Steve Phelps discusses the state of the sport – transcript

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody. 2020 continues with everything we’re dealing with here. This will be no different. A bit different than what we had last year, but I’m really happy and proud to be sitting here today as we’ll have our president here, Steve Phelps, addressing the media, touching on a variety of topics here with the annual state of the sport.

Without any further ado, Steve will say a few words to kick off and then answer your questions.

Steve, obviously it’s been an incredible year, a ton of adversity and challenges we faced as a sport. Everybody here on this Zoom call has faced it. We’ve persevered and actually risen above it all. Steve, as the leader of our sport, can you touch on what the year has been for 2020 for all of us.

STEVE PHELPS: I’ll start typically as I do by thanking the media for what they do to bring this sport closer to our fans. I know it’s been a difficult year for all of you, as it has been for all of us. We asked you to respect the bubble, do things remotely and virtually. I know that’s hard. But I’m really proud of the work that you guys have done in these difficult times.

I think the stories were great stories that were produced. Very fair. Again, we can’t do any of this without you. You do bring this closer to the fans, and we appreciate all you do. So thank you. I know it has been a hard year, but you guys have come through it incredibly well.

With that, I did want to turn it to the question. The year has been in short I would say extraordinary, although I could probably use 15 or 20 other words to try to get to something. It’s just unprecedented in the history of our country, in the history of sports, and certainly in the history of our sport. I would suggest this is the single most difficult year that we’ve faced as a sport.

But through it all this industry, I’ve said this before, I believe this industry does adversity better than any sport. If you think about it, we’re at a competitive disadvantage. We don’t own ourselves. We’re not franchised, right? We have independent contractors who come to race as one.

What we have done during this global pandemic is I think nothing short of remarkable. We can’t do what we did as a sport without coming together. I want to thank the race teams, the racetracks, both those that we own that are part of NASCAR, but importantly the folks at Speedway Motorsports, Pocono, Dover, Indianapolis. Frankly, all of our partners, right? Our media partners, our sponsors, everyone that really banded together to create something that was really something to be proud of.

As I sit here today getting to crown two more champions today, another one tomorrow, the one last night with Sheldon Creed winning the Gander RV and Outdoor Truck Series, I just couldn’t be more proud.

I’m fortunate to sit in the chair that I sit. Jim France and Lesa Kennedy allow me to do this. I’ve got a phenomenal team around me that really makes this sport go. But without that collaboration with our industry, it just wouldn’t work, particularly when you’re facing something like we faced this year.

So I think a couple highlights that I want to touch on that I’m particularly proud of. When we shut down heading into Atlanta, we had no idea when we were going to get back to racing. It was our goal, and a stated goal, that we were going to run all races. Tomorrow when we crown a champion in our Cup Series, we will have run all our races. We did it through ways that frankly probably we didn’t think we could do, right?

A bunch of midweek races. Three doubleheaders. No practice and qualifying. Things that were kind of significant in bedrock that we do, right? You come to the racetrack, you’re here for three days, you practice, you qualify, you’re on your way, right?

For us to be the first sport back without fans initially on May 17th in Darlington, to the first sport back with fans, I think it’s an extraordinary achievement.

I’ll leave you with this before I open it up to questions.

When we were here the last time and we raced here on March 8th, we were focused on, How is that short track package going to work? It was up in the air, weren’t sure. We thought it was going to be great. By the way, it was. Then three, four days later, the world goes crazy, right? We’re just in a situation that was unthinkable.

What I would say is that on March 8th we were a sport that was coming back, right? Our ratings had stabilized last year. Our attendance was going in the correct direction. If you think about where we are as a sport today, I believe we’re stronger as a sport today than we were pre COVID. I believe that. I think that the momentum that we’ve been able to gain has been nothing short of incredible.

I think the other word I want to use that I stole from one of the senior people at Comcast is that your sport is relevant. It’s not that it wasn’t relevant before, but where you are today, you’re in a significantly different place. I believe that to be true.

So with that, I’ll open it up for questions.

How do you envision the Daytona 500 as far as people in the grandstands, people in the infield garage, the pomp and circumstance of the event?

STEVE PHELPS: Yeah, I think I would say not just for the 500 but for our entire schedule, we have this incredible schedule that has been put together leading off with the Daytona 500 on February 14th.

