RELATED: NASCAR stars who got their start in Truck Series MORE: Key moments in series history LOUDON, N.H. -- What blossomed from an out-of-the-box idea conceived in the American desert in the mid-1990s is now marking an important NASCAR milestone. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will celebrate its 500th race with Saturday's UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , and the series' staying power is a testament to simultaneously embracing new ideas and old-style racing. Today's Truck Series is both a throwback concept and a racing vision that has evolved mightily in the past three decades. It started off as a chance to seize on the popularity of pick-up trucks and take an exciting form of racing from "off road" to "on track," where it has become one of the most popular forms of racing in America. Racing stars have been born, NASCAR got to show its wares in new, often smaller markets and truck manufacturers still benefited with a slightly varied version of an old NASCAR promise: "What wins on Friday night, sells on Monday mornings." The series is unique in that it is both retro and futuristic, providing an old-style, hard-knocks brand of close competition while also serving as a training ground for young drivers and a platform for NASCAR to try out new rules and formats. And many people might not be aware of NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France's early involvement in helping the series through humble beginnings to the thriving national competition it is today. "From the very beginning, for a lot of reasons, we got a lot of good competition out of it and obviously that is the heart and soul of a national race division,'' France told NASCAR.com. "We were fortunate to get up-and-coming drivers in combination with some venues that would put on an exciting event. From the early days, our competition guys designed good, smart rules packages that increased competition and made it an exciting series. Most of those attributes remain today.'' The idea of racing pick-up trucks was the brainchild of a group of off-road racers competing in the Southwest. They had the idea but recognized having NASCAR's marketing, promotional and sanctioning arms behind the series would make all the difference. And it didn't take much to convince France of the potential. He was living out West at the time, holding an assortment of titles while learning the "family business'' and he helped push the idea of racing trucks along to his father, NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr. Both men recognized it as a real niche and big opportunity. "We were able to look at and work with the original founders of the concept,'' Brian France said. "The car manufacturers were really focused on trucks at the time. Our fan base related to trucks and we thought we could design a rules package and series around all of that. We thought we could market it and extend NASCAR in some areas. "Most of that worked out just nicely.'' After a lot of behind-the-scenes blood, sweat and tears -- including fast and furious work from a handful of truck builders -- the France family proudly announced the launch of NASCAR's newest national series in May of 1994. A series of exhibition races in the West were held that summer piquing interest from competitor and spectator. The first official green flag was dropped on Feb. 5, 1995, at Phoenix International Raceway in a race won by eventual champion, California-native Mike Skinner. The seasons since have launched the careers of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' stars such as Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle and included stops by reigning Cup champion Kevin Harvick and 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski . The Truck Series' unique pairing with IMSA sports car races and IndyCar events has brought NASCAR racing to a non-traditional audience and allowed the sanctioning body to test out new pit road rules and formats, including the green-white-checkered flag concept used now in all three national series. Today's Camping World Truck Series remains a popular, must-see TV for fans and continues to be a thriving development opportunity for young drivers such as current points leader Erik Jones , Ryan Blaney , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ty Dillon and last week's newest first-time winner, 18-year old second-generation NASCAR racer John Hunter Nemechek . They all get regular chances to gauge their racing progress competing against the likes of successful Cup drivers such as Kyle Busch and Keselowski, who also own truck teams. "It's gone through a lot of different generations for positioning,'' France said. "And where it's ended up is the best place. It's basically a throwback to how racing used to be. It gives us our best look back at that style of racing, shorter events, more contact typically and smaller venues that we can get into because of the cost structure. "It allows us to hold onto a page of NASCAR's history that is very definitive for us. That's a good thing and allows us to take it to venues and do things we might not take risks on with other national divisions. It gives us good flexibility. "It remains a great entry point for up-and-coming drivers to run on some venues that other national divisions run on and some new ones. It allows them a place to break out and that's always a good thing for us to develop talent. "It serves a lot of other purposes, but most notably our core fan base in NASCAR often believes that's the best racing in NASCAR."
