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NASCAR takes stock of the year ahead

NASCAR officials say the sport is well-equipped to make it through the tough economy. Their comments came yesterday as part of the annual state of the sport press conference held in Concord. The motorsports industry relies heavily on sponsorship dollars, but in this downturn many companies are holding onto their money. Hundreds of race team employees have lost jobs as shops merge and trim expenses. Many of the unemployed are here in the Charlotte area. Wrapping up a four day racing media tour, NASCAR Chairman Brian France took questions from an auditorium filled with reporters. He told them the coming season will be challenging, but the sport's governing body is doing its best to cut costs for teams. "Yes, there's changing circumstances with an economy that we have not seen this difficult in a generation and that is accelerating our efforts to take cost out of the system. You hear that from us frequently," said France. France added that some shops have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by making fewer test runs on the track. He acknowledged the economy will still mean rough-going for many teams, especially ones that aren't winning. "It will spotlight those teams that in the last few years for one reason or another-maybe by no fault of their own, circumstances, bad luck or whatever-just simply haven't performed at the level that they need to. And that economic model is under a lot of pressure with sponsorship that's contracting," said France. Meanwhile, dozens of laid-off racing mechanics planned to meet in Mooresville last night to get help with resumes and learn what other services they can tap.