Do I believe we’re going to have fans in the stands? I do. What percentage of fans in the stands? I’m not sure. Will we have folks in the garage, fans in the garage? I don’t know. What I would say is I can’t wait till we do have fans back in the garage.

The hallmark of our sport is about accessibility to the garage, accessibility to the drivers, the crews. We don’t have that. We don’t have that because we need to keep people safe. That’s the only way we’re going to run a race is if we’re going to keep people safe.

I don’t know. I do know that we have every intention of running on February 14th the 500. Our plan is to race in front of fans.

Obviously with the 28 one?day shows next year, things are going to change. Not like the last time we were here. Not just practice and qualifying but the rhythm of how things go. How do you see the future unfolding on race days? Is it going to be sponsor?heavy commitments in the mornings, then they go race? What is your vision for what this will look like in the future, once things go back to normal, not how it is now?

STEVE PHELPS: That’s a good question.

I think what we’ve proven this year is that you can do things differently, right, and they can work. What we’re in the process of doing right now is looking at what that race day experience is going to look like, or race weekend experience is going to look like.

I think it’s going to look different, right? I think there are things both from a competition standpoint, as well as a fan standpoint, sponsor standpoint, where we are going to reinvent ourselves, take the best of what we had during this COVID situation to make ourselves stronger in the future.

What exactly that looks like, we’re doing planning right now. We’ll obviously do some things looking from the broad racetracks, not just our racetracks, but racetracks in general.

We need to make sure that the fan experience continues to improve. When they come back, we need to give them a reason. They have great racing, but you have great racing on television, right? We need to have a great fan experience that is going to look different almost certainly than it did before.

It’s incumbent upon us, our racetracks, to make sure they’re getting that fan experience. We’ll have to do that with our race teams, our drivers. It needs to be about access, right? If it’s not going to be physical access, what are the things we can do that create something unique and different for a fan at the facility?

Would you reflect back onto March, April, into May during the period where NASCAR itself and its teams had little or perhaps in some cases no revenue coming in. How would you characterize that period in terms of how close NASCAR and the teams came to basically not being able to move forward on a financial basis?

STEVE PHELPS: Well, I won’t speak for the teams. I can speak for NASCAR.

It was our intention that we were going to get all these races in. Now sitting here a race away, if you will, or a day away from doing that, it feels gratifying.

I think the most difficult part of that period really is just the unknown, right? There’s so many things that were outside of our control. It got to a point literally where my phone would ring, I didn’t want to answer it because there’s nothing but bad news on the other side of that phone call. It was scary. It was scary for the industry as a whole.

I think anyone who was in sports didn’t sleep very well in March and April, mid-March to April, into May. Until the engines fired at Darlington, it was scary because you have so many things outside of your control. There are a lot of us in this industry that are control freaks. I consider myself to be one of them. When you have things that are truly outside of your control, you are working hard to develop plans, you don’t know if you execute against them, it’s just difficult.

I would say in a word it was scary, but we developed a plan and we executed against that plan. I think we executed it very well.

I’ll ask this in the context that some of your contemporaries who are the presidents or CEOs or commissioners of other sports are publicly acknowledging financial situations. If 2021 moves into a significant part of the season with either little or no spectator attendance possible, no hospitality or on?site activation opportunities for sponsors, will NASCAR, will the teams, be viable business entities in 2021?

STEVE PHELPS: Will everyone’s bottom line look more challenged? The answer is yes. Do I believe we as a sport are going to shut down? We are not. We are going to run races. We can sustain this period where we have a limited number of fans, limited amounts of hospitality.

Is it where we want to be? Of course not. But are we financially viable to move forward? We are. Do I think the majority of our race teams are in the same position? I do.

If you look at where we are from a viewership standpoint, our viewership has been phenomenal, right? Particularly in a relative basis. In an absolute basis I think so, as well.

Visibility for sponsors on racecars, they’re in a good place. Obviously the B to B portion of it is a little bit more challenged. But do I think that we will weather the storm as a sport if things continue much like they have this year? The answer is yes, we are going to persevere and we are going to continue to put on races, bring that great racing to the fan base.

We’re going to have a new president in January. Donald Trump was at this year’s Daytona 500. Does NASCAR have any plans to invite Joe Biden to any of the races?

