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NASCAR Enters 2016 Season In Strong Shape

Michael Tomsic

Racing executives say NASCAR is in its best shape since the recession as the sport enters its new season. NASCAR leaders made their case in uptown Charlotte on Tuesday as part of an annual media event.

NASCAR CEO Brian France says the sport is coming off one of its most exciting seasons.

“I usually say that because I usually mean it,” he says. “But the statistics really back that up. When you see the attendance came, most of our tracks saw nice and sometimes sizeable increases.”

Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville and several other speedways saw increases in admissions revenue last year, according to the latest financial statements. It’s a mixed bag at some other tracks, although the speedway companies haven’t reported how they did during the playoffs yet.

NASCAR switched to a winner-take-all playoff format two years ago, and France says it’s paying off.

“We couldn’t have felt better about leading up to the finale in Homestead, where we had a record audience, the best audience on television in a decade,” he says.

It was NASCAR’s most-watched final race since 2005. Kyle Busch came from behind to take the lead with less than 10 laps to go.

Executives are also celebrating the sport’s giant TV contract, now in its second year. Fox Sports and NBC are combining to pay NASCAR $8.2 billion.

And executives say there could be a deal soon to make racing teams more like franchises in other sports. Currently, they’re more like independent businesses, and the idea is to increase stability. Cornelius-based Michael Waltrip Racing went out of business last year. Its drivers hadn’t won a top race since 2013.