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NASCAR's Kurt Busch says changing tracks, TV contracts could boost ratings

Key Points
  • NASCAR driver Kurt Busch says the auto racing organization should consider more places to host events to boost ratings and spectators.
  • "Do something different, do something fun, but we're kind of boxed in with some of the TV contracts and the track ownership portion of our sport," he says on CNBC's "Fast Money: Halftime Report."
  • With the rise in sports betting, "we have to jump into that category because it's available for us and it creates more energy," the champion racer says.
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NASCAR racer Kurt Busch discusses the sport and why he's giving tickets to veterans

NASCAR needs to host events at new tracks and reach more markets to draw more fans to the sport, champion driver racer Kurt Busch told CNBC on Thursday.

Busch, who is in his 19th season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, said the auto racing organization has run the "same track structure" for roughly the past two decades. The No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro driver of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams suggested that races could be held at new courses in Nashville, Tennessee, Iowa, Colorado and Long Beach, California.

Street races, such as in New York City, would bring new experiences to the sport, he said.

"Do something different, do something fun, but we're kind of boxed in with some of the TV contracts and the track ownership portion of our sport," Busch said on "Fast Money: Halftime Report." Some tracks "are owned by NASCAR, some are owned by another entity and they have their publicly traded issues and reasonings."

International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports both own a total of 20 tracks that host NASCAR races. ISC, which owns a dozen tracks across the country, earlier this year agreed to a $2 billion merger with NASCAR. The move would take the company private and is projected to close by the end of 2019. Those raceways include Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR has been challenged by a drop in sponsors and TV viewership in recent years. The company has television contracts with NBC and Fox that run through 2024.

"With ISC and SMI being public traded, they had our tracks, so that's [about] getting into negotiations on getting away from that strategy and getting into new markets," said Busch, who was the overall series champion in 2004 when it was known as the Nextel Cup Series. He has 31 wins in NASCAR's premier division, including the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

With the rise in sports betting in the U.S., Busch said that's another area where NASCAR can spark interest in its races, outside of the family-friendly environment that is promoted.

"We have to jump into that category because it's available for us and it creates more energy ... for people to watch the race and to get invested into more of a feel with their friends," he said. "So it's another category that's now opened up and I think it's positive in all aspects."

In May, NASCAR announced a partnership with sports data firm Genius Sports in an effort to build and facilitate ways to bet on live events. There are a dozen more NASCAR-sanctioned races scheduled for this season.

NASCAR did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent of NBC and CNBC.