For the second time in as many press conferences, NASCAR Steve Phelps has stated a desire to strengthen the bond between the sanctioning body and the short track industry.
What form that begins to take remains to be seen.
On Sunday in his first-ever state of the sport address at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Phelps was asked if NASCAR intended to strengthen its standings with regional and local tracks across the country.
“Yeah, that’s a good question,” Phelps said. We’re obviously in discussions with Ron (Drager) and the folks at ARCA on a weekly basis about what the future of that series looks like … what the future of our touring series looks like. So, there is a lot of dialogue out there.”
NASCAR acquired the ARCA Racing Series back in May but has only released scant details about how that tour will be integrated into a structure that already contains the K&N Pro Series. It’s also worth mentioning that the NASCAR regional and touring banner also includes the Pinty’s Series in Canada, PEAK Series in Mexico, Whelen EURO in Europe, Whelen Modified Tour and the Whelen All-American weekly national championship.
Phelps says he wants to foster an environment where NASCAR national touring promotes short track racing and the favor is returned, essentially cross-promoting between their respective audiences.
“I have stated publicly, we are going to work with our short tracks to try to make sure that from a cross‑promotional standpoint, us promoting the short tracks and the short tracks promoting the big tracks, that’s something that we are interested in doing,” Phelps said. “As part of our 2019 plans, we will see work with our racetracks to make sure that we are working with them in order to find ways to drive attendance both ways.”
During the sport’s heyday, the Modern Era, R.J. Reynolds was the title sponsor for both the Winston Cup Series and the Winston Weekly Racing Series. It wasn’t uncommon to see top NASCAR national executives make the trip to different short tracks when their schedules allowed.
Even in more recent memory, longtime NASCAR communications executive Jim Hunter was a frequent supporter of short track racing. There isn’t an executive of that level that currently serves in a similar role.
However, acting NASCAR chairman and CEO, who replaced nephew Brian in August attended the Martinsville Late Model Stock 300 in October.
Phelps hopes to see what the future of NASCAR’s involvement in that discipline looks like.
“Is that a panacea for any attendance headwinds that we’ve had? It’s not,” Phelps said. “But I think there’s a strengthening that will happen for both that will be good for both entities, will be good for motorsports in general.”