STEVE PHELPS: If a sitting president, as President Trump did this year, wants to come to a race, then we would welcome that sitting president.

We didn’t reach out to President Trump to come to the Daytona 500. His people reached out to us. Again, I don’t see us reaching out to a sitting president. Again, if a sitting president wants to come to a racetrack, we would certainly welcome the sitting president.

There’s obviously a lot of interest in Cup team ownership. I’m curious if NASCAR is considering expanding the number of charters available?

STEVE PHELPS: We are not considering expanding the number of charters. The way the charter system works, we have the ability to expand if there’s a new OEM. Without that, we do not. That’s a contract that we have with our teams. So there will be no expansion of our charters.

Last week the 20 car didn’t pass the 11 for whatever reason. NASCAR found nothing wrong with that. Fans are upset about the 100% rule, questioning if it was in play. Does the rule need to be addressed or rewritten in any way to avoid scenarios that leave interpretation open such as last week?

STEVE PHELPS: Yeah, I know that Scott Miller addressed that earlier in the week. Whether the rule needs to be looked at, I think we have shown repeatedly if there’s a better way to do something, we’ll do it, whether that’s a rule change or some other competition change to a rules package, whatever that might be.

I personally don’t think the rule needs to be changed, but we will certainly, again as we do with everything, if there’s a better way to do it, we’ll find it and do it.

In Kevin Harvick not advancing to the finale, did the system work the way it’s supposed to work?

STEVE PHELPS: You know what, listen, Kevin had an extraordinary season by any measure with nine wins, right? I would say he and Rodney, that team, they fought like champions. They came up just short. I would say the drama that was developed at the end of that race was extraordinary.

I think the hard part is that as hard as they fought, there are opportunities for them in the three races because of the number of Playoff points they had that made it such that everyone, if they’re filling out their brackets, to who was going to the Championship 4, put Hamlin and Harvick in there, right? I don’t think anyone thought there would be a scenario where they wouldn’t make it. But they didn’t.

I think Kevin was very gracious in his remarks. They didn’t do enough to get there. Being two laps down, then one lap down, getting back on the lead lap with a car that was not where they wanted to be. It’s hard to say they didn’t perform because they did everything they could in order to try to advance.

I for one as a fan was super proud of what Kevin did and Rodney and the whole team did to try to advance. I think this system, how the Playoff system worked in those three incredible cutoff races, particularly the race in Martinsville, gave fans what they wanted, which was intense drama and really this just amazing competition.

Yes, it did work, because you wanted Game 7 moments, correct?

STEVE PHELPS: Yeah, I would suggest did it work? Yes. I wouldn’t say Game 7 moments. We’ll keep it unique to our sport. But I think, yes, the Playoff system as designed I think worked incredibly well.

I think the last time you spoke to us in September you said at that point you didn’t see any way that garage access would expand until there was a vaccine available. Going into 2021, where does NASCAR stand on that? Do you still see that as the only way forward to expand garage access? Are you looking at COVID?19 testing across the board in the future regardless?

STEVE PHELPS: Kind of two parts of the question.

I think the first part as it relates to the competitors and the current footprint or bubble, whatever we call this pristine area, it’s something we’ll look at. I would suggest that our sport did as well or better than other sports did with respect to how our protocols worked with our competitors. A significant number of competitors we have, not just our drivers but our crews, our officials, the safety workers. Been proud of how that worked.

John and his team are always looking to see whether there are ways to create a better, safer environment. That was the goal all along, as you know, which is to make sure that our competitors felt safe in this environment.

That gets to the second part of your question. When we talked in September, I did say until a vaccine was developed, widely distributed that was effective, we wouldn’t have people in there.

I will clarify that. If there is an opportunity, I’m not sure there is, to have rapid tests that are effective, that doesn’t have a bunch of false negatives or false positives, it’s something that we would entertain. But it’s too early at this particular point to determine what that is going to look like.

You mentioned NASCAR getting through the season, ending exactly as you planned. I’m sure you saw the news this week that cases across the country are spiking into six figures daily. Many experts are predicting it’s going to be a tough winter. What is your guidance for NASCAR through the next couple of months knowing that drivers won’t be under your purview as much? Are you going to encourage them to remain vigilant? Hands?off policy? Do you want drivers and teams to stick to the same policies of isolation during the off?season to ensure Daytona goes off without a hitch?

