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Trying times force France to alter approach

A detailed look into the way in which NASCAR chief Brian France has been forced to change his approach during trying times for the sport as a whole
Brian France was pissed. The note he had just opened from a high-ranking motorsports executive was quick and to the point: “Step up, we're waiting for you.”

Perturbed, France immediately called the guy and wanted to know the meaning.

No offence, the voice on the other end of the line said. The note was meant to be a source of encouragement, not criticism.

“Step up, we're waiting for you.”

Truth is, many of the stakeholders in the sport feel much the same way about NASCAR's chief executive.

It's not that they think France can't do the job; they wonder if he wants to do the job. They wonder why France didn't adjust his behind-the-scenes approach to leading the sport sooner as NASCAR entered troubled economic waters, including drops in attendance and TV ratings, both of which were falling before the recession hit.

“I know there are some questions about leadership,” said Ray Evernham, a former championship-winning crew chief for driver Jeff Gordon, a former team owner and current ESPN analyst. “I've known Brian a long time, and I know Brian can do it. But Brian's got to stand up and say, 'I'm in charge, we're doing this. We're on the same page, and we're going to get this done.' ”

On a dreary January day at NASCAR's Research and Development Centre north of Charlotte, France bristled at the suggestion he hasn't been a take-charge leader in his six-plus years as CEO.

“If you're going to compare me to somebody else, my father or whoever, I'm not going to be somebody else,” France, 47, said with conviction. “I have to manage in a way that fits my style and approach. Not everybody is going to agree with that.”

It was one of the few times France's businesslike expression changed during a recent conversation about his leadership style and vision for NASCAR's future. Otherwise, his responses were crisp and direct. There was no time for rambling or small talk as he hopped from one meeting to another, talking to NASCAR owners and drivers, crew chiefs and marketers, track presidents and TV executives. There was much work to be done and the start of a new season was just around the corner.

If there's a legitimate gripe that France hasn't led with the determination of his father, Bill Jr., and his grandfather, Big Bill, he's trying his dead-solid best to put it to rest. Brian has been dogged by the commitment question, and maybe he's suffered by comparison to his father, who lived the sport, but he has never been more active than in the months following the end of last season.

France's offseason mission: meet with every track operator, broadcast partner and team by his self-imposed deadline of this week's Daytona 500.

Leadership questions:

Ever since word spread that France was interested in owning an NFL team about five years ago — coupled with his sporadic appearances at the track — questions about France's engagement with the sport spread from the garage to the suites. Those questions were revived when the recession hit the sport, and teams and tracks looked for guidance from NASCAR.



Related Pictures

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NASCAR CEO Brian France [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Brian Scott. (Picture Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team battled back from a bad re-start after the first caution of the race to finish 17th in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo Credit: Campbell Marketing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
A general view as cars pit during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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flyonthewall - Unregistered

February 10, 2010 12:09 PM

I've read some posts about how brian was pulled over by highway patrol in s. carolina and was found with some sort of VERY bad drugs and the officer was told to let him GOOOOOOOOOOO now....how could this guy go after jeremy mayfield when you read something like this



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