Brian France: 'We expect contact'

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The chairman of NASCAR says there was no intent to squelch the "boys have at it" mentality the sport sought to recapture a few years ago with heavy penalties levied last weekend at Phoenix.

Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000, docked 25 points and placed on probation the rest of the season for wrecking Clint Bowyer late in the race.

There also were fines and penalties handed to crew chiefs for both drivers as a result of a fight that broke out between crewmen.

"We have a stated approach that this is a contact sport,'' Brian France said on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "We expect contact, especially late in the race. But I always say there are limits. Drivers know what those limits are, and you can cross those limits, and that's exactly what happened on Sunday.

"It was very obvious and very easy for us to figure that out and for everybody to figure that out, and so we deal with it. [There] will be limits. The drivers know where the limits are. If they have any confusion on that, they can certainly talk to us directly or look at our calls and how we've dealt with it.''

France comments came during a state-of-the-sport address in which the overriding message was on how the sport is working to become more relevant.

Among plans for 2013 and beyond:

• The 2013 car will have more brand identity for manufacturers with the vehicle looking more like those on the showroom floor.

• NASCAR is addressing changes in the car to improve competition as far as more passing and tighter racing.

• The driver's last name will be placed on the windshield so fans can better identify their driver in an era when paint schemes change frequently.

• Sponsor logos will be allowed on the roof for more exposure from television.

• The average age for drivers in the Truck Series will be dropped from 18 to 16 for road courses and any tracks 1.1 mile or less.

• A digital cockpit is coming in 2014 that will offer new social media possibilities.

France said NASCAR could have done a better job of bringing the current car into the sport in 2007.

"We learned a lot, and I learned a lot personally, on that particular debut of that car and the collaboration,'' he said. "I thought it was fairly high at the time; it wasn't as high as it needed to be. The testing, the way we're doing it, manufacturer support, I thought it was pretty high.

"It wasn't high enough. It wasn't even close to high enough. Today that's totally changed.''

The immediate response from drivers to the current car was it didn't drive well or look good.

"Whatever the collection of things that we're going to put on the car, they will be designed to have tighter competition,'' France said. "It's as simple as that. Not every driver will like that per se, because some drivers like the exact rules packages, notwithstanding the look of the car that they have today.

"And I hope we'll be very successful at that. I know we will be over time. I hope we are earlier than that.''