Steve Phelps told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Friday morning that while he knows he’ll face plenty of challenges in his new role as NASCAR president, he’s excited about the opportunity.
Phelps was named to the position, effective Oct. 1, on Thursday. He will take over for Brent Dewar who is stepping down and transitioning to another role with the sanctioning body. Phelps has been with NASCAR since 2005 and has recently been serving as the sanctioning body’s chief operating officer.
“I think if you look at where NASCAR is on the competition side, I feel better about where we are today than frankly where we’ve ever been,” Phelps told the “Morning Drive” show. “Steve O’Donnell and John Propst, Scott Miller, and the rest of the competition guys and the way that they work with the teams and our auto manufacturers and everyone in the industry, it’s never been better.
“I know we probably overuse the word ‘collaboration’ and probably overuse the word ‘stakeholders,’ but it’s a really important thing for us to get right. Because what we’re trying to do is put on the best possible racing for our fans and I think the racing this year has been fantastic. We’ve got some great storylines as we head into Richmond this weekend for our second race of the playoffs. Vegas was fantastic. It’s a great time I think to be a NASCAR fan, and I’m just privileged to be taking on this new role.”
Phelps repeatedly said the focus is on delivering what is best for the sport and the fans. Asked what will be some topics he has in mind that will be at the forefront of discussion, Phelps said it starts with looking toward competition for 2019. “And I think we’ve got a great plan in place,” Phelps said.
On the business side, Phelps said there is a high priority on the health of the sport and its race teams. The long-simmering topic was brought to the forefront of media attention by the recent announcement that defending Cup Series champion Furniture Row Racing would close its doors at the end of the season.
“We want to make sure we have healthy race teams; we want to make sure we are attracting great sponsors to the sport,” said Phelps. “I think there’s a number factors that are in play there. Obviously having great racing and the best fans on the planet, which we do. Not only do we have a large fan base but we have an incredibly passionate fan base and, most importantly, fans always support the brands that support the sport. That’s kind of the secret sauce that we have, and I am thrilled to be able to talk about that all the time.”
Phelps also reiterated comments he made back at Pocono two months ago about the sport being still being in a good place in terms of sponsorship levels.
“If we look at the sponsors that we have brought into the sport that are new this year, there are far more new sponsors in this sport than we have sponsors that are leaving, and we’ve had significant renewals of sponsors,” he said. “Either with race teams or racetracks or the sanctioning body. So that’s how we balance that. But it’s always a difficult thing because sponsorship is the lifeblood of our industry.”
Asked about possible future changes to the schedule, Phelps admitted that they continue to be looked at but were likely to take some time to implement.