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2015) -- "When I think of Tony Stewart , unmatched passion and a pure love of the sport come to mind. He has won championships and millions of fans. But he has given back so much more, and that's what I admire most. Today's news was bittersweet for all, but we know Tony will continue to be a big part of our sport in his roles as a team and track owner. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Tony for his many years of excellence and competitiveness, and wish him nothing but the best in his final season as a driver in the Sprint Cup Series."
RELATED: Photos of Stewart through the years " Bowyer tabbed as replacement Three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart smiled and conceded it was a "formality at this point" in announcing Wednesday afternoon that he would step away from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition following the 2016 season. "It was a choice that is 100 percent mine, no pressure from anybody," Stewart said of his decision not to compete full-time anymore. "If anything, it's been the opposite, more people trying to talk me out of it. "Everyone in their career makes a decision when it's time for a change. I think deep down you know when it's time to do something different and make a change like this." Appearing jovial and without a hint of second-thought about his career decision, Stewart joked he was bringing Harry Gant out of retirement to drive the the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevy in 2017, then confirmed that actually Clint Bowyer would be taking over his seat. The news confirmed months of speculation and rumor about Stewart's future and solidified Bowyer's career path as well with Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing team closing operations at the end of 2015. "It's all about people, all about culture for me, and I don't think the fit factor could be any better," said Bowyer, acknowledging the SHR ride was "one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport" and said an announcement is coming later this week about his 2016 plans. Wednesday was clearly more about "the people's champion" as Stewart is often referred. One of the most popular and accomplished champions to ever compete in NASCAR's marquee series, Stewart, 44, has won three premier series titles as a driver (2002, 2005, 2011) and two as an owner (2011, 2014), accumulated 48 victories and won over countless hearts as a kind of extreme throw-back talent garnering comparisons to racing's all-time greats such as A.J. Foyt and Dale Earnhardt. Quite simply, Stewart won in every car he drove. And NASCAR fans always appreciated that about the driver known by his nickname, "Smoke." RELATED: Drivers react to Stewart's announcement Stewart won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 15 straight seasons from his 1999 rookie year through 2013, and he has 11 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins in 94 starts -- roughly winning once every 10 times he tried. He won twice in six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and had five top-10 finishes. "When I think of Tony Stewart , unmatched passion and a pure love of the sport come to mind," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a release. "He has won championships and millions of fans. But he has given back so much more, and that's what I admire most. Today's news was bittersweet for all, but we know Tony will continue to be a big part of our sport in his roles as a team and track owner. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Tony for his many years of excellence and competitiveness, and wish him nothing but the best in his final season as a driver in the Sprint Cup Series." The 1997 IndyCar champion -- and 1996 Indy 500 Rookie of the Race -- proved his mettle against motorsports' best drivers, winning four times in IROC competition, earning the 2006 IROC championship and finishing runner-up in 2001. In 1999 he completed racing's Memorial Day "Double," finishing ninth in the Indianapolis 500 and fourth in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 later that same day in North Carolina. Stewart was the first driver in history to win all three major United States Auto Club national championships -- Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown -- in a single season. So after essentially four decades behind the wheel fulltime, Stewart said he contemplated this decision for a while and said this week, he is completely at peace. "I've learned a lot about myself," Stewart said. You run through the range of emotions. There's days you're like, I can't wait, and then there's days that are like, man, do I ‑‑ you battle back and forth. "I'm not leaving the sport I love. I'm not walking away from something I'm passionate about, I'm just changing roles, which it's like just moving to a different position in a company. "I'm not really retiring, I'm just changing positions." RELATED: Best quotes from Stewart's press conference It's been an admittedly uphill climb for the champ after the last three seasons of horrible injury and extreme heartbreak. He missed the last 15 races in the 2013 season after suffering a compound leg fracture while competing in a sprint car race. Then last year, while still mending from that injury, Stewart was involved in another sprint car accident. This time, another competitor, Kevin Ward Jr., was killed when, after approaching Stewart's car on track during a caution period, the car struck Ward. Stewart sat out three Sprint Cup races immediately after. No criminal charges were found to be justified against Stewart; the Ward family filed a