Brian France - NASCAR press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: You obviously have got some very smart people in your marketing and your TV divisions trying to get your message across, yet your TV ratings are down, attendance is down, you're fighting this public relations battle ...

Continued from part 1

Q: You obviously have got some very smart people in your marketing and your TV divisions trying to get your message across, yet your TV ratings are down, attendance is down, you're fighting this public relations battle over the drug policy, your fans are complaining about many different things. Do you go home at night and kick the cat and say, you know, look, you're trying to get the message across that your sport is strong, but you get punched in the nose?

BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I don't have a cat and I didn't get punched in the nose recently.

I will tell you, look, you've got to keep it in context. Is every sport feeling the pinch for people buying tickets because they have less money in their pocket or they have lost their job? Sure. We are no different. Every sport has felt it in one form or another. We obviously have a very big dependency on sponsorship, and our company is going through restructuring and hurting, sure. Does that have an effect? Yeah. All of that has an effect. But we are still, you know, as we were last weekend, the largest sporting event of the weekend by any metrics, largest in attendance, largest in television viewership, largest in radio viewership, you name the medium, we are either No. 1 or No. 2 every weekend.

So I mean, everybody who would like to point to me that the world is crumbling, I'm not telling you it's not difficult; it is. But we try to keep things in perspective. Lots of people would like to have our problems, and we also are renewing and the teams in particular, a number of sponsorships on their own right which we are pleased to see. And companies are still finding enormous value. Now they are on some different terms and there are lots of things that are going on, but most of the companies, and we have talked to a lot of them, want to stay. Most of them have a lot of equity built up, been in the sport a long time, like their programs.

But they might have some business challenges where they have got to modify their participation for a little while. Still want to stay. Interest is high.

I think some of the things we have done in particular, some of the things we have done and some of the things we have not done have helped us, and I think the double-file restarts clearly are putting a nice energy around the events. The drivers have been great in terms of, because there are some consequences for them that they had to buy into, but they did, and the results are good. We will be looking at more things.

And then, you know, the fact that we have let, which was Mike Helton's judgment, that we needed to let the new car settle in without making a bunch of changes just because someone had not figured it out yet; we will look to see if we can make some minor changes to the car.

But I think that judgment to let the teams get more comfortable with the car and get up to speed, rather than us changing things around on them, not to mention the costs that would be with the team owners in a very difficult time, was looking back, a good judgment. We have been under a lot of pressure on that, and it doesn't mean that we won't, if there's something and some things came out of our town hall meeting that were interesting to us that we are looking at.

But there weren't be major changes, and I think you're seeing more and more teams every week get more up to speed. The racing is fantastic, and we have no complaints with our product and we'll stand by that.

Q: Ram say said something briefly about this yesterday, but I wonder your thoughts, this whole process that we have been talking about was on Wednesday in which Jeremy and his lawyers claimed that they needed emergency injunctive relief and argued that they needed it to be at this race, and then didn't show, apparently. I just wondered what you thought of that.

BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I'm probably like a lot of people. When I hear the word "emergency," I think of urgency and really needing to do something.

So the fact that they didn't bother to show up, you can make of that what you will. It is what it is.

Q: Following the Mauricio Grant incident last year, does reinstating Brian Barry, is the rumors are true of what he said in the Busch race or following the Busch race, if that's true, does that send the wrong message; that racist remarks will be tolerated in this sport?

BRIAN FRANCE: No, because we took it very seriously. And incidentally, he believes he didn't say what evidently was said, so there was a dispute. We believed a little bit differently or looked at it a bit differently. So you have to take that into some consideration.

But more importantly is we were very aggressive with him and he went down to our experts for an evaluation, diversity training and Dr. Lapchick in Orlando among other things, to understand NASCAR's very, very much zero tolerance on any racial discrimination, and certainly any harmful words that could be said, and he has served his suspension and he's still serving that suspension. And we think given all of the things that we've reviewed that the penalty matches the crime.

Q: You keep saying unequivocal. Are your scientists telling you there is no chance that Jeremy could be telling the truth with regard to his explanations?

BRIAN FRANCE: Tests have to be, either they are certain or they are not. So, of course, we believe in looking at that particular test, chain of custody, how it was tested, who tested it; and we wouldn't have suspended him if we didn't think it was that way. These are tough decisions.

We know what it means, to anyone, to get such a positive test back. So, yes, we are very comfortable that that test is accurate and reliable and will hold up, ultimately, when all of the facts are heard, which if you're us, that I mean, everybody can say, you know, they don't believe they did something. That kind of happens when people do something wrong typically. They don't like to think they didn't do it.

So that's not unnatural to hear that. But it's clear on our part that that's where we are.

Q: In terms of the drug policy, obviously without having to specific quote on Jeremy's case, what outcome would you like to see? In a perfect world, would you like to see the driver admit and complete a program and stay clean and maybe come back and race? Is that what you would like to see in a perfect world? And a follow-up on Lee's question. Brian Barry served some kind of community service. What exactly was that?

BRIAN FRANCE: I'll take the last question first. We are working on Brian's community service, what that will be, but it will be meaningful.

