CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The season hadn't even ended before NASCAR's top executives were previewing 2013, the new ''Gen 6'' cars and elements of a five-year industry ''action plan'' designed to engage and excite fans.
The season ended with a celebratory final image of fresh-faced champion Brad Keselowski, drunk on the combination of his sponsor's beer and the joy of giving team owner Roger Penske his first championship. And the days since Sunday's finale have been a coming out party for the 28-year-old from suburban Detroit, who is all over the television dial smoothly shilling for NASCAR.
It's a reprieve from the bad news: ESPN's ratings from the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway were down 25 percent from last year's race, the most-viewed in network history. Ratings were down or flat for all 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship races this season.
Why? Because the racing in 2012 was mostly forgettable, something chairman Brian France has tasked his entire competition department with fixing.
''The missing and final piece, which we're working on now, is to improve on the quality of racing,'' France said before Sunday's finale. ''Everyone knows a stated goal of ours is to have the closest, most competitive, tightest racing that we can. And that's what we're testing now.''