USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Hembree explains the complicated situation that NASCAR now finds itself in with its CEO Brian France.
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France will take a leave of absence from the sport his family founded after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Sag Harbor, N.Y., on Sunday night.
The Sag Harbor Village Police Department said in a press release Monday that France was pulled over at 7:30 p.m. after failing to stop at a stop sign. Police determined that the 56-year-old was driving while “in an intoxicated condition,” and a subsequent search found that he had five oxycodone pills in his possession.
Police also said his blood alcohol level was 0.18, more than twice the legal limit in New York (0.08). His eyes were glassy, his speech slurred, his balance off.
France was held overnight and arraigned Monday morning before being released on his own recognizance, according to police. He faces charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance. His next court date is Sept. 14.
Hours after the story broke, France announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence. And NASCAR announced vice chairman and executive vice president Jim France, Brian France’s uncle, would assume the role of interim chairman and CEO.
“I apologize to our fans, our industry and my family for the impact of my actions last night,” Brian France said in a statement. “Effective immediately, I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from my position to focus on my personal affairs.”
France took over as CEO of NASCAR in 2003, and his family has controlled the organization for 70 years. France’s father, Bill Jr., previously served as chairman and his grandfather, Bill Sr., founded the governing body in 1948. His older sister, Lesa France Kennedy, is the CEO of International Speedway Corporation, which operates and manages racetracks.
Though France has served as CEO for nearly 15 years, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2017 that France sold his entire stake in NASCAR more than a decade ago and “essentially works for his sister and uncle (Jim),” who hold significant stakes.
France has drawn criticism from NASCAR drivers and fans in recent years for changes to the sport and, in some instances, his lack of visibility. Drivers Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski have been among those to publicly urge France to be more publicly invested in NASCAR, with Keselowski stressing that message as recently as this year.
“If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport is at the race track every weekend,” Keselowski told reporters in January, referring to France.
France’s arrest Sunday came more than a dozen years after he crashed his car into a tree near his residence in Florida. The Associated Press reported in 2006 that a witness reported that a silver Lexus owned by France was traveling at a “very reckless speed” and the driver “fell over his own feet” while exiting the car. France told police that he was drinking soda at the time and “bumped into something.”
Contributing: Ellen J. Horrow, Associated Press