NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03
An Interview with:
JIM HUNTER:.. Thank you.. Good afternoon, everyone.. It's my pleasure to be here this afternoon for this news conference.. At this time I'd like to introduce NASCAR's chairman and CEO, Mr..BillFrance.
........... BILL FRANCE:. Thank you, Jim.. Today it's with great pleasure and pride, I am happy to announce the appointment of BrianFrance as the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of NASCAR.. Brian has worked long and hard for this opportunity, just as I had when I took over the reins from my father.. He's earned his chance, and I know how important that is to him and to me.
........... Brian has worked in about every area of the company, including running a racetrack, and he has exceeded my expectations each time.. And I am a pretty tough critic.
........... Brian is prepared and ready to lead our sport and company into the future.. The fact of the matter is, the NASCARboard would not have selected Brian for this role if we didn't think he was capable.. There's too much at stake.
........... In the past few years, we have seen a lot of changes for the betterment of our sport.. We've seen a lot of innovation and new thinking.. Many of these innovations happened because of Brian's prodding and passion for our sport.
........... The role of a CEO and chairman is to be forward-looking, anticipating the challenges of tomorrow.. Brian fits that role for NASCAR, and that's why I am recommending him to take on this new challenge.
........... He will be surrounded by the same world-class executive team, Mike Helton, George Pyne, and of course the NASCARboard.. Mikeand George'srole will remain the same as they are now, and they will continue to provide valuable advice and counsel to the board and to Brian.
........... I am very confident that Brianwill represent the France family tradition well, and I believe he is the best person to lead NASCAR to new levels of greatness.
........... Brian, it's with great confidence that I pass the torch to you.. I look forward to your leadership.
........... JIM HUNTER:. Thank you, Bill.. At this time I'd like to introduce the president of NASCAR, Mike Helton.
........... MIKE HELTON:. Thank you, Jim.. I'd like to join all others in congratulating Brian on his promotion.. I've said before, and I feel as strong today as ever that I don't think that any family has had such a positive impact on any sport anywhere as the France family has had on motorsports.. I'm very grateful for them to allow me to be a part of it.
........... I know the things that I've learned by having Bill as a mentor has been invaluable to me.. But the many years that I've known Brian, I can see how much he's learned by having Bill as a father, as well.
........... Brian's rise to the chairman and CEO of NASCARis a natural evolution, an evolution of his experience, his accomplishments, and ability.. I look forward to working with him and being as committed to him as I have been to Bill.
........... JIM HUNTER:. Thank you, Mike.. At this time I'd like to turn it over to NASCAR's new chairman and CEO, Brian France.
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Thanks, Jim.. This is a great day for me.. I just want to say that I'm excited, I'm motivated, I'm ready to do anything I can to make sure NASCAR keeps moving forward.
........... Also I'd like to thank my father for the confidence, he said that in his remarks, that he has in me.. I certainly hope I don't let him down.
........... I also understand the tremendous responsibility that's being entrusted to me, and I don't take that lightly.. I do have, as everyone knows, great respect for this sport, the diverse group of people that make this sport so special and make it go.
........... I do share the vision, beliefs and traditions of my father and his father before him, that above all this sport has to continue to grow and get better.. "Grow" to me means several things.. It means focusing on our core product, which is delivering thrilling, exciting race competition.. We're known for that.. We've got to keep doing that.
........... Also it means reaching new markets and venues.. We talked in January about realignment.. It also means not just moving events to different places, but how our events are distributed on television, the Internet and even internationally.
........... It also means a more diverse audience.. We're an American sport.. We have to embrace everyone in this country to be excited as we are about NASCAR.. That includes the youth market and everybody that can help us keep growing.
........... While today is about change, we've actually had quite a bit of change at NASCAR in recent months, recent years.. In June, we announced that Nextel was going to join us as our new series sponsor.. Anybody who's met the Nextel team realizes they share the same enthusiasm about the future as we do.. We're excited about 2004 with Nextel.. Sonoco, as well, who will be our new fuel supplier beginning next year.
........... We're also fortunate to have some of the largest and best media companies in America investing in our sport, showcasing our product on television and the Internet in ways we could have never envisioned 10 years ago.
........... We also have more Fortune 500 companies who participate in NASCAR.. We have to make sure that we're delivering on the promise and the value that is the NASCAR proposition for all of the companies that support NASCAR.
........... It is also a new era of excitement in our grass roots, weekly touring series.. A couple years ago we made some revisions, we made some changes, and I'm pleased to tell you that the foundational parts of our industry are also thriving and doing well.. So I'm prepared today and in the future to do my best to lead this company into the future.