STEVE PHELPS: I think it’s a tough question. Obviously you want to keep people safe. We want our competitors to be safe. I think they obviously have done a good job of the isolation that they’ve done to try to make sure they remain safe and able to compete.

But they are going to be away from us for roughly three months. I would just ask them to be safe as we would any part of our community, any part of our family. We want them to be.

It’s scary, right? The spiking that we’re seeing is scary. I think if you think back to April or May or March, I think people were like, This thing will burn out in the summer, we’ll be good in the fall. Well, unfortunately that’s not where we are. I want this to be over as much as anyone does, but we need to continue to make sure we are being safe and our competitors are being safe.

I think as it relates to NASCAR and our competitors, we are going to continue to do the things necessary in order to stay safe during this time period.

In past years drivers and crew members suspended under the behavioral policy would attend sensitivity training and be reinstated fairly quickly. Larson, it took several months, even though he completed sensitivity training within a couple weeks. Why is his case different? In a road to recovery there’s science that dictates whether somebody comes back. This seems subjective. What are the parameters for somebody to come back from what Larson did?

STEVE PHELPS: It’s a good case study moving forward. I think part of the case study is that there is some subjectivity that comes with it, right? There isn’t a hard and fast rule. I think that’s where, frankly, we need to be.

A point of clarification. Yes, Kyle did take sensitivity training that we had mandated that he do early on, then he went above and beyond because he thought that’s what he needed to do for himself.

I think his road back, I think it was an incredible journey for him. If you talk to him, I know many of you have, it’s heartwarming to hear him talk about what that journey looked like.

I do think that each case is going to be looked at on a case?by?case basis. Kyle didn’t ask for reinstatement early on into the spring, into the summer, until we got to the fall where he did ask for reinstatement. He felt his journey was complete. We agreed with him.

Again, he went above and beyond. I think he was humbled by the whole experience. I’m proud of the job that he did.

Earlier this season you said that words without action are meaningless in terms of addressing racism and the sport being more inclusive. Going forward, is NASCAR doing something concrete to continue its anti?racism and inclusivity efforts inside or outside of the industry? Can we expect to see things like Black Lives Matter written on the infield, continued sport for the LBGTQIA community that shows solidarity or welcomes others in?

STEVE PHELPS: What I would say is, will you continue to see results and action from NASCAR? The answer is yes. So we have broken this kind of in this area into three specific buckets.

One is what we’re going to do internally. The middle bucket is what we’re going to do from an industry?wide standpoint. The third is what are the partnerships that we’re going to do externally.

I would say on the internal side we’ve done things that it’s really just about us, obviously. We have an ally council, a diversity council, employee resource groups we’ve put together to try to make sure we’re doing what we need to do. We also have a drive to make sure that we are hiring diverse people, right? That’s a stated goal for us, as well. Then we’re doing, as part of our procurement, making sure we have minority vendors as part of that, too. That’s internal.

External is what are we going to do as an industry. One of the things we are going to do, we talked early on at Talladega, as an industry we are going to mandate that everyone take sensitivity training, unconscious bias training. We are going to do that. Before we get to the 500, all the race teams, anyone affiliated with this is going to do that. It’s part of our internal community.

The third thing is what are you going to do from an external standpoint. Partnerships with Comcast, Coca?Cola, GEICO, Anheuser?Busch, others. Other groups like ISSJ, Rise, others we’re using to try to help in this education process.

We believe we are a sport about action. We are going to continue to be. It’s an important journey for us to be on. I’m excited about what the future holds there.

Michael touched on this a little bit when you answered him about the viability of teams and the sport. Nate brought up the numbers of COVID increasing. Can NASCAR survive under the COVID shutdown if it was mandated nationally? What have you learned that you can carry forward should there be a shutdown mandate going forward?

STEVE PHELPS: Well, I think the tough part is it goes back to what I said initially in my opening, that there are things that are out of our control. Will we scenario plan for all the things we can identify? The answer is yes, we are going to. I think we showed this year as a sport that we did as good or a better job than any sport did, frankly, getting back early and often.

I believe as of tomorrow we’ll be the only sport that finished a full season. The NFL is obviously in the midst of theirs. We are hopeful that they continue with their progress and finish their season. But as of now, as of tomorrow, we’re the only major sport that finished a full season. Certainly proud of that.

