TROUBLE OFF THE TRACK

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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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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