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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]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Johnson advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS races to win Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with his daughter, Ella Sofia Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory win Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, races Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, lead the field to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover sInternational Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via 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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