........... I mentioned a moment ago, it will be talked about I'm sure a lot today, it's competition, how important that is, it's a foundational part of our business.. I've been very lucky and fortunate to work with some of the greats in competition.. My father, for one.. My grandfather.. Les Richter who I just saw in California, he's doing fine after a surgery.. Jim Hunter, who is my original mentor and continues to be to this day.. And Dick Beatty, and of course his contemporary Mike Helton.. Mike and I have worked for over a decade side by side.. I've had the privilege of watching some of the best in competition, and I've learned a lot from all those men.
........... So we've got a solid foundation in competition, this rich tradition for me to follow.. But you know what, we're also going to move forward with some new ideas to get to a bright future.. Part of that is going to be our R&D center.. We've invested tens of millions of dollars in the short and long run, and I'm pleased to tell you that the results are terrific.. We're getting safety advancements, we're getting cost containment, we're working on the car of tomorrow.. It's all coming very quickly.. We're very excited about that.. I'm going to put all the resources I can to make sure our R&D center is in full gear.
........... Finally, I will tell you that for me, this is the perfect timing, because I truly have the best of all worlds.. Number one, I've got Mike Helton and George Pyne, our day-to-day operators, who are doing a terrific job.. Also have hundreds of people in our organization who are talented, dedicated, and I'm looking forward to giving them all the resources that they need to keep producing great results.
........... And also I have my father, who is just down the hallway, with all the experience I can draw on at any time.. So it is a perfect time for me.. Also the drivers and teams.. We've got young drivers, we've got experienced veterans.. Our teams are well-funded, well-organized, which is a direct result of why our competition is so terrific.
........... And finally, the NASCARtracks.. They, as well, have invested in their facilities, delivering on the fan promise.. I'm looking forward to working with our NASCAR tracks and host events, working closely and in the future.
........... With that, I'm very grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the coming weeks and months.
........... JIM HUNTER:. Thank you, Brian.. We're now going to open it up to questions, question and answer period.
........... Q..Mr..France, could you remind us what age you were when your father handed you the reins of NASCAR.. Talk just a bit about what was the most difficult part of the challenge those first few years.
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, I was about the same age as Brian.. It was 1972.. Right around 40 years old, either right on the bottom side of it or just over it.
........... From that standpoint, I had an extensive period prior to that operating.. There was just two or three of us in those days, so I didn't have the people that we have around here now.. Didn't have the Mike Heltons and George Pynes around.. Sweet JimHunterwas around in those days, but I'm not even really talking about him.
........... But, anyway, we had some challenges coming along.. There was a few rough spots as we moved ahead.. I kind of wanted to do things a new way, and he thought maybe the old way.-- my father thought the old way was as good as any.. But we agreed on about everything.
........... I think history shows that the sport's moved along pretty good.. I think the same thing is going to happen on this go-around.
........... Q..Mr..France, I was just wondering if your roles that you have currently at ISC will remain the same or are they affected at all by today's announcement?
........... BILL FRANCE:. No.. It's going to remain pretty much the same.. Some of you may not realize that my daughter Lisa is the president of ISC now.. I'm still chairman of the board.. My brother Jim is vice chairman also, but he's the CEO of ISC.. That part's going to stay the same for the time being anyway.
........... Q..Bill, why step aside now?. What's the timing on this?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Is the question why is the timing now?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, it had to happen sooner or later.. I think the world thinks that.- I say "the world," I'm talking about primarily our board - thinks that Brianwas ready.. I think as everyone knows now, I've been in and out of the hospital the last four, five years, so there's been a lot happening that I haven't actually been involved in.
........... NASCAR has moved along just as well or better, so why not do it now?
........... Q..Brian, you mentioned just a while ago that you were going to pour a lot of resources into the R&D center.. Do you mean by that that you intend to even intensify and accelerate from present, that there will be even more intensification of that effort?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, it means that my time is going to be focused in part against that cause.. It has been a little bit.. It will even be more.. We actually have a lot of resources that we're plowing into the R&D center.
........... I just want to make sure, and everybody at this table does, that it keeps moving forward, and it will.
........... Q..In addition to the R&D center, of course there's been a lot of talk in recent years about the possibility of a traveling medical unit like Formula.1 has, per se.. Is NASCAR under you going to stick absolutely with its philosophy of the local medical and rescue personnel or will you evaluate that again as time goes on?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. We do evaluate things as time goes on.. I'm counting on Mike Helton and our senior team to keep looking at all the best approaches and solutions to anything we can do better.. We'll be improving things when we think we can.
........... Q..Bill, I know how much you like to psychoanalyze things, so I wonder if you could explain the emotions you had, compare the emotions you had in '72 when you took over, fear, trepidation, whatever, as opposed to the emotions you have watching your son making the same transition you made 30 some years ago?
