Several NASCAR drivers are voicing opinions ranging from dismay to confidence in the sport’s future in response to questions about NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France stepping aside following his weekend arrest.
France was pulled over and arrested Sunday night in Sag Harbor (N.Y.) and by late Monday had announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from NASCAR to “focus on my personal affairs.” His uncle Jim France, who is the NASCAR vice chairman and executive vice president, has assumed the interim role of running the sport.
Not long after the news broke on Monday, several drivers took to social media to address the development.
Drivers continued to face questions on Tuesday. During a media event promoting the upcoming Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point leader Kyle Busch said he hoped NASCAR would not be negatively affected by the France development.
“We’ve got to look to our sport’s future, what we can change and what we can do next,” Busch said, according to the Associated Press. “Brian’s been our leader for a long time. Look forward now to the opportunity to have Jim France in there.”
Denny Hamlin was asked for his thoughts during his appearance at Redskins training camp on Tuesday.
“It’s unfortunate, obviously, and he’s got some personal issues he’s going to attend to,” Hamlin said. “But I’m confident in the leadership of NASCAR, and I know all the executives really, really well and get invited into some very intense meetings with them at times, and very confident those guys can take the reins and do a great job.”
A big victory by Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen has been a bit overshadowed because of the news. Sunday was Elliott’s first career win — and a popular one — in the Cup Series in his 99th start.
Elliott said Tuesday he has briefly spent time with Jim France.
“I expect him to do fine and it doesn’t change my job,” Elliott said during a teleconference. “So I’m going to do my thing.”
Kevin Harvick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that while he doesn’t know Jim France all that well, his well-established relationships with many team owners — as well as his own background as a driver — is crucial.
“It’s good to have a racer,” Harvick said. It’s not like he’s hands-off, he knows the ins and outs of what’s going on to this very minute in this sport, has been around this sport a long time, and that’s what you need, that racing perspective of just making sure we stick with the roots of what made NASCAR racing what it is, and he’s been around and knows how that went.
“From the drivers’ perspective, it’s really important, whoever’s in that position to become more connected … this sport needs to be connected in a lot of different directions, but they need to all come together and go in the same direction instead of having so many different ideas.”
Now out of the driver’s seat, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had this to say in the open of his podcast:
“Obviously, it’s disappointing news, no way around that. It’s very disappointing, and I’m sure Brian is disappointed in himself. And the one thing I hope is that Brian gets in front of the people he needs to get in front of and gets the assistance and help that he needs to make sure that this is something that doesn’t happen again. Regardless of his role in NASCAR going forward, it’s important that he’s healthy and that he takes care of himself. So, I’m wishing that on him. With that said, I’m very confident in the people that NASCAR has in the industry. I know all of them very, very well.
“I feel incredibly optimistic about being able to move forward and beyond yesterday, and with being in the broadcast booth I’ve had the opportunity to see the competition from a different point of view and what I’ve seen on the racetrack over the last several weeks, whether it’s in the Xfinity Series or the Cup series, has been incredible. The racing itself, what the drivers are doing, the effort the drivers are putting in on the racetrack, is impressive, and I’ve thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. That gives me a lot of confidence about not only how great this season’s going to be as it continues on into Homestead, it gives me a lot of confidence about the sport over the next 10 years, over the next several decades.
“So, we’ve dealt with difficulties in the past, we’ve dealt with losses, and the sport has always continued and always thrived. I’m looking forward to this weekend in Michigan, I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”