DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — While NASCAR reaches the midway point of the 2019 season at Daytona International Speedway, much of the sport’s focus is on the upcoming seasons with schedules to set, a new car to develop and other potential changes.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed many of those issues in a meeting with reporters this weekend.
Among the takeaways:
# Phelps said he does not anticipate races being cut from the 2021 schedule.
# Phelps said the sport continues to look at shortening races but noted there needs to be a balance in race lengths.
# Phelps said that NASCAR remains “on track” for the Gen 7 car to debut in 2021 even though he admitted there are some in the garage that 2022 might work better for.
# Phelps said that it is a fair statement to say that there’s not likely to be a new manufacturer before 2022.
On the topic of the number of races for the 2021 schedule, which is expected to be announced around April 1, Phelps said: “The current thinking as I see it: We will not reduce the number of races in 2021. Again, I would say it’s on the table but part of it has to do with our broadcast partners. I would suggest they would like to have more NASCAR content, more NASCAR races because it drives ratings. Do I think we would have a shortening of the number of races? I would say that would be unlikely in 2021.”
On shortening races, Phelps said: “We have taken down the length of some races. Is it something we are looking at? Yes, it’s something we are looking at. We balance the length of the races. There are many fans that say, ‘I’m good with the length of the races.’ There are other fans who are like, “You know, I wish they were a little bit shorter.’ We’re trying to find that sweet spot. But it’s something we’d look at, and we are looking at it.”
On the rollout for the Gen 7 car, Phelps said: “What I would say is we are on track for a 2021 launch of a new chassis and body style. When that engine follows is a question. There are those within the industry that would say, “Hey, why don’t you just introduce one car?” Are we on track to have a body and chassis in 2021 that would be what we currently call Gen 7? The answer is yes. Do I think we’re going to meet that deadline and go with it? I think it’s likely that we would. We have a lot of stakeholders in this garage that we need to make sure are feeling as good as we are about where that car is and when it should be introduced. If I had to guess will it be 2021, that would be my guess.
Phelps was asked that with a new car and new engine coming if there is no chance of a new manufacturer before 2022, Phelps said: “I think that’s a fair statement.”