........... BILL FRANCE:. I'll answer the second part first.. I have total confidence in what Briancan do.. He's loaded with street smarts, amongst other things.. I'm very confident in what he can do.
........... When I came in, I thought I was pretty relaxed in what I thought I could do.. Then I let history speak for itself, from that standpoint.
........... Q..Do you remember that very first Daytona 500that you were in control of up in the tower, do you remember how you felt then?. You were up there by yourself basically running the show, and your dad wasn't up there for the first time.. Do you recall that day, just what that was like for you?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, I think I had been running some events, like at Darlington.. Darlington was our other main track we had at that time - about the only one, I think, as far as what you call a superspeedway.. So I'd been there the last few years.. It wasn't like I walked up there for the first time.
........... But like anything else, when you got the Daytona 500, which is "the race" in America, you're going to be a little bit nervous.. I guess human nature tells you that.. When they make that first lap, that's kind of the key.
........... Q..Brian, can you kind of talk about what your goals are for the next year or so?. What are things you kind of hope to accomplish, points of emphasis when you look at a five-year or 10-year plan?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, first things first.. We have our.-- our operating team is doing a great job.. I'm going to be as supportive, if anything, as I possibly can.. You know, I'll be trying to, probably above all, I've worked with everybody for a long time, but I'll be more or less trying to communicate internally as to the things that I think are priorities or are important.
........... We have such a great team that I'm more looking forward to working, you know, with them in setting the priorities and the agenda.. I'll have things that are important to me as we get going.
........... But there's no immediate sense that I've got to do one thing or the other.. It's just to make sure we're all communicating and going in the right direction together.
........... Q..Are there particular things you would like to look at getting accomplished or moving on in the next couple years?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. I think Mikein competition has said a number of things.. He's talked about looking at the point system after the year is completed.. We're going to do that.. He's talked about racing back to the yellow flag.. We continue to examine that.. There are all kinds of other things from a rules package standpoint as we get ready for 2004.
........... We've talked about realignment.. That's in progress.. We've stated our vision for that.. I believe in that.. So I'll be working with our tracks and others that could be affected in a good way, trying to make sure we're pushing that along.. Then, like I said, the rest of it is just getting in there and working side by side with everybody.
........... Q..Can you talk about maybe one accomplishment in NASCAR that you were responsible for that means the most to you and why that particular accomplishment means a lot to you?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. You know, I don't know that there's one thing.. Probably being a part of it for such a long time has given me a whole bunch of things that I can feel good about.. But I've never done any one thing either.. I've always been part of our accomplishments.. I really can't even tell you one thing that stands out for me.. It's just being a part of this for a long time.. Like everybody, the last 10 years has been so tremendous for the sport, and being part of that has got to make you feel good.
........... Q..Brian, you touched on diversity a little bit.. Down here in Miami I'm actually part of the minority.. I was wondering if you could talk about what you guys are planning to do in terms of trying to get the Hispanic market more involved in NASCAR?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Number one, we have events now in the markets that have the highest density of population with the Hispanic audience, places like Miami, Homestead, we'll have an event down there in November, in Dallas, Los.Angeles, Phoenix.. We have a big interest to make sure those markets are attracting everybody who might be in those markets.
........... I serve on our diversity council.. We have a variety of initiatives in place.. We're an Americansport.. That's our goal, is to keep broadening our audience.
........... Q..Brian, how big of a concern is it to you as you realign the racing schedule, continue to do so, move some races out of the Southeast, about angering your base of fans that have been there for all those years?. What are your plans to I don't know if "placate" is the right word, but make sure they don't get too angry?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, that's a fair question.. As a matter of fact, in January when we talked about this, we talked about balancing tradition and continuity against taking events to places that might serve the broader audience better.
........... But we believe, and we think that traditional events have been a big foundation of why we've been able to grow.. So whatever we do in realignment will be done with first working side by side with the tracks and the industry, making sure that we don't do anything too fast or too quick that might get us in some of the problems you talked about.. We're going to have to be real careful there.
........... Q..Bill, what do you envision your new role with NASCAR as being now?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, that hasn't quite been defined yet.. But my first assignment is to try and stay out of the way and keep my hands off of everything.. I think I've done a fair job because, if nothing else, I was in the hospital quite a bit the last three or four years.
........... Anyway, I'm walking around here with a little bit of knowledge from the old days, what we tried that didn't work.. If somebody wants to ask, why, I'll be happy to answer it.. If it's important enough, I might even suggest it (laughter).
