TROUBLE OFF THE TRACK

The potential demise of Brian France and what’s next for NASCAR

The potential demise of Brian France and what’s next for NASCAR
Brian France is in trouble, but that might be good for NASCAR. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As we all know, TMZ Sports reported that monday morning NASCAR CEO Brian France was arrested in the Hamptons  for driving under the influence and possession of Oxycontin. Due to these charges, it was announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence from the sport. Brian’s uncle, Jim France will assume the position of interim CEO.  

While this news really shocked casual fans of the sport, this comes as NO surprise at all for NASCAR’s loyal demographic. For example during last year’s Awards Banquet in Las Vegas, he was asked to present defending champion Martin Truex Jr with his championship ring, and after his speech, France gave Truex his ring and simply walked off stage. There was no embrace, no handshake, nothing at all. This extremely rude gesture was met with criticism by the NASCAR faithful including myself. How can someone who is in charge of a billion dollar organization have such disrespect for his sport's champion? Something was genuinely wrong and many assumed it was drugs or alcohol and alas this arrest all but confirms everyone’s suspicions.

So what is next? Obviously, it would appear that Brian will no longer be involved in the day to day operations when it comes to NASCAR. While it would appear that his days in charge are numbered it should be noted that the France family has always had a tendency to look after their own. In fact when then Grand-Am sports car racer J.C. France (nephew of Brian and son of Jim France) was arrested for cocaine possession and DUI in 2009, the charges were mysteriously dropped and JC was allowed to race again after a suspension. What makes this story even weirder is that the series he was racing in was founded by his dad and NASCAR’s new interim CEO Jim France. After getting his son out trouble, who is to say that he won’t go to bat for his younger nephew? 

Personally, I think that the further you get the France family away from NASCAR the better. Over the last 20-some odd years that I have watched NASCAR, I have always been a critic of what they have done to the sport that I love. They have made many changes that a lot of its core fanbase have HATED, from changing the points system  around almost every year to breaking the races up into stages.

Overall as a fan, it’s hard to really have any sympathy for France. During his arrest, he used the “Do you know who I am?” defense and even referenced his relationship and endorsement of President Donald Trump. This is truly nothing new; all throughout his tenure as CEO, France has had an ego the size of Talladega and has been next to impossible to work for so hopefully this arrest is a humbling experience for him and he can get over the disease that is addiction.

While I wish him all the best in recovery, I still think a new CEO is absolutely essential to NASCAR getting back to where it was in the past. Some fans have suggested maybe going in the direction of a retired driver being in charge like Tony Stewart or a Jeff Gordon.  While this doesn’t sound like a bad idea, Gordon has gone on record and said that he has no interest in the job if he was offered and Stewart already has his own team to worry about with Stewart-Haas Racing.

One name that I could see potentially be suggested is former driver and current NBC Broadcaster, Jeff Burton. All throughout his career, Burton has been nicknamed “the Mayor of the garage.” He has always been sort of a mediator around the garage area and he is a name that drivers can trust to look after them and the teams. Not only was he one of the more admired guys in the garage area but he is also a name that fans can  rally around due to his popularity when he was racing. While Burton also wouldn’t be a bad choice, again it will come down to whether or not he even wants the job and I am sure that Jeff is more than happy to stay put where he is at NBC as lead analyst.

While a lot of people are optimistic about Jim France taking over, at the end of the day he is still a France and I very highly doubt that he would make any major changes when it comes to racing. Only time will tell what is next for this sport but regardless, Monday was a sad day to be a fan of NASCAR.

 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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