NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03 An Interview with: BRIAN FRANCE BILL FRANCE MIKE HELTON GEORGE PYNE Part 2 of 4 Q: Brian, you mentioned just a while ago that you were going to pour a lot of resources into the R&D center. Do you mean...
NASCAR Media Teleconference, 9/15/03
An Interview with:
Part 2 of 4
Q: Brian, you mentioned just a while ago that you were going to pour a lot of resources into the R&D center. Do you mean by that that you intend to even intensify and accelerate from present, that there will be even more intensification of that effort?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, it means that my time is going to be focused in part against that cause. It has been a little bit. It will even be more. We actually have a lot of resources that we're plowing into the R&D center.
I just want to make sure, and everybody at this table does, that it keeps moving forward, and it will.
Q: In addition to the R&D center, of course there's been a lot of talk in recent years about the possibility of a traveling medical unit like Formula 1 has, per se. Is NASCAR under you going to stick absolutely with its philosophy of the local medical and rescue personnel or will you evaluate that again as time goes on?
BRIAN FRANCE: We do evaluate things as time goes on. I'm counting on Mike Helton and our senior team to keep looking at all the best approaches and solutions to anything we can do better. We'll be improving things when we think we can.
Q: Bill, I know how much you like to psychoanalyze things, so I wonder if you could explain the emotions you had, compare the emotions you had in '72 when you took over, fear, trepidation, whatever, as opposed to the emotions you have watching your son making the same transition you made 30 some years ago?
BILL FRANCE: I'll answer the second part first. I have total confidence in what Brian can do. He's loaded with street smarts, amongst other things. I'm very confident in what he can do.
When I came in, I thought I was pretty relaxed in what I thought I could do. Then I let history speak for itself, from that standpoint.
Q: Do you remember that very first Daytona 500 that you were in control of up in the tower, do you remember how you felt then? You were up there by yourself basically running the show, and your dad wasn't up there for the first time. Do you recall that day, just what that was like for you?
BILL FRANCE: Well, I think I had been running some events, like at Darlington. Darlington was our other main track we had at that time - about the only one, I think, as far as what you call a superspeedway. So I'd been there the last few years. It wasn't like I walked up there for the first time.
But like anything else, when you got the Daytona 500, which is "the race" in America, you're going to be a little bit nervous. I guess human nature tells you that. When they make that first lap, that's kind of the key.
Q: Brian, can you kind of talk about what your goals are for the next year or so? What are things you kind of hope to accomplish, points of emphasis when you look at a five-year or 10-year plan?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, first things first. We have our -- our operating team is doing a great job. I'm going to be as supportive, if anything, as I possibly can. You know, I'll be trying to, probably above all, I've worked with everybody for a long time, but I'll be more or less trying to communicate internally as to the things that I think are priorities or are important.
We have such a great team that I'm more looking forward to working, you know, with them in setting the priorities and the agenda. I'll have things that are important to me as we get going.
But there's no immediate sense that I've got to do one thing or the other. It's just to make sure we're all communicating and going in the right direction together.
Q: Are there particular things you would like to look at getting accomplished or moving on in the next couple years?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think Mike in competition has said a number of things. He's talked about looking at the point system after the year is completed. We're going to do that. He's talked about racing back to the yellow flag. We continue to examine that. There are all kinds of other things from a rules package standpoint as we get ready for 2004.
We've talked about realignment. That's in progress. We've stated our vision for that. I believe in that. So I'll be working with our tracks and others that could be affected in a good way, trying to make sure we're pushing that along. Then, like I said, the rest of it is just getting in there and working side by side with everybody.
Q: Can you talk about maybe one accomplishment in NASCAR that you were responsible for that means the most to you and why that particular accomplishment means a lot to you?
BRIAN FRANCE: You know, I don't know that there's one thing. Probably being a part of it for such a long time has given me a whole bunch of things that I can feel good about. But I've never done any one thing either. I've always been part of our accomplishments. I really can't even tell you one thing that stands out for me. It's just being a part of this for a long time. Like everybody, the last 10 years has been so tremendous for the sport, and being part of that has got to make you feel good.
Q: Brian, you touched on diversity a little bit. Down here in Miami I'm actually part of the minority. I was wondering if you could talk about what you guys are planning to do in terms of trying to get the Hispanic market more involved in NASCAR?
BRIAN FRANCE: Number one, we have events now in the markets that have the highest density of population with the Hispanic audience, places like Miami, Homestead, we'll have an event down there in November, in Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix. We have a big interest to make sure those markets are attracting everybody who might be in those markets.
I serve on our diversity council. We have a variety of initiatives in place. We're an American sport. That's our goal, is to keep broadening our audience.
Q: Brian, how big of a concern is it to you as you realign the racing schedule, continue to do so, move some races out of the Southeast, about angering your base of fans that have been there for all those years? What are your plans to I don't know if "placate" is the right word, but make sure they don't get too angry?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, that's a fair question. As a matter of fact, in January when we talked about this, we talked about balancing tradition and continuity against taking events to places that might serve the broader audience better.
But we believe, and we think that traditional events have been a big foundation of why we've been able to grow. So whatever we do in realignment will be done with first working side by side with the tracks and the industry, making sure that we don't do anything too fast or too quick that might get us in some of the problems you talked about. We're going to have to be real careful there.
Q: Bill, what do you envision your new role with NASCAR as being now?
BILL FRANCE: Well, that hasn't quite been defined yet. But my first assignment is to try and stay out of the way and keep my hands off of everything. I think I've done a fair job because, if nothing else, I was in the hospital quite a bit the last three or four years.
Anyway, I'm walking around here with a little bit of knowledge from the old days, what we tried that didn't work. If somebody wants to ask, why, I'll be happy to answer it. If it's important enough, I might even suggest it (laughter).
Q: Can you give me an update on your health condition right now, a snapshot of how you're feeling right now?
BILL FRANCE: Well, I get up every morning and I go to bed every night, then I wait to see what's going to happen the next day. So far it's been working pretty good. I feel pretty good. I'm here talking to you guys and ladies. I expect to do that tomorrow and the next day. But who knows.
Q: Do you have a sense of relief that you don't have like a crushing schedule now, that Brian can take over that part of it?
BILL FRANCE: Well, it's been -- I think it's been going pretty good the last few years. Brian's had a role in that. But with Mike Helton and George Pyne here kind of calling the day-to-day shots for the last four or five years, as well as Jim France, my brother, who comes in when the going gets tough, then my daughter Lisa over on the ISC side, it's been rockin' along pretty good. We've got a lot of good people out in the field.
So, you know, Gary Nelson did his role for a while. John Darby has taken the ball now. We got a pretty good team in motorsports. I'll put them up against anybody.
Q: Do you anticipate a formal retirement at any point in your life?
BILL FRANCE: If you mean where I walk out the door, I'm not planning on walking. I may get carried out, but I'm not planning on walking out. Not in a few years anyway.
Q: Brian, a couple years ago I asked your father what would have happened if he'd gone to his father and said, "I really don't want to be in this racing business, I want to be a lawyer or dentist." Has it always been part of NASCAR and racing, has that always been what you wanted to do? If it wasn't, what would the reaction have been if you went to your dad and said you might want to do something else?
BRIAN FRANCE: He actually always has been good about that with me and my sister. He wanted to make sure we liked it and enjoyed it because that's just always been that way. So I don't think he would have had a negative reaction. He might have been disappointed as a father might be, but I know he would have wanted us to do whatever he thought would make us happy.
Fortunately for me, it happened to be, you know, working in the family business and in NASCAR. But I know he wouldn't have been opposed to me doing anything else.