........... Q..Can you give me an update on your health condition right now, a snapshot of how you're feeling right now?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, I get up every morning and I go to bed every night, then I wait to see what's going to happen the next day.. So far it's been working pretty good.. I feel pretty good.. I'm here talking to you guys and ladies.. I expect to do that tomorrow and the next day.. But who knows.
........... Q..Do you have a sense of relief that you don't have like a crushing schedule now, that Brian can take over that part of it?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, it's been.-- I think it's been going pretty good the last few years.. Brian'shad a role in that.. But with Mike Helton and George Pyne here kind of calling the day-to-day shots for the last four or five years, as well as Jim France, my brother, who comes in when the going gets tough, then my daughter Lisa over on the ISC side, it's been rockin' along pretty good.. We've got a lot of good people out in the field.
........... So, you know, GaryNelsondid his role for a while.. John Darby has taken the ball now.. We got a pretty good team in motorsports.. I'll put them up against anybody.
........... Q..Do you anticipate a formal retirement at any point in your life?
........... BILL FRANCE:. If you mean where I walk out the door, I'm not planning on walking.. I may get carried out, but I'm not planning on walking out.. Not in a few years anyway.
........... Q..Brian, a couple years ago I asked your father what would have happened if he'd gone to his father and said, "I really don't want to be in this racing business, I want to be a lawyer or dentist.". Has it always been part of NASCAR and racing, has that always been what you wanted to do?. If it wasn't, what would the reaction have been if you went to your dad and said you might want to do something else?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. He actually always has been good about that with me and my sister.. He wanted to make sure we liked it and enjoyed it because that's just always been that way.. So I don't think he would have had a negative reaction.. He might have been disappointed as a father might be, but I know he would have wanted us to do whatever he thought would make us happy.
........... Fortunately for me, it happened to be, you know, working in the family business and in NASCAR.. But I know he wouldn't have been opposed to me doing anything else.
........... Q..Brian, NASCAR's success has always been partly attributed to the fact that the buck stops with one man.. Will that continue to be your management style or will it be more of a sharing of the power with the president and the board?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, I think we've been involving the board for a reason, because we wanted good oversight to the total management team.. When it comes to making tough decisions, I'm ready to make them.. But it won't be without reaching out for everybody that I can to get all the views that we need to make the best decision.. That includes my father if it rises to that level.
........... Look, somebody has to make decisions, and I'm ready to do that when we need to.
........... Q..Mr..France and Brian, the fans can argue week to week about this and that, about the race.. But the France family, the growth of this sport is a testament to what you've done over the last 50 plus years.. It becomes the NASCAR way.. I know you don't want to tell all the secrets.. As Brian may make changes, what is the NASCAR way and the France family way over the years since Mr..France took over?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, this is the outgoing CEO.. The key to what we've done in the past that we've said all along is our competition.. Control of the competition has three main thoughts that we have to always consider.. In the order of priority, the first one stands all by itself, the next two are kind of hand-in-hand.
........... The first one being safety, to try to make it as safe as possible for all the participants as well as the fans and officials, et cetera.
........... The second and third, which go hand-in-hand, is the close competition as well as the cost of the sport.. They're both related.. So those three driving forces I think will still be intact no matter who's running the company.
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. I wouldn't have a lot else to add.. Bill is right on the money.. I certainly see it that way, look forward to making sure that we continue on down the path that we're going on.
........... Q..Brian, at what age did you realize you were the heir apparent and you needed to soak this in?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Last Tuesday, we had a conversation about it (laughter).
........... You don't think about that.. It just doesn't work that way.. I wasn't preparing for that.. I wasn't planning for that, rather.. You know that when you're asked to do that.
........... Q..Mr..France, when you look back over your tenure, is there any one or two things that you could point out that you made a decision on based on also the input you've been talking about that has propelled the sport to where it is today?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, there's been a number of them.. I'm not sure it's that productive to get into each and every one today.. But there were some areas, for instance, we had the energy crisis that took place back in the '70s, the oil embargo that the Iraniansstarted or the Ayatollah did, I guess.. All of a sudden the world changed overnight.. We had it again.
........... There's been other issues that have developed mostly in government, the Federal Government level, the EPA, for instance, Department of Transportation, just to name two.. So we've had to take more of a governmental approach to life than we used to, say, back in the '50s and the early '60s.
........... It's been a consistent change.. We're not the only ones in America that have had to go through that.. The world has changed.. It's a rapidly changing world.. We're in a global economy.. NASCAR's big assignment in the future is to just to stay abreast of conditions and adjust for them.
........... Q..Brian, if you could think back to any advice that your dad gave you that made you prepared for this position, what advice would that have been?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, I don't know if it was any one thing.. He's big into balancing the interest for everyone.. I know that he believes that the model has to always work, and you can't get off center.. I know he's pushed that from the early years on.. Then, you know, all kinds of wisdom points along the way.. But that's sort of the baseline:. you've got to make it work for everyone.
