Chairman and CEO: Meeting 'gives everybody a really good seat at the table' RELATED: Drivers react to formation of drivers' council LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France opened up about the recent formation of a drivers' council, saying Sunday that last weekend's meeting gave an already fluid communications process a more formal setting. France spoke after attending Sunday morning's pre-race drivers' meeting at Pocono Raceway ahead of Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). He and his wife, Amy, were at the track to promote their charitable work with the Gabrielle's Angel Foundation. Drivers who attended last weekend's summit with NASCAR officials near Dover International Speedway were overwhelmingly positive about the discussion, and the ideas that emerged from it. For France , the meeting was a continuation of an already open line of communication. "We've said from the beginning that we're going to improve our communications across the board with all the stakeholders, and they're certainly as important as anybody, so that's consistent," France said. "What you're seeing is just more formalized conversations. We talk all the time about things that are important to them... we did the same thing with the track operators. We didn't have a formal get-together with them; we now do in February of every year where it's very formal and we lay out things for them. "That just gives everybody a really good seat at the table to express what's important to them, and that's what I've said from the beginning that it's important to us." The formation of a drivers' council almost has a parallel group in the Race Team Alliance, which formed last July and grew to include the majority of NASCAR teams last August. When asked whether similar talks would happen with the RTA, France indicated he was open to the idea. "When anybody has things that can improve the sport, we're going to be open to that," France said. "It doesn't really matter how the exact form of communications happens. What matters is, it does happen and we're getting the stakeholders as close to us as we can because there's a lot of good ideas that come out of these discussions -- the drivers with safety, there's a business side to this that they have an interest in. There's all kinds of things that they have an interest in that we need to make sure we communicate well with them." When presented with the notion that having wide-open, cooperative talks about racing issues represented a major shift to a new-look NASCAR, France demurred. "Not at all," France said. "It's exactly what I said a number of years ago that that's my style is to be collaborative, to do more communications, not less. And if we have to formalize them to get more input, then we'll formalize them. Whatever it takes to get everybody to be able to express what's important to them." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France talks with SIRIUS XM about Martin Truex Jr.'s big win at Pocono Raceway and what it means for Furniture Row Racing.
Longtime track mogul was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Wednesday The selection of race track mogul Bruton Smith to the seventh class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday came with a groundswell of support among the 57 votes that were cast. One of Smith's most vocal boosters came from what might be considered an unlikely source. Helped by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France's stumping, the 88-year-old Smith was Wednesday's top vote-getter, leading the 2016 list of inductees with a 68 percent approval rating in his third year on the ballot. The selection comes four days before the 56th annual running of the Coca-Cola 600 , an endurance race that Smith created as the hallmark event for the track he helped create decades ago -- Charlotte Motor Speedway . Though Smith's contributions to the sport as a tireless promoter and innovator in the realm of track ownership are immeasurable, so is his history of being at loggerheads with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and his son and successor, Bill France Jr., over how best to help the sport grow. That same adversarial relationship seems to have skipped a generation, according to 2011 Hall inductee Ned Jarrett, who said he named Smith on his ballot Wednesday. "I already had him in my mind before then, but I think that might've made a difference overall," Jarrett said of Brian France's statement. "I think some people might've been surprised with his support. Bruton and Brian have always gotten along real well, and just I think him showing his support was good." H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, a longtime Smith associate at the Charlotte track through a period of tremendous growth for the sport, said he was present for many of the former struggles between Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc., group and the first family of NASCAR, noting how conversations frequently went with Bill France Jr.: "We conked his head a whole bunch of times, but he was hard-headed enough that he let us have it back." Wheeler said he believed the younger France's push for Smith carried plenty of sway with the voting panel Wednesday, but beyond that, it may have also smoothed over any lingering hard feelings between the two factions. " Brian has never been a confrontationalist -- never -- like his dad was and like his grandfather was," Wheeler said. "He's live and let live, and let's move on and get this thing going like we're supposed to be, et cetera. It looks like he's got a pretty good way of doing things because a lot of things he's done have worked … "I think we found out today that one of the great things about this business is you can bury