Brian France took over as CEO and chairman of NASCAR in 2003, succeeding his father Bill France Jr. and completing the third nepotistic transition involving the top office of NASCAR since it was founded by his grandfather in 1948. His role took at least a pause last August after a traffic stop in Sag Harbor, N.Y., resulted in an arrest for DUI and illegal possession of oxycodone. France pleaded not guilty.
The incident drew heavy interest — celebrity gossip outlet TMZ broke the news — and ultimately overshadowed Chase Elliott’s first Cup win on the same day. France took an indefinite leave of absence from his NASCAR position upon release and installed his brother Jim France in the role in the interim. Now, it’s a question of whether Brian, 56, will return at all. Nothing has been made official, but current NASCAR president Steve Phelps might have offered a hint last fall at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I can’t speak to whether Brian is coming back or not. I do know that Jim France is our chairman and CEO. I do know that Jim France is incredibly involved in this sport, at the racetrack, off the racetrack,” Phelps said.
The removal of Jim France’s interim tag when other NASCAR officials speak about him may be the best signal yet that Brian’s return is less than imminent. But Phelps’ reference to Jim France’s involvement could also be another subtle indicator, as Brian’s tendency to administer NASCAR from afar has been the most common complaint from critics. With NASCAR seeking to change an ongoing drop in interest, fresh leadership might be an unexpectedly positive development.