NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03 An Interview with: BRIAN FRANCE BILL FRANCE MIKE HELTON GEORGE PYNE Part 3 of 4 Q: Brian, NASCAR's success has always been partly attributed to the fact that the buck stops with one man. Will that ...
NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03
An Interview with:
Part 3 of 4
Q: Brian, NASCAR's success has always been partly attributed to the fact that the buck stops with one man. Will that continue to be your management style or will it be more of a sharing of the power with the president and the board?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I think we've been involving the board for a reason, because we wanted good oversight to the total management team. When it comes to making tough decisions, I'm ready to make them. But it won't be without reaching out for everybody that I can to get all the views that we need to make the best decision. That includes my father if it rises to that level.
Look, somebody has to make decisions, and I'm ready to do that when we need to.
Q: Mr. France and Brian, the fans can argue week to week about this and that, about the race. But the France family, the growth of this sport is a testament to what you've done over the last 50 plus years. It becomes the NASCAR way. I know you don't want to tell all the secrets. As Brian may make changes, what is the NASCAR way and the France family way over the years since Mr. France took over?
BILL FRANCE: Well, this is the outgoing CEO. The key to what we've done in the past that we've said all along is our competition. Control of the competition has three main thoughts that we have to always consider. In the order of priority, the first one stands all by itself, the next two are kind of hand-in-hand.
The first one being safety, to try to make it as safe as possible for all the participants as well as the fans and officials, et cetera.
The second and third, which go hand-in-hand, is the close competition as well as the cost of the sport. They're both related. So those three driving forces I think will still be intact no matter who's running the company.
BRIAN FRANCE: I wouldn't have a lot else to add. Bill is right on the money. I certainly see it that way, look forward to making sure that we continue on down the path that we're going on.
Q: Brian, at what age did you realize you were the heir apparent and you needed to soak this in?
BRIAN FRANCE: Last Tuesday, we had a conversation about it (laughter).
You don't think about that. It just doesn't work that way. I wasn't preparing for that. I wasn't planning for that, rather. You know that when you're asked to do that.
Q: Mr. France, when you look back over your tenure, is there any one or two things that you could point out that you made a decision on based on also the input you've been talking about that has propelled the sport to where it is today?
BILL FRANCE: Well, there's been a number of them. I'm not sure it's that productive to get into each and every one today. But there were some areas, for instance, we had the energy crisis that took place back in the '70s, the oil embargo that the Iranians started or the Ayatollah did, I guess. All of a sudden the world changed overnight. We had it again.
There's been other issues that have developed mostly in government, the Federal Government level, the EPA, for instance, Department of Transportation, just to name two. So we've had to take more of a governmental approach to life than we used to, say, back in the '50s and the early '60s.
It's been a consistent change. We're not the only ones in America that have had to go through that. The world has changed. It's a rapidly changing world. We're in a global economy. NASCAR's big assignment in the future is to just to stay abreast of conditions and adjust for them.
Q: Brian, if you could think back to any advice that your dad gave you that made you prepared for this position, what advice would that have been?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I don't know if it was any one thing. He's big into balancing the interest for everyone. I know that he believes that the model has to always work, and you can't get off center. I know he's pushed that from the early years on. Then, you know, all kinds of wisdom points along the way. But that's sort of the baseline: you've got to make it work for everyone.
Q: Bill, when you handed the title of president over to Mike Helton, you said you would always be just a phone call away. Is that still going to be the case as things transpire over the next couple of years?
BILL FRANCE: Well, we're swapping some offices around to accommodate this. The people that are on the firing line really need to talk to each other on a more frequent basis, they're all going to be kind of pretty close together. I'm going to be down kind of the other end of the building.
But my legs are in pretty good shape.
BRIAN FRANCE: So are his ears.
BILL FRANCE: We got a pretty good group, I think. We still got our board, which is pretty functional. To expand on the previous questions just a little bit, there's two things that we got to mainly keep in business amongst others. We got to have tires and we got to have fuel, a number of things. But the two overall things we got to have, we got to have racetracks to run races on, and we got to have cars to put on the tracks. One doesn't work without the other.
We have to be conscious of that. Whoever is going to be running the company has got to be conscious of that.
Q: Are you intimating there may be an expansion of racetracks in the near future?
BILL FRANCE: I didn't say that. Somebody else needs to answer those kind of questions.
Q: Brian, having worked on the TV and the marking and sponsorship side of the sport so much in the past few years, how much will you get involved with the competition side of NASCAR now? Will you actively make suggestions or will you generally approve or offer feedback of what Mike and John bring to you?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I have a high degree of confidence, as does the board, in Mike Helton who will continue to lead that charge. John Darby is doing a great job. We've got Gary Nelson running the R&D center.
If anything, I want to give them more resources to be successful as I can. Obviously, since we talked so much about the importance of competition, I'll be fully engaged. But I've got the luxury of having the best in the business, you know, weighing in and helping set the priorities.
Q: Are you going to be in the garage area more on race weekends? Do you plan on being in the tower at all during races?
BRIAN FRANCE: I don't know about the tower. I'll surely be at more events than I have been in the last couple years. But I won't be at every event. Again, I don't need to be at every event because we've got such a great group of people that were managing that part of the business.
But I'll be at more events. I'll be engaged to the level that I need to be.
Q: Brian, back in 1972 when your grandfather passed the reins over to your dad, a lot of people said, "Oh, God, don't give it to Billy." I'm sure there are people today saying, "Oh, God, don't give it to Brian." How do you answer those people?
BRIAN FRANCE: You're the first one, but I'll answer you.
You know, we're just going to have to let the results over the long-term speak for themselves. Hopefully I'll do a good job and keep things moving forward. But, you know, I suppose you just have to wait and let some time go before you can say one way or the other.