France Steadies Nascar During Credibility Crisis

But it may have been saving its best for the most important games. “We played aggressive, it was time to show everybody what we can do,” Spain point guard Ricky Rubio said. Serbia struggled at the start and Spain quickly pulled away. Serbia went 1 for 11 from the field in the first quarter. “Our hands were just tied. Most of us had never played against a rival so strong as Spain,” Serbia guard Nemanja Nedovic said. “They got a big lead early.” By the time Serbia’s defense began to show signs of life, Spain had a comfortable double-digit lead and finished the first quarter with a 16-point lead. “We prepared very seriously for this game, we knew we had to play with energy from the start,” said Rubio, who had six rebounds, six assists and four steals to go with five points. Rodriguez made a 3-point play, Serbia turned the ball over and Marc Gasol hit a jumper and put Spain up by 23. The lead grew to 43-17 when Fernando San Emeterio made another jumper. Pablo Aguilar made a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to leave Spain ahead by 25 at 48-23.

France doesn’t look at his sport as an auto racing series when he makes strategic decisions, instead he considers the big four professional leagues. It’s how NASCAR ended up with the Chase format in 2004. France saw it as way to add excitement when NASCAR goes head-to-head with the NFL, and he’s tinkered with the format since its debut, expanding the field, adding wild card berths and bonus points for “regular season” wins, in an effort to create what he calls “Game 7 moments.” For France, it’s part of the evolution of keeping NASCAR relevant in relation to the NFL and other sports, particularly as NASCAR’s televisions ratings and attendance have slid since the 2008 economic collapse. “We’ve always been trying to get television dollars or exposure or sponsor participation, stuff that you only get by having the size audience that will put you in line with the other professional sports leagues,” he said. “The nuances of what we do is very different than any sport. We’ve also taken an unabashed view to creating the closest competition that we can. We’re competing for the casual fan. It may not be the biggest motorsports fan, but they certainly appreciate big moments in sports. We have to compete with other sports, so that’s natural for us to want to emulate some of the things to set up big moments to attract some of the casual fans.” But both the Chase itself and France’s push to move NASCAR away from some of its traditional regional tracks and into larger urban markets has irritated its longtime fan base. In the wake of the Richmond scandal, there’s been a groundswell on social media noting that this never could have happened pre-Chase, when the champion was crowned over the 36-race schedule. Instead, the pressure to get a driver into one of the 12 Chase spots to race for the championship over the final 10 races created this mess. France, in an interview before Richmond, said drivers have praised the Chase format because it gives them the opportunity to elevate their performance.