civil lawsuit against him a year later. On Wednesday Stewart stressed that his decision to stop driving in the Cup series full-time had "zero percent to with (the Ward situation)" and that physically, "my leg feels fine, there's nothing wrong with my leg." He said he may even compete in Sprint cars again. He listed the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a possibility and mentioned racing modifieds and making sporadic starts in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series -- all things he plans to do without the stress and full schedule of racing full-time in the Sprint Cup ranks. RELATED: Tony talks toll on leg, life In the past two seasons, Stewart has struggled to post the kind of top-shelf results both he and his fans had grown accustomed to seeing. But he has consistently insisted that was more to do with the current rules package than his off-track distractions. He said earlier this year that NASCAR's new high downforce, low horsepower car does not suit his style and is actually "the opposite of everything I've ever driven. "It's like I'm in the middle of a calculus equation and I didn't take pre-calculus,'' Stewart told NASCAR.com this May. He is currently 25th in the Sprint Cup Series driver standings with a sub-standard two top-10 finishes in his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet this year. But he was adamant that he would not be coasting in his final season and that this decision was not "performance based." Stepping away from his NASCAR driving duties, Stewart's focus shifts to running his beloved Eldora Speedway in Ohio and to being a team owner. His resume out of the car is already as impressive as his work behind the steering wheel. "It's just time to do what we're doing," Stewart said. "I still fully anticipate we're going to get things turned around. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't waste my time next year for anybody. I'm not a guy that's going to get in a car and ride. We're full steam ahead. "We're going to keep working and try to win as many races as we can next year, and that goal is going to be ‑‑ when you guys get to February, go ahead and write this down, what our goals are for the year, we're going to try to win races, try to win the Daytona 500 , then the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500, and try to win a championship." Ultimately, stepping away from his NASCAR driving duties, Stewart's focus shifts to running his beloved Eldora Speedway in Ohio and to being a team owner. His effort out of the car is already as impressive as his work behind the steering wheel. His namesake Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team is the reigning Sprint Cup owner champion thanks to Kevin Harvick 's 2014 championship run, and two of his team's four drivers -- Harvick and Kurt Busch -- are in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . This summer Stewart collected his 10th Knoxville Nationals trophy in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series fielding a car for driver Donny Schatz, who has also delivered five World of Outlaw championships for Stewart. He has 23 national titles as a team owner. "I've won more car championships as an owner than a driver," Stewart said "I'm definitely as competitive as an owner as I am a driver. …That fire's still there and that's what makes this transition easier." While his success driving and fielding cars is partly responsible for Stewart's incredible popularity over the years, he is also one of the sport's most robust personalities. RELATED: 'Smoke' still the people's champion He's not afraid to express his displeasure at his competitors' blunders, and the other drivers have come to expect either face time or bumper time with him after on track run-ins. And Stewart's "no-fools" tolerance policy extends to the media covering his career. There are highlight reels devoted to showcasing him sparring with reporters in press conferences and on pit road -- his wit and sarcasm legendary with the media corps. He grinned broadly and warned the room of reporters on Wednesday that he will not follow the guide of four-time champ Jeff Gordon who has met with the press nearly every week during this -- his last -- year of NASCAR competition. "Let's establish this right now: I will not be coming to the media center every week to talk about it,'" Stewart said smiling and shaking his head. "You can save your gifts. I've got enough rocking chairs at home as it is. I bought those when I wanted to go sit on my own rocking chair. You don't have to give me one. "I'm content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans," he continued. "They can just send me a note from the track president and say, hey, thank you, and that'll be sufficient for me. "I think it's been very fitting for Jeff [Gordon]. I don't think I'm worthy of that kind of admiration because I think Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again. I think that kind of celebration is reserved for somebody like Jeff." One thing Stewart has across the board is respect -- from his competitors, to the fans and to the media who will be watching closely to see how this next chapter in his career and life plays out. He gave a couple hints on Wednesday afternoon. When it's time to drop the green flag for the 2017 Daytona 500 – the first one run without Tony Stewart on the grid since 1999 – the champ says he hasn't figured out quite yet where he'll be, but spoke about one possibility. "I'll probably be on some fan's motor home on the back stretch promoting our sponsors," Stewart said laughing. "I have no idea where I'm supposed to be yet. I've got a whole year to figure that out."