........... Q..Bill, when you handed the title of president over to Mike Helton, you said you would always be just a phone call away.. Is that still going to be the case as things transpire over the next couple of years?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, we're swapping some offices around to accommodate this.. The people that are on the firing line really need to talk to each other on a more frequent basis, they're all going to be kind of pretty close together.. I'm going to be down kind of the other end of the building.
........... But my legs are in pretty good shape.
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. So are his ears.
........... BILL FRANCE:. We got a pretty good group, I think.. We still got our board, which is pretty functional.. To expand on the previous questions just a little bit, there's two things that we got to mainly keep in business amongst others.. We got to have tires and we got to have fuel, a number of things.. But the two overall things we got to have, we got to have racetracks to run races on, and we got to have cars to put on the tracks.. One doesn't work without the other.
........... We have to be conscious of that.. Whoever is going to be running the company has got to be conscious of that.
........... Q..Are you intimating there may be an expansion of racetracks in the near future?
........... BILL FRANCE:. I didn't say that.. Somebody else needs to answer those kind of questions.
........... Q..Brian, having worked on the TV and the marking and sponsorship side of the sport so much in the past few years, how much will you get involved with the competition side of NASCAR now?. Will you actively make suggestions or will you generally approve or offer feedback of what Mike and John bring to you?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, I have a high degree of confidence, as does the board, in Mike Helton who will continue to lead that charge.. John Darby is doing a great job.. We've got Gary Nelson running the R&D center.
........... If anything, I want to give them more resources to be successful as I can.. Obviously, since we talked so much about the importance of competition, I'll be fully engaged.. But I've got the luxury of having the best in the business, you know, weighing in and helping set the priorities.
........... Q..Are you going to be in the garage area more on race weekends?. Do you plan on being in the tower at all during races?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. I don't know about the tower.. I'll surely be at more events than I have been in the last couple years.. But I won't be at every event.. Again, I don't need to be at every event because we've got such a great group of people that were managing that part of the business.
........... But I'll be at more events.. I'll be engaged to the level that I need to be.
........... Q..Brian, back in 1972 when your grandfather passed the reins over to your dad, a lot of people said, "Oh, God, don't give it to Billy.". I'm sure there are people today saying, "Oh, God, don't give it to Brian.". How do you answer those people?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. You're the first one, but I'll answer you.
........... You know, we're just going to have to let the results over the long-term speak for themselves.. Hopefully I'll do a good job and keep things moving forward.. But, you know, I suppose you just have to wait and let some time go before you can say one way or the other.
........... Q..Bill, when your dad founded the sport, he was pretty much the final absolute authority on everything.. When you took it over, it was pretty much the same way for a period of time.. Now there are people that say Madison Avenue has as much influence on the sport as Daytona Beach.. How does the Francefamily keep its control of the sport with the money coming in from television and sponsors and everything like that?. From a technical standpoint, you have that power, but practically how do you keep them maybe from going off on a tangent that you don't want to go?. Is that the balancing act that has to be followed now?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, there's changes.. I think we mentioned before, I can't recall exactly now where it was, but it's been in the last six months or year, there was a period of time when all NASCAR worried about on the new schedule coming out each year was we had to worry with the competitors on where they could be, how far they had to tow, so forth.. We had the racetracks to consider on the dates and so forth, what they had to do for improvements, and NASCAR itself.. Those were the three basic entities.
........... Now we're up to five.. We have to be conscious of the car sponsors and the other sponsors that are involved with the facilities.. That's one area.. They're putting a lot of revenue in.. Most people that put a lot of revenue in want to have somebody pay a little attention to them.
........... But the fifth one is the networks.. With our new television contract, which a number of people.-- I was laying in some hospitals when that was going on, they put that together.. There was a lot of criticism about it when it came on line.. Now the world says, "Why wasn't it there before?". But, you know, that's America.
........... We've got to pay attention to people like that.. It's smart to do it.. It helps hold our ticket prices down.. The more money that we can get television and the sponsors to put into the sport is that much less.-- we could offset some of the prize money that is required.. The expense to the sport, it's not cheap to buy a tire from Goodyear, for instance.. They use an awful lot of them.
........... The world's changed a little bit.. You got the lawyers always looking at us now, when you rise up to the level we're supposed to be at, that you guys put at.. Whoever is going to run this thing, in a way, I'm going to enjoy some fishing.
