SBD/November 15, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Reasons To Celebrate: Brian France's Approach After 10 Years Gaining Respect In NASCAR

France admits that one of his mistakes was the Car of Tomorrow rollout
After 10 years as NASCAR's Chair & CEO, there are signs that Brian France's "approach is gaining respect after he battled perceptions of being disengaged and unworthy," according to a sports section cover story by Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. From TV deals that have "lined NASCAR's coffers" with more than $12B to a "diversity thrust finally bearing some fruit ... to an increased focus on green technologies, France is reshaping the sport in the interest of 21st-century relevance." Team Owner Rick Hendrick said that France was a "guiding force" through the manipulation scandal at Richmond Int'l Raceway and has "fulfilled the promise predicted for him" by late NASCAR Chair Bill France Jr. Hendrick said, "Brian's done a super job being the CEO of the company for a lot of reasons. I'm not sure his dad, Billy, would have trusted anybody else to make those kind of moves but Brian." But Ryan notes "questions remain -- even within corners of NASCAR, France concedes -- about the depth of the CEO's commitment and understanding of a business that 'is much broader than most people realize.'" The most "visible way in which France has overhauled the sport -- the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- will wrap up its 10th edition Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and it's a good example of how his fingerprints can be both positive and polarizing." France "readily admits one of his major mistakes was the heavy-handed rollout of the much maligned Car of Tomorrow." But in the past year he "might have completed his greatest masterstroke, brokering deals with Fox and NBC through 2024" that are worth $8.2B and represent a 42% increase over the previous deal. Team Owner Roger Penske said, "What Brian has tried to do is step away from the good-old-boy network in running NASCAR to what are the current requirements for the sport" (USA TODAY, 11/15).

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR DANICA? FS1's Jimmy Spencer noted NASCAR driver Danica Patrick is "not being received really well right now for as long as she's been in the sport," but her Stewart-Haas Racing team is "not that good." Spencer said Patrick "could hang around for a while" if SHR co-Owner Tony Stewart "can get the damn team straightened out." FS1's Dave Despain said, "She'll hang around as long as she wants. ... Her career has never been about performance. It's about celebrity. As long as she remains a celebrity, she'll have a sponsor and as long as she has a sponsor, she can stay in NASCAR." Spencer said even though "you need sponsors to survive in the sport, the fans can turn on these sponsors." Spencer: "That's the only reason why the sponsors stay in this sport. To me, Danica is going to have to perform whether she has a sponsor or not" ("NASCAR Race Hub," FS1, 11/14).
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