RELATED: Stewart through the years Watching Tony Stewart as he announced his plans to step out of full-time NASCAR competition in 2017 reminded me a whole lot of the Tony Stewart I first met in 1996 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a driver who always made the racing beat a little more interesting and lot more entertaining for the last two decades. On the track and off it. Stewart, 44, was cutting up, smiling and relaxed Wednesday afternoon sharing his news and holding court in front of a room of reporters -- easing at times, but sincere and authentic. His larger-than-life persona has always been in proportion with his talent. Like a lot of people, I have mixed emotions about not watching him race every week, but they are trumped by the idea that Stewart could now exhale and be at peace. He seems very much so. And he deserves it. I'd spoken with him in previous months about the possibility of his "don't call it retirement." He bounced the idea off plenty of people and admitted that most tried to talk him out of it. I noticed that Stewart was especially chipper last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , and after the race was feisty like I had long known him to be. He was smiling a lot more. There was a definite good vibe. Clearly, he was ready to make this career-impacting announcement -- to move on, not aside. RELATED: Stewart: 'Deep down you know when it's time' It's the rare exception that a racing driver possesses the talent of his heroes, and in Stewart's case, he also shares a good bit of their personality. He loved racing against Dale Earnhardt, who loved racing against Tony Stewart . And he took A.J. Foyt's famed No. 14 for his own Chevy when he moved to Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart is deservedly and fittingly compared to those two legends in his racing accomplishments, and in what has become a time of polish, politeness and political correctness, there will probably not be another so similar out of the driver's seat, either. Sometimes, Stewart's temperament -- the sarcastic interviews or the pit road confrontations -- diverted our appreciation for what a remarkable racer he is. RELATED: Statement from Brian France on Stewart Stewart is still the only driver to win an IndyCar championship (1997) and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles (2002, 2005, 2011). He was the first to win three USAC national titles (Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown) in one season (1996) and his results in racing's Memorial Day "Double" (ninth in Indy 500 and fourth in Coca-Cola 600 ) are unmatched. Everything you need to know about Stewart's drive was evident in his 2011 Sprint Cup championship run when after going winless during the regular season he won five of the last 10 races -- including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- to claim his third title trophy in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards . He promises a similarly motivated final season in 2016 with a Daytona 500 and Southern 500 trophy still on his to-do list. "I've been very fortunate to do what I've loved to do for 37 years up to this point, and next year it will be 38 and there's no period on it at the end of next year," Stewart said this week. "It's just a little change. I still plan on adding stats for years to come after 2016." Asked about his legacy, which surely includes a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction, Stewart was more reflective, even philosophic. RELATED: Quotes from Stewart's retirement announcement "I really haven't thought about it, to be honest because to me at the end of the day I'm happy with who I am,'' he said. "I look at myself in the mirror and I'm comfortable with who I am and what I've done and the path that I've been down." And who could ask for more than that? "I think everything that's happened in my life has happened for a reason,'' Stewart said. "I think there's things that I would have skipped in my life and things that have not happened, but I think everything in the big picture has happened for a reason and is part of something that's a lot bigger than what we are this room."
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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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: 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 with SIRIUS XM about Martin Truex Jr.'s big win at Pocono Raceway and what it means for Furniture Row Racing.