the hatchet and everything's fine. And the hatchets were flying so much 20 years ago, and you were wondering, when am I gonna get one right in the skull? I used to wonder and think I'm going to put a helmet on, but you've just got to learn to live and let live and bury that hatchet." Though the relationship between Smith and the Frances was at times antagonistic, the net result was to take the sport to new levels. Smith introduced luxury suites, condominiums and other modern features that were soon incorporated into speedways nationwide, and the expansion of the sport to new markets was a mutual goal for both the Frances and SMI. Friendly or not, the competition was healthy, and many innovations sprang from its intensity. "He was, I think, a big challenge to NASCAR and the France family along the way," Jarrett said, "and I think that's one of the best things that could happen to the sport because he made them better and make them do things better. It was good that they had that rivalry going on." Jarrett said his respect for Smith stemmed from a long-ago victory at a half-mile dirt track Smith had promoted in the Charlotte area. When Jarrett went to the pay window, he said that Smith was there to help explain that he could not pay out the purse. Since the attendance that night was more than adequate, Jarrett said he asked for reasons why, only to be told that the IRS had seized that night's gate to offset Smith's early financial struggles. Jarrett said Smith wrote him a check for his Friday night winnings -- $150, he recalled -- but was told there was no guarantee that it would clear Monday morning. It didn't, Jarrett said, but Smith vowed that he would make the situation right. Jarrett said he stuck to his word, an unusual circumstance in the sport's earliest days, when crooked promoters often skipped town with that night's proceeds. "Then the rest is history as far as all the other speedways and things," Jarrett said. "I mean, he has made major, major contributions to this sport." With contributions and recognition for seven decades in the sport come the setting-aside of any long-ago grudges. In a statement released Wednesday evening by the speedway that he bet the farm on back in 1960, Smith thanked not only the voting committee, but also NASCAR's fans -- the lifeblood of any track owner. Though he might not have known the behind-the-scenes process that potentially helped spur his induction, Smith could also give a tip of the cap to NASCAR's chairman, who opted not to let bygones cloud the panel's voting judgment. "Rivalries are what makes the sport," Wheeler said. "But sometimes, you've got to put the peanut butter back in the jar and put the lid on it." 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NASCAR Chairman and CEO: R&D working on safety solutions RELATED: Dillon shaken but OK after wreck " Dale Jr.: 'It scared the (expletive) out of me' NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said Monday the sanctioning body's review of the last-lap crash in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was underway with the NASCAR Research and Development Center taking the lead. France spoke on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the sport's strong track record in safety and competition. As Dale Earnhardt Jr . crossed the start/finish line for his second win of the season , a wreck collected cars behind him with Austin Dillon going airborne into the catchfence. Dillon's car landed on its roof and was struck by Brad Keselowski 's vehicle. Dillon walked away from the accident while 13 individuals in the grandstand were assessed with eight declining medical attention, four treated on site and one transported to a local hospital in stable condition, according to Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. France said NASCAR employees were at work at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, working on solutions to avoid similar crashes in the future, at the organization's R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. "We're the only ones in auto racing that have a full‑time research and development center where their sole responsibility is to sort out these kind of issues to make them better," France said. "This is auto racing. We're going to have challenges, and we're going to have hard crashes, as was (the case) last night. Thankfully everything was OK, but you learn from every single one of these things." "The real good news for us is this is what we do. We have an entire group of people that woke up this morning, trying to figure out how do we make this better, make sure the car starters don't elevate." In a similar crash at the end of the February 2013 XFINITY Series race at Daytona, Kyle Larson launched into the catchfence, and France noted how the sport took lessons from that incident that helped strengthen the fence. "We learned a great deal on that, as a matter of fact," France said. "It reinforced the catchfence in different ways, and we went from an engineering standpoint right to work, and we'll do the same here. "Our work in safety, whether it's the race car itself -- which held up beautifully, thankfully -- or certainly making our fans safe, that work never ends in auto racing and at NASCAR. And we take that responsibility at the top of our list, and we'll go right to work on that. We're all working on it." RELATED: Exclusive camera angle on crash; No. 88 team's reaction Pleased with the racing put on by the superspeedway package, France looked ahead to a new rules package for Saturday's Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM). "Obviously what we do want is the closest, tightest racing we can (have), but we put safety at the top of the list for obvious reasons," France said. "And so