What happens in the future is difficult to say because we don’t know what it looks like, don’t know whether it’s going to be federal, local. As of now we’re going to go to Daytona and run the Daytona 500 on February 14th, then we’re going to adjust as needed based on what things are thrown at us.

Do those possibilities give you some cause for fears that something could happen?

STEVE PHELPS: Again, things that are unknown are difficult. Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s fear. We were presented with significant obstacles this year. With those obstacles, we either went around them, jumped over them or knocked them down. Do I think as an industry we are better prepared for another wave of whatever that’s going to be? Yeah, I do. We’ve proven it.

I think the uniqueness of our sport, how we run our sport, how we come together as an industry, where we run our races, I think it gives us some flexibility that other sports frankly just don’t have.

One of the adjustments we saw post shutdown was you expanded the field in Xfinity and Truck Series to 40 vehicles. Is that a plan to continue that for 2021?

STEVE PHELPS: That’s a good question. Honestly I don’t know the answer to that. Here is what I would say. I would suggest that if we did it this year, we’re probably going to do it again next year, but I do not know the answer.

Obviously there’s no question the challenges you have faced this year to get to this point. Obviously as any business, it can’t be just about the immediacy, it’s also about looking ahead. I know there’s uncertainties and challenges, you referenced earlier the notion of relevancy in this sport. How do you envision or hope to continue that relevancy for the sport so that it grows and becomes stronger, and the potential of adding another manufacturer since everything is being put back a year or so with the plans?

STEVE PHELPS: I think it’s hard to say, Hey, we are going to continue to relevance. I think it’s kind of an arrogant statement. I think there are some building blocks here that indicate that’s going to continue.

We have new ownership coming into this sport. That new ownership comes with different levels, right? Then we have different drivers affixed to those new owners. Take the Michael Jordan situation with Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace, the situation with Justin Marks and Daniel Suarez, the Tiffts and B.J. McLeod. These are kind of all across the spectrum.

Do I believe we are positioned well to continue that relevance? I do. I think we’ve seen this year the significant number of new fans who are participating in this sport. Because kind of the positions that we have taken, the great racing that we’ve had, the fact that we came back first, all those different pieces that created this relevance.

Do I think we’re positioned to continue that? I do think we’re positioned to continue that. I’m bullish on what the future looks like. I know it’s kind of as the head cheerleader of this sport I’m supposed to say that.

If you look at where we are from a ratings standpoint, if you look at kind of where the sport is overall in the general kind of thought process of where things are in this country, I think we’re in a much better position than we were, as I said, pre COVID.

You’ve been very outspoken about human basic rights, the issue with the Confederate flag. You talk about new fans. Can this sport afford to be as vocal moving forward? There are those that feel it’s a more conservative fan base. How have you felt the fans responded in that time since in gaining new, losing some, what you can do moving forward, be potentially more aggressive?

STEVE PHELPS: Kind of on balance you look at those new fans versus fans we have ‘lost’. I think for us, it’s really about this notion of welcoming everyone to our sport. I think people are feeling welcomed to our sport.

I think by and large people have said, Hey, NASCAR means more to me than displaying my Confederate flag, displaying a Confederate flag at our facilities. I think by and large that has been a true statement.

What we do from a social justice standpoint moving forward really to me is about, to your point, human decency. We want to make sure that people want to come to our facilities. We want to make sure they want to participate in this sport on television, radio, digitally and socially. We want them to feel part of this community. It’s a fantastic community, it really is.

I know when I go to a racetrack and I see people who are camping next to each other who are total strangers, that invite each other for a beer, do you want a hot dog, brat, whatever it is, that’s what our community is about. We want to make sure that everyone feels welcome when they come to those facilities.

A couple months ago you said there was a prospect of Denny becoming a team owner. You said, We want to make sure that NASCAR is satisfied it’s not just a fifth car. What have you seen that alleviated those concerns? Will they have to show anything going forward to make sure it’s not just a fifth JGR team?

STEVE PHELPS: I think it’s obviously something that our competition guys are going to look at to make sure it isn’t a fifth JGR team. There obviously is a technical alliance there, as there was a technical alliance with Furniture Row and the Leavine family.

