NASCAR Chairman Brian France hailed Martin Truex Jr.’s victory at Pocono Raceway as “what NASCAR is all about” during a Monday interview on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
France said he visited the Denver shop last fall of Barney Visser’s Furniture Row Racing, which fields only Truex’s No. 78 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series.
“It’s an underfunded team that competes with their talent and hard work and succeeds,” France said during the Tradin’ Paint show on the NASCAR Channel. “It’s really great for those guys. Boy, it’s fun to watch someone’s talents and efforts to carry them to a place no one thought was possible. They’ve been building on this for a number of weeks, and they’re the real deal.
“They’re not stopping here. They want to compete for a championship. That’s exciting to see.”
With his third career win, Truex is a virtual lock to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup after finishing a career-worst 24th in the points standings last year. He has 13 top 10s in 14 races this season.
France said his primary focus was ensuring storylines such as Truex’s were possible.
“It’s real simple: Making sure the racing product is the best, closest, competitive and safest we can have,” he said. “That’s an ongoing mission. That’s our single goal. The commercial things take care of itself. We’re able to put the best racing forward, have teams that are underfunded like Barney Visser and Martin Truex that have a real shot at winning a race, that’s real success. We’ll keep working to make racing close, tight and competitive. Our fans expect that, and we do as well. That’s my main focus.”
France said “doing hard things well” is the most enjoyable part of his job.
“We’re doing a lot of hard things and balancing everyone’s interests as well as we can,” he said. “We’re having a lot of fun doing it because of the passion that is in this sport. It’s an amazing passion from our fans to team owners to drivers.
“It’s what makes sports great. It’s competition. It’s the essence of it. Our ability to deliver that in a way, even to the teams that are underfunded, that’s why this weekend’s story was so great with Martin, where they still have a shot. We’re trying to do that at the highest level, and it’s fun to do.”
Among other topics addressed by France in the interview:
- He visited with several Sprint Cup stars at Pocono for the first time since a newly formed driver’s council met with NASCAR executives last week. “We can’t get close enough to our drivers, our owners and other stakeholders,” he said. “That’s fundamental to us. There are times we make that formal, i.e. a driver council, and that’s fine. When NASCAR works best is when we have all the right opinions and input. I was glad to do that.”
- NASCAR was pleased by the debut of new pit safety regulations at Pocono. “Safety is obviously the No. 1 priority, no matter what we’re doing,” France said. “The teams are joined at the hip doing that. You’re seeing that. You’re seeing as close and competitive as it is, it’s still the safest form of racing in the world.”
- Working on the 2016 rules remains a collaborative effort. “Everybody’s interests actually come together in the end,” he said. “We’re all about lower-cost racing. We put packages together that influence racing to be close, tight and competitive. None of our goals — whether it’s safety, lowering costs, getting drivers and teams disadvantaged from funding to have a real shot to do well — none of those goals are inconsistent. They all come together, and that’s the beauty of it. … We don’t always get it right. The drivers and their styles — one likes a certain package of low downforce or higher downforce. They don’t always agree. The good news is if we do it right, it’s the essence of NASCAR. Lower-cost racing, more people have a shot and super competitive, which our fans love and expect. Close, tight competition in a safe manner. That’s as good as it gets for us.”
- France said NASCAR still fields calls from potential new manufacturers. “We’re generally open to figuring out how to make a new manufacturer work in NASCAR,” he said. “We have those discussions. Obviously, it’s complicated how a manufacturer might enter the sport. It goes back to the original points. They want to make sure they have a fair and balanced playing field. If they line up talent, that they can have a shot to compete and do well. … Every single thing, and this is the beauty of NASCAR, leads back to the same path: How do we make sure that, as a sanctioning body, we lay out a plan and path where drivers, teams, manufacturers and sponsors all feel they can come into NASCAR if they compete hard and their talent allows them to do reasonably well? That’s an ongoing mission and serves everybody well when we get it right. That’s our mission.