........... Q..Brian, you mentioned an international component to what you hope to do.. Are you talking there mostly about television or are you looking at races, too?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. Well, we obviously can't grow our domestic schedule on the Winston Cup or Busch level, that's a given.. We are now in a hundred countries with our television distribution, so that's good.. We're going to look. .Auto racing is obviously popular in many parts of the world, Europe and Latin America, in particular.. We're going to look to have a long-term international approach to not taking domestic events there, but maybe finding a way to get our style of racing more prevalent in certain parts of the world.. That's a long-term proposition.
........... But we're examining that.. We need to and we will.
........... Q..Will this change involve a residential move for you, even living in LA?
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. I have had a place in Los.Angeles, but I frankly have been more on an airplane than anything else.. It will cut down on my travel, that's for sure.. I've had a place in Daytona, too.. It's not a change for me.
........... Q..Bill, when you took over, it was kind of a rough patch for NASCARin several ways.. In addition to the fuel crisis, the factories had officially withdrawn their support.. There was not enough commercial sponsorship in the cars.. Referencing your comment about keeping cars on the track, could you talk about how you tackled those problems?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, I think one of the great things that happened to us, and I'm not sure this is exactly what Bill Sr. thought, I was involved somewhat, and I don't recall the conversation, when Reynolds Tobacco Company came in, we said, "If they'll come in, they can maybe bring in a whole lot of other people in," which is what actually happened at the end of the day.. We were so excited about getting a sponsor for the series that we were just looking at tomorrow.
........... What happened, when you go back and think about it, Reynolds is one of the first companies that ever came into motorsports that wasn't an automotive related product.. They didn't make a shock absorber, they didn't have a sparkplug or something of that nature.. So they showed that you could take the sport, and if you market it right, you can make it work.
........... That was the forerunner of what's happened today.. We've got most companies that are primary sponsors that aren't auto related at all.
........... Q..The factories officially withdrawing, how did you tackle the issue of keeping the cars on the track?
........... BILL FRANCE:. The fortunate thing that they did when they left, they left most of the equipment with the teams that were operating.. Like Junior Johnson had all of his cars, Lynnwoodhad theirs.. There was a number of people that still had an automobile.. Our rules in those days, the latest three years of cars.. We used to talk about the new cars coming out all the time.. We kind of quit talking about the new cars since we had some older cars.. But they ran just as fast, made just as much noise, were painted great colors, had nice numbers and entertaining drivers.
........... Q..You talked about your dad having the older methods, you had newer methods.. How would you characterize his older methods and your newer methods?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Well, where he was, he didn't have the people around him that I was fortunate enough to have.. There was a fellow.-- there were two other people that were close from NASCAR's standpoint, a fellow by the name of Pat Purcell, our executive manager, and AbeBuckchurch, who was one of our PR guys.. He had Jim Hunter's job.. That was.-- and Norris Freely, who was our technical director, has got John Darby's job now.. He had to do pretty much everything.. He was a one-man band to speak of with help from Purcell.. He was fortunate enough to have other people.
........... We had enough revenue coming in as we went along where we could even bring more people in on top of that.. The sport, as it grew, got more complicated, it took more people.. I had that advantage.
........... I think going forward, Brianhas more people now than what I started with.. I'm sure the next one after Brianwill even have more.. It just grows if it's successful.. And it should be successful if we do things right, or if they do things right.
........... Q..With the hurricane coming up, the land fall, what is the latest that you guys could make a decision on whether to postpone or has that been broached yet?. Give that to Brian, he's got to make that decision.
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. My first duty is to defer that to Mike Helton.
........... MIKE HELTON:. Obviously, Isabel is a big headliner this week.. It certainly looks like the area we go into this weekend around Doveris going to be impacted in some form or fashion by it.. Beginning as early as last night, we started organizing game plans to react according to how Isabel reacts.. We've got two, three different task forces working on it as we speak.
........... First of all, staying in touch with the competitors and the players in the industry that would have to travel to Dover, along with the track itself.. We'll simply have to wait and see what direction Isabel goes and what it decides to hit landfall, what kind of reaction it creates.
........... The ultimate goal obviously is to get the Busch race on on Saturday, and the Cup race done on Sunday.. We have different methods to create the starting fields if necessary.. But there's not much we can do today until we figure out what we're going to be faced with.. The forecasts are talking about landfall somewhere late Thursday, even into maybe Thursday night.. The next 36 to 48 hours, we'll just have to simply watch the path and try to predict where it's going to go, what kind of creation it leaves us to work with.
........... Mainly right now we've got several plans in place.. We're ready to react on any one of them.. But certainly our intention is to try to get the events done this weekend.
........... Q..None would move the venue from the Monster Mile to another area?
........... MIKE HELTON:. The schedule calls for it to be at Dover Downs.. That's where our intention is to be this weekend.. If we can't be there, then we won't be anywhere this weekend.