Technical alliances are fine. It is a unique situation in that we’re going to a new car in 2022, which will kind of change the game board completely. With that said, I am sure that Michael, Denny, their acting president right now, Steve (indiscernible), that we will need to be satisfied they are not operating as a fifth JGR team.

It’s something we’ll monitor for sure.

I know you can’t predict the future. The introduction of the NextGen car is pushed back to 2022. Do you see there’s any way that doesn’t get introduced in 2022?

STEVE PHELPS: It’s hard to say. We are on schedule. John Probst and his team have done a great job working with our OEMs, with our teams, to get us to a place where we feel confident where things are.

I just think the hard part is we were confident that we were going to introduce it in 2021. Then it became very clear that we couldn’t. It really has to do with are we going to have the parts and pieces in order to make this car, to build it at scale in order to have enough cars to race. As of right now the answer is absolutely yes.

Our guys are excited about it. I think we all are excited about it. We’ve seen some renderings. It’s a cool?looking car that I think will have some great characteristics that will make the racing even better than we’ve seen this year.

Again, it’s hard to predict the future. Given the things we know today, we’re in good shape.

Obviously the one?day shows have been successful. They’re going to continue at most of the tracks next season. The drivers agree they are great cost savers. Near and dear to your heart. Were they discussed before the pandemic or was it a happy accident that has proven to keep costs down?

STEVE PHELPS: I would say whatever mad scientist would come up with a one?day show would have been shot down pretty quickly. Really it was from the pandemic. Really it was from the industry coming together and saying, Can you do it at racetracks, from an officiating standpoint? The resounding answer was yes, obviously.

The great news is that the racing, again, arguably is as good as it’s ever been. We have 28 one?day shows next year, eight that we do not, we’re going to have practice and qualifying. What does that look like in ’22 as we unveil a new car? Probably a lot more practice and qualifying. How much, and what does it look like? Really, it will be determined when we get a little closer to that particular season.

Has everything that’s happened because of COVID kind of clouded NASCAR’s ability to judge how the Phoenix market was going to respond to getting the championship race this weekend? If so, how does that impact whether you judge whether you should start rotating the race or making Phoenix a long?term home beyond 2021?

STEVE PHELPS: It is unfortunate that we’re in this situation. Fortunate that we’re going to have fans today and tomorrow. Unfortunate that the sellout that was announced in March around the race here, we’re not going to see that. You go out, you look at camping. Camping looks phenomenal, which is great to see.

I would suggest Governor Ducey, Kenn Weise here in Avondale, just the entire Phoenix community has responded incredibly well and are really excited to have us here. So there are some activities that have happened to kind of prime the pump here in Phoenix.

But they’re not what they were going to be, unfortunately. That part is sad. There’s so many difficult things to this season overall. We know that the season finale will be run here again next year. We are hopeful that we will run it in front of full grandstands, all the greater activities in the Phoenix area are going to come off.

There’s a Phoenix host committee that had done some really good work. Julie Giese and her staff here have done some phenomenal things as well just to get ready. The facility looks fantastic. It’s just unfortunate that everyone can’t experience it.

It’s a bit bittersweet, but I do think this market has responded incredibly strongly to us coming here. Visually when you go around the city, you know that our championship is here. That’s heartwarming.

If COVID would require the NFL to slide back its schedule, would you commit now to saying that NASCAR would not run the Daytona 500 against the Super Bowl even if it means moving the Daytona 500 date?

STEVE PHELPS: No, I will not say that. Right now we’re running on February 14th. That’s as much information as we have. Will we potentially scenario plan for a change? Perhaps. But I don’t foresee that. It’s just hard to say.

The NFL, they’re trying to get their season in. Thus far they’ve done a good job of having the majority of their football games take place. But I think at this particular point, I don’t want to speculate what would happen with the 500 if the NFL were to put the Super Bowl on February 14th. We’ll react to that at that particular time. Obviously we’ll make sure our friends at FOX are aligned with the decision that we make.

In the last week there have been some business stories highlighting the fact that some major Super Bowl sponsors, including Anheuser?Busch, are either going to significantly scale back their hospitality and/or on?site activation at the Super Bowl. Does that give you any concern from a bottom line standpoint for Daytona?

STEVE PHELPS: Well, I think what I would say is if we continue the way we’re continuing, then our bottom line is going to be less, for sure. Again, we’re going to make sure that we’re making decisions that are in the best interest of the sport in order to keep those that are coming to race safe, but also the competitors, sponsors, media partners we have to make sure they’re safe as well.