The perfect outcome for us when someone has a positive test is that they follow the program, and they go for re instatement as part of how the program outlines you to do such. And that means rehabilitation; that means admission; that means taking the road back that is going to be best from a medical standpoint for an individual; that means getting someone some help, typically, depending on what substance we are talking about; and following the proven path that the positions and the experts in the field have seen that works, because we would like to have someone back. We would certainly like to give someone, and we will; we will give somebody more than one chance, provided they follow a path that's good for them, and good for, you know, the integrity of our sport in terms of making sure that, you know, no one is impaired.

You know, the interesting thing, as you all have documented, we have had more than one driver state that they were out on the racetrack with a recreational drug. I don't know if that was, we'll never know why somebody would have said that or the accuracy of it, but it was said. And when you have those kind of statements, and that happened obviously in past years, and then you have our drivers, rightfully so, wanting us to have the toughest policy in sports from both a frequency of test, a course and accuracy of the test, and ultimately the penalty. Our penalties are very tough. The road back is more difficult than perhaps other sports leagues, but the inherent dangers are much greater.

So we have to do that, and so I've given you a long answer, but we really want to see someone follow the road back, get healthy and come back and race with us.

Q: A couple things, for as much as you vigorously defend the policy and everything in light of the injunction the other day, some people might wonder why you haven't filed an immediate appeal, as opposed to looking at your options, and second of all, I know you also talked about the exhaustive list with regards to the banned substances, that type of thing, although there still remains some confusion about that. Such a list that I'm aware of has not been entered in any kind of court documents. You have obviously on your side submitted a letter to the teams that listed the outlines for that and there has not been a list per se.

BRIAN FRANCE: Let me straighten that out. That's something that as I said earlier gets talked about a lot.

There is a list, and it's not limited. It's a long list. It's many, many pages long because there are scientific descriptions of all of these substances, so it's, you know, it's not a pamphlet I would have a in my pocket. It's a very detailed list. But as I mentioned, if the idea is to make sure no one is impaired, which may be different in other sports, which are not so much worried about that because they are an individual playing a certain position, maybe they are not going to put anybody in jeopardy. But obviously in our situation, that's not true, there's much greater danger.

So we focus on impairment, and impairment can come from the terrible drugs that you know about that are banned and are illegal in society to a misuse of a prescription that in the judgment of our doctors would have impaired him, abuse of that.

And so, not limited to that, does that mean you can make up something along the way? Of course not. That's nonsense. What it means is that there's going to be, given that we are after impairment, we don't know what drug hits the street in one city or country or whatever, that if we had a certain list, and it did fall within the list, the idea is it impaired you under a very, very high bar with medical professionals.

As I said, we go through a lot of different check marks before we get to that moment where we say, yeah, the doctors say that particular drug, no question about that, and the levels of that drug. So it can come in many ways.

So just because there's not one list that you can pull out, there can't be one list, by the definition of our program. And we stand by that, because we think that's the best approach.

If we can make that better, if we can clear things up, like I hopefully have done in May or today or our people can do in the future, I think we have most of the drivers comfortable; that drinking chocolate milk, it's not going to get you go all the way down that list, a high bar and a combination; I think that's silly and nonsense, and we all need to move on past that and look at this program for all of the merits that it has.

Q: (No mic).

BRIAN FRANCE: There are more than one way to work the appellate process. We will be looking at those options and acting as quickly as we can.

Q: You've said you've had drivers sign affidavits that they don't want to be on the track with a driver that's impaired. Do you feel like you have an option not to appeal at this point, and what do you feel like is the future of the Nationwide and Truck Series with sponsorships?

BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I would tell you, again, we will figure out the appellate process with this case shortly. We don't have, we are looking at it as you would expect us to. It's complicated, but we will, either way, we will be defending the policy. More importantly, should anyone comeback who has had a positive test, you can be assured that we will be making, you know, certain that our responsibility, that no one is impaired while they are out on the racetrack, we will do whatever it takes to make as certain as we can that that is the reality of that.

The other divisions, Nationwide and Truck Series, you know, given the circumstances of the economy, they are relatively healthy. The Nationwide Series is far and away now the number two series in the country. There's not even a close competitor to that. Consistent television numbers with our partner, ESPN, they are very satisfied with it.

Sponsorship could be better, of course, but is okay. And the racing is great and the Truck Series has felt more pain, for sure, because they had a big area of support for the manufacturers that was in all of their trucks. Last year was a pull-back, and we responded, as you know, by trying to have a lot of cost-cutting measures for the teams, and that's been effective. So we have had full fields of trucks. A lot of people think that's some of the best racing they see. We are realized with that.

And you heard from Roger Edmondson, now that we operate the most successful road racing division in North America and grand America, and we are building that program carefully, steadily, and I think our event tomorrow, that's probably the best road racing now that has been in the last 20 years, when you look at how close that competition is. So that model, business model and competition model is running well.

Look, we are not, we have got four of the top six national divisions in the country. We have a lot to manage and we have got a lot of great people doing it, and we'll continue to try to elevate all the series.

Thank you.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Mike Helton