NASCAR's Steve Phelps discusses future media rights package, schedule, horsepower status

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during a webinar Monday that the sport will have at least one additional company broadcast Cup races in 2025, stressed his reluctance to increasing horsepower and said changes will continue to be made to the schedule.

Phelps covered several topics in a 45-minute session during the fourth annual Race Industry Week series of webinars sponsored by Speed Sport, and

Phelps hinted Monday that an agreement on the next Cup media rights deal could be announced soon. Phelps said that both NBC and Fox are expected to remain as broadcasters of Cup races in the new media rights package, which will begin with the 2025 season.

But Phelps said that NBC and Fox won’t be alone in broadcasting Cup races in 2025 and beyond.

“We are going to have an additional partner and we may have two additional partners,” Phelps said. “That’s kind of where we’re trying to figure out in these last few weeks — what that’s going to look like, but we already know we’re going to have more partners.”

Phelps noted the value of having events on broadcast TV, cable TV and streaming.

“I think what I would call hedging our bet is a smart thing for us to do as a sport,” Phelps said. “No one has any idea what’s going to happen with streaming and what’s going to happen with cable. We do know that broadcast television is going to be around for the foreseeable future at 125 million homes. That’s not going to change.

“What we do know is that the cable universe has declined. So what does that look like in two years, five years, seven years? Don’t know, but we better make sure that we have distribution points that will allow us to be successful moving forward, to have as many eyeballs as we can, while not insignificant, also getting paid. The revenue is significant that comes from these media rights or from these media partners.”

The current 10-year media rights deal for Cup races with NBC and Fox is worth a reported $8.2 billion ($820 million per season).

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An increase in media rights fees will be important for teams, who seek to have the charter agreement with NASCAR extend beyond the 2024 season.

Each of the 36 charters guarantee those Cup teams a spot in every points race and additional payments over non-charter teams. That money is critical for teams.

“Race teams want three things, or so they have told us,” Phelps said. “They want to be competitive on the racetrack, which right now that’s a check.

“They want to increase their enterprise value of their charters. That has been a check.

“They want to have a path to profitability. That’s not a check right now. It’s not.

“Our race teams by and large are losing money at the Cup level. That is something that we need to solve for. You solve that with two key pillars.

“One is to make sure that they’re getting additional revenue. So they’re interested in getting more revenue from the sanctioning body and the tracks through the purse. That is something that we need to do. The only way you can do that is to have increases in your media rights, which is what we’re doing today. So we are unsure what that is. When there is more clarity, we’ll understand what those financials will look like.

“Second and not small, honestly, is some type of cost containment. So whether that’s in the form of a cap, or whether that’s in the form of the parts and pieces that make up the Next Gen car, or trying to limit those pieces, I don’t know where we’re going to net out on that. I’m not suggesting that our race teams can cut their way to success. I’m not suggesting that because I’ve been accused of that in the past.

“There needs to be a mixture of those things, but both are important.”

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With more money in the sport, that won’t mean additional Cup races. The schedule features 38 races — 36 points races and two exhibition races (Clash at the Coliseum and the All-Star Race).

“For the foreseeable future we are going to have 38 (total) races on the calendar,” Phelps said of the Cup schedule. “Our season is long enough, so I don’t see that expanding.”

He said that an emphasis remains on tracks to sell out, noting that if a track with two races does not sell out, the sport has shown it will move one of those events elsewhere.

He made an exception for tracks where “the racing is extraordinary.” He cited Daytona International Speedway, noting that the regular-season finale there was not sold out, while the Daytona 500 does sell out.

NASCAR continues to look at ways to improve the racing at short tracks and road courses. NASCAR has a test scheduled Dec. 5-6 at Phoenix Raceway. Series officials will look at a variety of potential changes at the test from aerodynamic adjustments to eliminating shifting. The six-team test is scheduled to have Cup champion Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Erik Jones, Corey LaJoie and Kyle Larson participate.

One change not expected to be made at any point in the future is increasing the horsepower.

“I don’t think the answer is more horsepower because more horsepower is expensive,” Phelps said. “If you ask a driver what’s going to solve it, they’re always going to say ‘Give me more horsepower.’ It’s a thing. I’m not a driver, but I’ve listened to enough drivers and that’s their solution. So the question is is that really what it is? I don’t know. I think there’s some gearing things that we’re looking at as well. Some shifting things.”

One thing Phelps is certain of is continued change to the Cup schedule. Next year will see Cup cars race for the first time at Iowa Speedway. Also next year, the Bristol spring race will be back on concrete, doing away with the dirt race there.

“I think the one thing I will say is that schedule variation is going to continue,” Phelps said. “Are we going to continue to race in Atlanta and Richmond and Charlotte and other places that are fixtures on our schedule? We are.”

But he noted that the sport will continue to look ways to reach more fans.

“We have to make sure we’re going to places that have demand,” Phelps said.

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