Chairman Brian France sent an email to all NASCAR employees this week defending his decision to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and vowed NASCAR would remain “a model of a progressive organization.”
In the email, several copies of which were obtained by Motorsport.com, France said, “I made the personal decision on Monday to announce my support of Donald Trump. I have known Donald and his family for many years, and it is through this connection that I offered my support.
“Needless to say, with any candidate that one may endorse, there are many positions or policies that run counter to your beliefs, as is the case here with me. This is my personal and not a corporate position.”
France, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and current NASCAR drivers David Ragan, Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott all appeared with Trump at a rally earlier this week in Valdosta, Ga., before the Super Tuesday primaries.
In comments made at the rally, France said: “He wins with his family. Any of his children, you’d be proud of have them as part of your family. That’s how I judge a winner, how somebody manages their family and raises their family.”
The move came as a surprise, not because France hasn’t endorsed political candidates in the past, but because of NASCAR’s decision last year to pull its annual Xfinity and Truck series banquets from the Trump National Doral property following what many considered to be Trump’s racist comments toward Mexican immigrants.
In the days after that decision, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon told reporters at Daytona that NASCAR had been already looking at its “relationship with (Trump) and how it may have an impact and ultimately made the decision it does not make sense to continue that.”
In the days since the public endorsement, NASCAR has received a great deal of backlash, both publicly and privately, and several top executives in the industry have privately questioned the timing and need of the announcement.
In response to media inquiries regarding the endorsement, Higdon said succinctly, “Private personal decision made by Brian.”
NASCAR did not immediately return a request for comment regarding France’s email this week.
In his email, France vowed that NASCAR would continue to operate “unchanged.”
Dear NASCAR Employees,
I was not able to attend the Town Hall meeting yesterday, so I wanted to send a note to the NASCAR team.
As many of you know, I often have been involved in supporting political candidates running for public office. Elections are an important part of our country's democratic system, and I truly believe that being involved is an important role for every citizen.
Looking ahead at the presidential election in November, I made the personal decision on Monday to announce my support of Donald Trump. I have known Donald and his family for many years, and it is through this connection that I offered my support. Needless to say, with any candidate that one may endorse, there are many positions or policies that run counter to your beliefs, as is the case here with me. This is my personal and not a corporate position. However, I still encourage each of you to make your own personal evaluations as our country moves forward in the electoral process.
That said, let me make something perfectly clear: NASCAR will continue to operate our business unchanged. This includes our deep, long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. It’s a commitment that I made to this organization more than a decade ago. We will not waiver from our goal to make our sport more open and friendly to everyone, and we will remain steadfast in our support of key initiatives to grow our fan base and remain a model of a progressive organization.
If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to raise them directly with your supervisor, Officers in our company, or to me directly.
Camping World CEO not impressed
Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, whose company sponsors NASCAR’s Truck series, had pushed for NASCAR to leave Trump’s resort last year in a June 30 letter to France following what Lemonis said were Trump’s “blatantly bigoted and racist” comments about Mexicans. Motorsport.com obtained a copy of Lemonis’ letter at the time.