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3 Most CONTROVERSIAL Steve Phelps Comments from his Webinar

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Joshua Lipowski

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In a recent webinar, NASCAR President Steve Phelps discussed a wide-ranging variety of topics that got NASCAR fans talking. These are the 3 most controversial Steve Phelps comments from this recent webinar.

Horsepower

One of the things that fans and drivers have been continuously asking for is more horsepower, particularly on short tracks. Well, Steve Phelps made it very clear that adding horsepower was not in the cards for right now.

I don’t think the answer is more horsepower because more horsepower is expensive. If you ask a driver what’s going to solve it, they’re always going to say ‘Give me more horsepower.’ It’s a thing. I’m not a driver, but I’ve listened to enough drivers and that’s their solution. So the question is is that really what it is? I don’t know. I think there’s some gearing things that we’re looking at as well. Some shifting things.

Steve Phelps via NBC Sports’ Dustin Long

This quote made the rounds on social media, and plenty of fans were not happy with Phelps saying this. Avery Hage specifically said, “I am going to go insane”.

Plenty of drivers have come out and said that horsepower needs to be added to improve the racing product, particularly on short tracks. Kevin Harvick asked for 1000 horsepower on Twitter following the spring Martinsville race. Denny Hamlin discussed it as well.

However, Phelps is not convinced yet, and it seems that it all comes down to costs. He did mention that they are looking at shifting to improve the racing product. Time will tell how far that can go, but, it does not seem that everyone is totally convinced it will work.

On top of that, the quote makes Phelps look like he doesn’t listen to drivers. Yes, there are some cost complications, and Phelps has the responsibility to keep the sport profitable. However, he also has a responsibility to listen to drivers and their takes, and, he simply did not listen.

The Charter System

Another controversial aspect of modern NASCAR is the charter system. While it does give the teams something of value for their race teams, a charter, it also heightens the barrier of entry for other teams On top of that, the economics of the race teams are still not working out according to Phelps.

We are all in on the charter system…Our race teams by and large are losing money at the Cup level and that is something we need to solve for them. We can solve that with two key pillars. One is to make sure that they are getting additional revenue…The only way we can do that is to have increases in your media rights, which is what we are doing today…Secondly, and not small honestly, is some kind of cost containment.

Steve Phelps via SpeedSport‘s Mike Kerchner

There are two major things that Phelps brought up on this topic. First, the charter system is here to stay. Secondly, Phelps talked about the media deal as one way to increase how much money teams get. Third, he talked about potential cost containment.

While the charter system is controversial, more money for race teams means a more profitable sport. The teams have been vocal about making the charter system permanent, but, Brock Beard brought up an interesting point on social media. The only way that a charter has any cash value is when a race team sells the charter.

This explains why race teams are searching for more revenue to come in through other avenues. The charter itself does not make any money unless it is sold. The media rights deal is going to be an increase for race teams, but what about a cost cap?

A cost cap is a controversial topic in motorsports. Some fans such as Zachary Peters brought up how cost caps “Kill innovation” and that NASCAR is not going to give a larger share of profit to race teams.

Fans like to see innovation in motorsports, and, a cost cap takes away the ability for race teams to innovate. Less money in-house means that there is less room to try new things. Instead, it incentivizes them to stay within the box that NASCAR intended them to.

Now, the Next-Gen car was intended to make racing closer. It is essentially a “Spec” race car in a lot of aspects. While that narrows up the field, it also means that race teams cannot innovate like they once did because they have to work within the constraints of the car.

The Schedule

When it comes to the schedule, NASCAR has gotten quite aggressive with it in recent years. However, NBC Sports’ Dustin Long notes that Phelps may look at tracks with multiple dates.

He said that an emphasis remains on tracks to sell out, noting that if a track with two races does not sell out, the sport has shown it will move one of those events elsewhere.

Dustin Long

Phelps also mentioned that the schedule will stay the same length it currently is for the foreseeable future. That means that for new tracks to come in, some tracks need to step aside. The idea of tracks going down to one race date has been talked about the entire year. One example people point to is Pocono this year, which sold out.

The problem with wanting to go to more race tracks is that some race tracks need to lose a date for it to happen. With Phelps specifically mentioning tracks that do not sell out, tracks like Las Vegas, Kansas, and Richmond are worth looking at. None of those tracks sold out this year, and Las Vegas specifically had a very poor showing during the Playoffs.

This puts these types of tracks potentially under the microscope for the future. Could these be the first to go should more tracks join the Cup Series schedule?

Steve Phelps may have garnered some criticism for some of his comments made on Monday. However, they open up some interesting conversations about the future of NASCAR.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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