Jim France and the entire France family needs to relinquish control of the world’s premier racing organization now if they truly care about the ultimate fate of NASCAR.
For those who may not be familiar with the history of the France family and NASCAR, allow me to indulge you with a quick history lesson. Bill France Sr., otherwise known as “Big Bill,” was the founder and original craftsmen of the world’s foremost racing entity back in 1948. The former service station owner and car mechanic met with drivers, car owners and racing promoters on Feb. 21 of 1948 at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona, Florida, and on that day, NASCAR was born.
In his time as NASCAR’s head honcho, France transformed NASCAR from a southern bootlegging operation to a massive racing organization with tracks stretching from coast to coast. In 1972, he turned over controlling interest of NASCAR to his son, Bill France Jr., who oversaw NASCAR’S popularity overtake of Major League Baseball and in some cases, the NBA.
These two men symbolized everything that used to be great about NASCAR. They were hard workers and innovators who came from humble beginnings, they were willing to put their own ego aside for the greater good of NASCAR.
It was no accident that NASCAR was the preferred sport of blue collar workers for the better part of a half-century. The best drivers and car owners during the early days of NASCAR would often spend entire nights underneath a beaten-up and dirt-covered automobile working on it in order to try and finish a race well enough so that food could be put on the table.
Every lesson of toughness, hard work and humble beginnings that used to be intertwined in the fabric of NASCAR is now gone thanks to Brian France. He has worked very hard, and to a degree succeeded at destroying everything that the France men before him worked so hard to build.
Since 2003, when France assumed the seat that his father had been in for the better part of 25 years, NASCAR has seen television ratings drop and attendance lag year after year. What is the cause of this? I believe it is quite simple.
Bill France Sr. and Jr. knew how to properly expand NASCAR into non-traditional racing markets without destroying the spirit of the southeast that was the core identity of NASCAR. Brian, on the other hand, has ignored the core base of NASCAR fans and tried to expand and change the true nature of what NASCAR is.
By trying to expand viewership at the cost of the southeast fanbase, France has forsaken and destroyed this once proud sport. Without trekking into the mud about France’s recent legal troubles, it is clear that he, along with the rest of NASCAR’s first family, need to relinquish complete control of their baby.
I compare the France family mess to the Ford family with the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been in the Ford family since 1963, and have done absolutely nothing noteworthy in that period of time. The longer one family runs a team or sports organization, the more likely that organization will fail. To avoid a similar fate, Brian and Jim France must make the ethical move and sell NASCAR to someone who actually understands the business logic of combining modern day innovation with old characteristic appeal.
Until this happens, fans new and old, such as myself, will continue to grow frustrated with the disheartening direction of our once-loved sport. Right now, Brian France is driving NASCAR into a brick wall at 100 miles an hour without a safer barrier. I worry that by the time more people recognize the negative affect that Brian France is having on NASCAR, it will be a smoldering wreckage in the infield.