we pursue that, those things, as we go along, and have a track record of getting those things right, although it's a moving target and although it's never simple. "An accident like last night, boy, it sure takes your breath away, and it should. But that's auto racing, and we're working on better solutions all the time to make racing safer and better." MORE: Dillon in his own words on Daytona crash FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Chairman and CEO: 'Definitely an improvement' RELATED: What we learned from Kentucky race, rules package NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the sanctioning body "saw some things that we liked" during Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a new rules package at Kentucky Speedway. He told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday that he's looking forward to the package being run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month as the sport seeks tighter racing for talented drivers. A lower downforce package at Kentucky led to a track-best 22 green-flag passes for the lead and more than double the green-flag passes throughout the field from last season, from 1,147 to 2,665. France credited the NASCAR Research and Development Center for taking risks by running a new package in a race as the series reached the halfway point of its season. RELATED: Inside the R&D Center "Our group at the R&D Center did a really good job, and they're taking some risks that are a little bit outside the box of NASCAR," France said. "We typically wouldn't be changing packages in mid-stream like this in the middle of our season. But we want to make sure that we're delivering the absolute best racing that we can. They felt -- and I agree with them -- the only way to sort that out is not to test it in sort of isolated tests but to do it in real racing time." Last week, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell announced a high-drag package would be run at Indianapolis and Michigan International Speedway. France noted that this package will help solve for some of the other aspects of racing that weren't seen at Kentucky. RELATED: New rules package at Indianapolis, Michigan "We're going to try some things coming up here at Indy where we'll go the other way," France said. "I'll tell you what we didn't see (at Kentucky) that we'd like to see more of is more drafting. (We) didn't see as much of that as we would have liked. And more pack racing. You saw that on the restarts but not quite as much as we wanted. So there were a lot of things that we liked. Definitely an improvement on races that have happened at Kentucky." France credited NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn with leading the charge at the R&D Center as NASCAR combines technology with traditional ways of evaluating racing to provide the best product for fans. "I said a couple of years ago that we were going to use science and stop everybody guessing," France said. "We use our institutional, been-at-this-60-years knowledge for sure. But you've got a group of people now that have filtered it all out. They'll come up with the right package that rewards the drivers that are working the hardest, have the most talent. "(Our fans) want tight racing. They want to see close finishes. They want to see multiple leaders, and they don't want to see a certain package that doesn't provide that. That's what we're striving for. It's hard to do. Hard to get right. But we're working at it every day." A driver who took advantage of the new package but also excelled on the road course at Sonoma Raceway was Kyle Busch , who has won two of the seven races he's run and has climbed to 35th place in the points standings since his return from a compound fracture of his right leg and a fracture of his left foot suffered in the season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Sitting 87 points out of the 30th place, a requirement to be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Busch has a fan in France . But he'll need to deliver on the track over the next eight races to make NASCAR's postseason. "His determination is quite amazing to already have two wins, especially on the road course where you knew that he had to be a warrior to get through that constant using your feet to break and all that," France said. "He's been impressive, and he'll be a story. "I would be surprised, frankly, if he doesn't get in the Chase. I think he might win some more. There's not many drivers out there that have as much talent as he has. So on the one hand, it's not even surprising, but given the mountain he's had to climb, that's pretty impressive. "I can personally root for all kinds of things to happen. I just can't do anything about it. I'm rooting for him, but at the end of the day, this is where the individual drivers and teams have to do it. But I'm rooting for him." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France talks about the decision to make Kyle Busch eligible for the 2015 Chase.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France , talks about the driver's council on RaceDay prior to the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 at Pocono Raceway.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France , is pleased with the results of the Kentucky rules package, but is still in search of tighter racing and more drafting.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France joins SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio to talk about the Austin Dillon wreck at Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR's response to safety concerns.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and Amy France attend 'A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to Cure'