If folks are going to scale back their hospitality, we certainly understand that. We saw a lot of that this year. In some facilities we couldn’t have any hospitality, right, because all we were doing was racing there. No fans, no suites, no midway.

We’ll look at that on a case?by?case basis based on where things are in the country, then again working with local and state governments and health officials to make sure we are abiding by what they’re interested in doing, what they believe is in the best interest of their communities.

We’ll do the same thing for our community to make sure we are keeping our community safe as well.

This is the first year of the NASCAR?ARCA partnership. How well have you worked with Ron Drager and his team?

STEVE PHELPS: Listen, Rob and his team are fantastic. Ron has been a friend of the France family for a long time. There’s a healthy respect that existed before we acquired ARCA.

ARCA has shown that it is a great kind of proving ground or steppingstone for those that are headed up to our national series. Sheldon Creed last night or Chase Briscoe. So many different folks that have gone through that series. We think it’s a phenomenal development series for us. Obviously you’ve got some veterans that are participating in the series as well.

It provides us an opportunity to go to some facilities where we typically don’t race that are kind of the bedrock of what NASCAR racing is from a short track standpoint, which we think is good for the season.

Got great things to say about Ron. He’s a quality individual. They run a lean and very effective organization. We’re glad they’re part of NASCAR.

We did see before the season started and COVID, they announced that Xfinity and Trucks were going to be having some races with controlled pit stops. We saw that a lot in ARCA, the standalone races. Not many of those in the 2021 season. Is that something we’re going to see in 2021 or no?

STEVE PHELPS: As it relates to Trucks and Xfinity, I don’t think so. Again, it remains to be seen. If I were a betting man, I would say probably not. But we’ll keep that open.

In the wake of the pandemic, has that at all hurt the opportunities for potential manufacturers outside of the sport to come in and kick the tires?

STEVE PHELPS: Yeah, I think the difficulty for us, we were super focused obviously on getting the races in. We haven’t had a ton of conversations with other OEMs during the COVID situation. They’ve kind of had their own issues with supply chains, making sure they’re getting vehicles out.

When the season ends, we’ll start to kind of restart those conversations. Only a certain number of hours in a day. Those have taken a little bit of a step back, at least a pause, not a step back, but a pause. I think we’ll ramp those discussions back up.

Again, I’ll go back to it. I think we are actually a more attractive sport today to a new OEM than we were back in March. I believe that to be true. It’s not that we were not an attractive sport for them to make investments in our sport, but I think now more than ever.

If someone did come in, would there be a potential to expand the charter system? It would be really tough to figure out where a new manufacturer starts out on an equal playing field ensuring they’re in the field every week.

STEVE PHELPS: I don’t know the answer to that. We have the opportunity to do that. Again, someone coming in wouldn’t come in, I would suggest, until probably 2023 at the earliest. I think the world is just going to look a lot different at NASCAR once you get to kind of the NextGen car. Just the dynamics are going to change so significantly.

If we deem it would be in the best interest of the sport to add an additional charter or two to try to help jump start a new OEM, it’s something we’d consider.

New owners are considering coming into the Cup Series. Conceivably they’re going to have to buy charters, which costs are rising. Are you concerned with the charter system, how it’s working now, how it was devised?

STEVE PHELPS: I think it’s a good question. One of the thoughts about the charter system, and this really gets to the business of NASCAR, fans don’t care about charters. But one of the thoughts on the business side for charters is that if someone decided to leave a sport, they would have enterprise value that they’d be able to sell their race car or race team and make some money.

I think that’s something that is happening in this system. It’s not the only reason why the charter system exists. I think there are things about the charter system that work quite well. There are others that I think we could probably improve on moving forward.

It’s something that we’re not faced with at this particular time. The charters go through 2024. Again, I think it’s working well in some cases. Again, as I said, in other cases I think there are some things that we would look to change moving forward.

THE MODERATOR: Steve, thank you for the time today. We really appreciate it. To our media, thank you again for incredible coverage this year as we’ve gone through an extraordinary season. You have continued to deliver for our fans, and we thank you all for that. Look forward to crowning a couple champions, and we got a big one tomorrow, as well.

STEVE PHELPS: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

— NASCAR —