TROUBLE OFF THE TRACK
The potential demise of Brian France and what’s next for NASCAR
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.