HOMESTEAD, Fla. — NASCAR President Steve Phelps has been a no-nonsense leader for the sanctioning body since taking his position 48 days ago, and that philosophy shone through during the annual state of the sport address Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Phelps addressed a wide variety of topics during a nearly 45-minute open forum with the media before the Ford EcoBoost 400, which will see the crowning of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion on Sunday night.
Chief among Phelps’ early remarks came a firm stance in regard to the top of NASCAR’s leadership structure, where Jim France took over as chairman and CEO following nephew Brian France’s arrest in August for DWI and controlled substance possession charges.
Phelps was clear more than once that “Jim France is our chairman and CEO” and spoke to France’s commitment and passion for the continued success of the sport.
“Jim is a man who has lived NASCAR his entire life. He is a racer through and through. He raced himself. He loves racing. He loves NASCAR,” noted Phelps. “The top of that pyramid and the top of the structure is incredibly strong.
“To me, if you look at the message that has been sent from Lesa Kennedy and Jim France, it’s that we’re going to double down on this sport because we believe in it. We believe this sport is going to grow,” Phelps continued. “We believe the best days of this sport are ahead of it. I’m thrilled to be part of that. I’m thrilled to be part of their management team.
“We have a lot of opportunity and we’re excited about where we’re going.”
That direction for next season will involve a new aerodynamic package, something Phelps expressed enthusiasm about.
“The new rules package was put in place because we want to have the most competitive racing we can. We believe the 2019 rules package is just exactly that,” Phelps said. “What effect it has on ratings or what effects it has on other things that are outside of our control, I can’t say yet because we haven’t experienced it in action.
“I can say that we do believe that this racing, which today arguably is the best we’ve ever had, is going to get better,” he added. “We have a promise to our fans and that promise is about close, competitive, side‑by‑side racing, and we believe that this 2019 rules package will give us exactly that.”
NASCAR will introduce a new sponsorship model following the departure of Monster Energy as title sponsor at the end of 2019.
“The model was meant to make NASCAR easy to do business with, so it combines assets that are from the sanctioning body, from our race tracks, from our broadcast partners and ultimately the teams as well,” noted Phelps. “We want the teams to be part of it, and it makes it easy for someone to do business in our sport. We think it will allow us to have sponsors who want to be at the highest level come in and make sure they’re activating against the sport in a significant way.
“Monster has been a great partner for two years now. We’re excited about their last year before we transition to this new model. We have no news to tell or announce at this point about who is going to be there, but there is a general excitement around what the model could be and where it’s going.”