........... Q..Brian, could you talk about your evolution of appreciation for this sport, where you've come from maybe before 10 years ago, before you started to become involved?. Mr..France, could you talk about how you have seen him grow, if there's been any surprises along the way.
........... BRIAN FRANCE:. I actually had a lot of humble beginnings.. Notably I was out working with our weekly series in California for Ken Clapp at the time.. I ultimately went on to run a dirt track in the '80s, late '80s, in Tucson, Arizona, where as Billsaid it was a one-man band in its own right.. You had to do everything from promotion to competition.. I also spent some time in the Busch Series, actually officiated some events.
........... Obviously in the last 10 or 12 years or so, I've spent a lot of time in the marketing, merchandising, television side, but always, you know, looking at all aspects of what makes the sport go well.. So hopefully I've had a pretty wide and varied background that puts me in a good position to be as successful as I can.
........... BILL FRANCE:. What was the question, ma'am?
........... Q..If you could talk about how you've seen him grow and if there were any surprises along the way.. Did you ever have a doubt that he would fit this position?
........... BILL FRANCE:. We don't have a good connection.
........... As far as the growth, surprises along the way, I think one of the key historical points, you folks are all sitting around in a little conference sometime in the future talking about historical events, a key thing that's going to happen was when we cut the schedule from 50 some races down to about I guess in the 20s at that time, 24, something like that, with the 250-mile races and longer, basically.
........... Then I touched than it earlier, when Reynolds came in.. I think another deciding point was when we made a decision to televise the Daytona 500 live in 1979.. That was I think has turned out to be one of the great decisions that NASCARmade, as well as the management of the International Speedway Corporation, with the Daytona 500.. In those days, we were all kind of scared about blackouts and you name it.
........... Those are two highlights.
........... When it comes to television, when they created the in-car cameras, put the fan in the driver's seat, that did pretty good to take the onus off we had on us about going round and round and round.. When they learned the sport better, they were able to do some side-bar production, going to shops, everything you see today that evolved from the early television days has helped expose the sport.
........... Right now I'll give you a great example of people talking about why some of these market areas, they wonder how important they are.. A rating in New.York City, if it's a 1.7, doesn't sound like a very high television rating.. But you got to look the 1.7% of the homes in New York, usually week in and week out it's our third largest viewing area for all of our events.. LA is second.. Atlanta has been running first.. There are a lot of race fans watching events in New York.. That's moving our sport into 2006 and 2010.
........... Q..Did you ever have any doubts that Brian would take this position?
........... BILL FRANCE:. Why, absolutely not, or otherwise we wouldn't be doing it.
........... JIM HUNTER:. I want to thank everybody for being on the conference call.. Thank you very much.. Hope for a wind that is going to blow Isabel back out to sea.(NASCAR PR)(9-15-2003)
CHANGES within NASCAR - Sept 13, 2003:
the rumors and initial reports and denials:
France in for France? MORE: ESPN.com has learned that 70-year-old chairman and CEO of NASCAR, Bill France Jr., is stepping aside and putting his 37-year-old son, Brian, behind the wheel of the stock car series that has mushroomed into a marketing monster and America's No. 2 sports pastime behind pro football. A source close to Nextel, which assumes title sponsorship of NASCAR in 2004, confirmed this changing of the guard will be announced early next week. "Only a few people know but it's not really that big a surprise when you think about it," said the source. "And Big Bill will still be around to show Brian the ropes." Bill France Jr. denied the report that he is about to retire and turn over control to Brian, but did say he will cut back further on his daily activities. Brian France couldn't immediately be reached for comment in his Los Angeles office on Friday afternoon. Currently president of NASCAR's broadcasting and digital entertainment, France will assume the duties of chairman and CEO immediately and move back to company headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla. He will also leapfrog current NASCAR boss, Mike Helton, and that could explain the recent rumors that Helton is going to leave NASCAR for a job with Dale Earnhardt Inc. In an interview with USA Today earlier this year, Big Bill was asked about who might replace him: "Mike Helton has come on, his name is not France, and I think he's done an excellent job in the competition area," was his reply.(more at ESPN.com/Robin Miller)
AND NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. denied a report that he is about to retire and turn over control of the racing circuit to son Brian, but said he will cut back further on his daily activities. "I'm still going to work and have an office, but it's time for me to get out of the way a little bit," France told The Associated Press by telephone Friday night from his home in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was responding to a report earlier Friday that he would relinquish all control. The report from ESPN.com cited a source close to Nextel, which assumes title sponsorship next year of the world's largest auto racing circuit. He did concede that his son would be the logical replacement should he retire, and said some organizational changes have been decided on. He would not reveal what they were, but said president Mike Helton would continue to head daily operations. "All that will be cleared up on Monday," France said. "Mike's been doing the day-to-day stuff for some time now." Helton denied reports last month that he would leave NASCAR to run Dale Earnhardt Inc., one of the sport's top teams. Brian France, 37, is president of NASCAR's broadcasting and digital entertainment division in Los Angeles. The source said he would assume the duties of chairman and CEO immediately and move back to company headquarters in Daytona Beach. He is the youngest of the France children. His sister, Lesa France Kennedy, is the president of family-controlled International Speedway Corp., which owns and operates 12 of NASCAR's major tracks. Jim France, who is Bill Jr.'s younger brother by 18 years, serves as NASCAR vice chairman and executive vice president.(more at ThatsRacin.com/AP)(9-12-2003)
