: increasing revenue, which we are fully committed to working with our ethnic groups, and controlling costs, right?
The groups asked us to control costs. I don’t know where those came from. It will be up to the competition teams to determine the best way to manage those costs.
I am not suggesting that we have a separate discussion about what will happen or what strategies we will develop. The idea of getting the groups, hats, floors, roofs, luxury taxes.
We will continue to discuss with our ethnic groups. The charters expire at the end of 2024. Next year we will have meaningful discussions with our teams, I’m sure. We understand what constitutes a fair opportunity for all stakeholders. In the future in 2025, I don’t know what it will look like. It has to be around both revenue increases and some spending restrictions.
If NASCAR wants to continue the charter system after 2024, when the current arrangement expires:
Phelps: I think the charter system has been great for NASCAR. I think there are a lot of positives if you look at it.
What do you get when you buy a charter? You will find three things. You get guaranteed entry into the tournament, which helps the teams in terms of sponsorship. You get two incomes: fixed income and then income from racing. The third part is management.
Steve (O’Donnell) and the top racing guys, he’s always got meetings with the racing teams to move the sport forward competitively.
So I’d say the charter system, although not perfect, worked pretty well. You look at the value of the enterprise, what charters they’re going to, what they’ve been on, but the numbers are a significant multiple of what they were three years ago.
We have people in and out of the sport who want to get charters who can’t get them now because the teams hold them. It is their right. Whether we want this to happen or not, there is nothing we can do about it.
To fully answer your question, I think we will extend the charters? i do. Do I think it’s a good thing for the sport? i do.
on the media rights agreement that expires after the 2024 season
Phelps: Our relationship with FOX and NBC has never been better in terms of where we are going from a television perspective. It’s at a level we haven’t seen on television since the introduction of this all-new model in the early 2000s. That was done with a lot of effort. It was done because the sport, the standards have stabilized and grown.
You looked at our share in the last two years, this year for NASCAR Cup races, 11%, last year for NASCAR Cup races and 14 share. Our shares are up 25% in two years, while our friends at Fox and NBC have sold their stuff.
The sport is spending less time on television, but also on our own digital and social channels, our own channels. We haven’t seen numbers like this on NASCAR Digital since 2005. There’s something coming up here.
I’m not sure where the future holds regarding our media partners. I know it goes through NBC and FOX. I don’t know if there are more people who want to bid and if we ever get to that particular point.
I know there is a lot of interest in NASCAR that is not our responsibility. It’s a good thing for our industry, isn’t it? In fact, our media agreement feeds many mouths in this industry. It is important to do that. What healthy teams look like is the future. Continued capital investment at our racetrack is the future, as we’ve talked about in the past, the continued investment in spending to create better fan experiences.
In NASCAR service this season
O’Donnell: Overall, I’d say a pretty good track record, given the amount of competition we have, the number of calls we have to make or not.
Having said that, you can always do better. One of the biggest challenges in our sport is there’s no timeout, we’re not going to bring it back to New York or anywhere else. We have to make a quick call and live with that.
That really depends on us with the technology in race control, we rely on our TV partners who do a good job, but it’s not their job to run the race. If we’re missing a camera angle, it’s up to us to adjust and make sure those things are in place.
If you take Texas for example, One of the angles we should have had in race control, we didn’t.. We did the next week. We have it in every car we can see.
We’ll go back and figure out where we’re going wrong, what technology we need to make those decisions more timely because we want to make those on the racetrack during the week.
The second part was around our drivers. We’ve talked a lot about how we don’t want to see the car used as a weapon on the track, haven’t we? That’s number one. The drivers raised their voices saying that we should deal with our issues ourselves.
But with that comes balance. I think you saw that balance last week. In terms of the Xfinity Series, if you don’t cross the line, I’d say it’s right on the line.
If you look at how we handled those calls this year, we didn’t give any penalties. So our job is to talk to the drivers in the off-season, to get their opinion on where the line should be. The decision is still up to us. But I think you’ll see some more consistency in terms of what we’re doing and some kind of penalty for 2023 in response to what happened last week.