408 - Brian France - The Rise, Fall, and Everything in Between
On the season finale of the Dale Jr. Download, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and co-host Mike Davis sit down with one of their most highly anticipated guests to date: former NASCAR CEO Brian France. In 2002, RJ Reynolds announced it would be pulling its Winston branding as a title sponsor for the NASCAR Cup series after 30 years. Not long after, Bill France Jr., the CEO who oversaw that era stepped down from his position of power. With the organization at a crossroads, Brian arose to the occasion and helped fill the void of his father’s absence while ushering the premiere stock car division into its modern-day state. From 2003 to ‘18, many changes took place on Brian’s watch that molded NASCAR racing into the motorsport that we watch today. The Dirty Mo crew and listeners alike were eager to have Brian to the Bojangles Studio hot seat to discuss what he felt was a success and a miss during his tenure at the helm of the organization. His education in running an empire began at an early age while growing up in the shadow of his father Bill Jr. A place in the shadows of giants is something that Dale Jr. and Brian can relate to, and the two recall how their fathers were certainly allies but never close friends.Once of age and eager to work, Brian took a position working at Talladega Superspeedway. He became fascinated with the business side of racing and in the 1990s he went on to manage Tucson Raceway Park and work at NASCAR’s Los Angeles office. His tasks included capitalizing on NASCAR’s flourishing west coast fanbase while strengthening its connection to the entertainment capital of the world, which resulted in NASCAR’s integration into the mainstream television and film industry. After helping to negotiate NASCAR’s first national television package deal in 2001, the stage was set for Brian to try his hand at leading the sanctioning body.Dale compares Brian and Bill Jr.’s leadership styles and what it's like having one strong character making decisions versus an entire committee of voices. Brian says he recognizes that many of the changes NASCAR has gone through over the last two decades may be alienating to longtime fans, but insists that the intention was always to promote growth through progression. He explains that NASCAR leadership often looks into untapped markets and develops strategies to help bring new fans into the fold including races in new markets, its diversity programs, and collaborative efforts with other sports and business entities.In 2004, NASCAR along with its new title sponsor partner Nextel introduced the Chase for Cup playoffs system, which would radically alter the traditional points championship structure. Brian explains that the desire to create “big moments” in points racing inspired the inclusion of cutoff lines and races. They discuss how the Playoffs field was expanded from 10 to now 16 and the events that occurred over the years to influence those decisions. Brian admits that a lot of the structuring came from looking at how other sports leagues officiate their playoff systems and what effects it has on their respective championships.Since Dale was an active competitor during Brian’s time in charge, he was anxious to get his insight on one of the most polarizing developments in the last 20 years: the Car of Tomorrow. Making its debut in 2007, the CoT was intended to increase competition while improving safety initiatives, but it became regarded as an inferior machine by drivers and fans. Brian admits that he viewed the car as a mistake and wishes that he would have gotten more input from the drivers and teams in its manufacturing. The conversation also touches on the Jeremy Mayfield scandal, the 2013 Regular Season finale at Richmond, Brian’s lack of presence at the races, and his 2018 arrest. Download listeners can expect a candid look at one of motorsports most influential leaders in modern history, as well as insight into the decision-making that shifted NASCAR into a household name.
Bonus: Next Level with Ken Squier
Bonus: Dirty Mo LIVE with Dale Jr., Josh Berry and TJ Majors
About The Show
NASCAR’s 15-time Most Popular Driver and winner of two Daytona 500s, Dale Earnhardt Jr., hosts his very own podcast, The Dale Jr Download on Dirty Mo Media. Earnhardt and co-host Mike Davis raise the bar with unparalleled perspective, candid commentary, and fascinating, first-person insight into the life of a broadcaster, celebrated racer.