AND II William C. France's 31-year reign as NASCAR's benevolent dictator is expected to wind down as a shift of power and responsibilities within the organization begins next week. The 70-year-old NASCAR chairman is expected to give his son, Brian Z. France, more control of the company. Bill France Jr. denied reports that he is about to retire and give complete control of the racing empire to his son, but admitted he plans to cut back on his daily business activities. But a confidant of the France family, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday night that "ESPN.com doesn't have it completely right, but there is something going on" within NASCAR's leadership. The lack of response from any of NASCAR's top officials was deafening Friday evening. Phone calls to NASCAR's public relations department here and its entertainment office in Los Angeles were not returned to The News-Journal.(more at the Daytona Beach News Journal)(9-13-2003)
The OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:
It's Official: Brian Z. France has been named Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). France, actively involved in NASCAR for more than two decades, is a member of NASCAR's founding family. He is the grandson of founder William H.G. France, and the son of William C. France.
"Brian is well prepared to lead this sport and this company into the future," said William C. France, outgoing NASCAR Chairman and CEO, who, with brother Jim France, will serve as Vice Chairmen of NASCAR. "I am confident the future of NASCAR is in very capable hands. NASCAR is my life's work, and my father's before me; this decision is probably one of the most important ones I've made at NASCAR “ and I know it is the right decision."
France, 41, has an extensive background in NASCAR racing, ranging from his experience as a racetrack manager to helping develop and manage the NASCAR Weekly and Touring Series divisions and launching the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He was a key proponent of NASCAR's new Research and Development Center, a future-oriented facility dedicated to improving the safety, operational, and cost-containment aspects of the sport.
"I've been fortunate to spend my entire life in this sport and have worked with some of the giants who made NASCAR what it is today “ starting with my father and grandfather," France said. "NASCAR has always stood for quality “ our sport, our employees and our fans.. I am proud and honored to lead this great company into the future and build on that tradition of quality."
In 1999, The Sports Business Daily named France its Sports Industrialist of the Year and Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI) named him the SMEI Marketing Statesman of the Year. Previous awards include Advertising Age honoring France as one of the publication's top-100 marketers of the year and Promo Magazine naming him one of that publication's top promoters of the year. He serves on many boards and is the founder and Chairman of NASCAR's Diversity Council, an organization comprised of motorsports executives focused on encouraging greater diversity within the motorsports industry.
France took over NASCAR's marketing responsibilities in 1994 and has been at the forefront of NASCAR's dramatic sponsorship growth, including the recent ground-breaking announcement of Nextel Communications as the new sponsor of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series beginning next year. France opened NASCAR's New York City office in 1997, designed to enhance the sports sponsorship sales and marketing efforts, and the company's Los Angeles office in 2000 which is focused on broadcasting, new media and entertainment marketing. France also spearheaded a host of marketing initiatives including internalizing the sanctioning body's licensing efforts and developing NASCAR's consolidated television plans that culminated with NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series events broadcast on FOX Sports, FX, NBC Sports and TNT.(NASCAR PR)(9-13-2003)
AND On Saturday, Brian France was named chairman of the board and chief executive officer of NASCAR, taking over those roles from his father, Bill France Jr., to become the third generation of the France family to lead stock-car racing.
Sunday afternoon, The Observer's David Poole spoke with France by telephone about his thoughts about the move and about the state of the sport. Check out the Q&A at: A Q&A with Brian France.(9-15-2003)
GM Congrats France: Doug Duchardt, Director of GM Racing, regarding the official announcement that Brian France has been named Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of NASCAR: “This is an exciting time for NASCAR and we congratulate Brian France on his new position. GM has had a long relationship with NASCAR during the Modern Era tenure of his father, Bill France Jr., and we look forward to the ongoing growth and popularity of stock car racing as Brian assumes control. He has been groomed for this role and we are confident he’ll do an excellent job of continuing the progress and development of the sport.”(GM PR)(9-16-2003)