Brian Zachary France (born August 2, 1962) is an American businessman who is the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR who is currently on a leave of absence, serving in the post since 2003. A third generation executive in the sport of stock car racing, France follows in the footsteps of his grandfather (and NASCAR co-founder) Bill France Sr. and father Bill Jr. in running NASCAR. Time magazine named him one of the "100 Most Influential of the Century" in 2006 and he was named one of the five most powerful sports executives by The Sporting News in 2005.
France grew up in the racing world, learning the logistics of NASCAR from a young age; though he was able to enter the family business, he did not have a trust fund. His first job in racing was as a janitor at the Talladega Superspeedway. France studied at the University of Central Florida but did not earn a degree. Following his first few years of classes, he instead entered the NASCAR company in order to learn the family business.
Early career with NASCAR
France ruined several short tracks, including Tucson Raceway Park in Arizona in the earlier years of his career. He also ran the NASCAR Entertainment Division in Los Angeles during the 1990s, creating associations between NASCAR and the entertainment industry. This included Hollywood films and projects advertising on NASCAR vehicles, the appearance of actors and other entertainers during NASCAR events, and NASCAR figures themselves becoming integrated into reality television, television dramas, cartoons, soap operas, Hollywood feature films, music videos, and mass paperback novels. In 1995, he became the creator of the Craftsman Truck Series, which was launched from the competition department under his tenure there. Following this he became the head of the marketing department, where he endeavoured to grow the product's youth audience, and began to move the company away from its title sponsor Winston cigarettes in order to facilitate this. His final position before becoming CEO was executive vice-president; he was also on the board of directors.
CEO of NASCAR
In 2003, France was named NASCAR's Chairman of the Board and CEO by his father, who preceded him. One of his first actions was to create a new rule that drivers were no longer allowed to race back to the start/finish line when under caution. After assuming control of NASCAR, France negotiated a title sponsorship from Sprint Nextel. He also introduced the Chase for the Sprint Cup over the transition period, receiving a $4.5 billion television contract for the initial ten race seasons, in addition to a later multibillion-dollar deal with NBC. Part of the Chase was to award more points to significant or "spectacular" wins instead of consistent winning, as NASCAR had previously done, introducing it as a form of "post-season" for the sport. He also made an effort to expand the audience base of NASCAR to minorities, and allowed Toyota vehicles to begin competing on the NASCAR circuit. He has also overseen NASCAR during a period of ratings drops, as well as attendance going down 15% over the period of his tenure, despite record television deals.
France also owns Brand Sense Partners, a Los Angeles-based licensing company that launched Britney Spears’ line of perfume. He and his wife are the founders of the Luke and Meadow Foundation, a philanthropic cause that focuses on children.
On February 29, 2016, France endorsed Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. This was controversial due to NASCAR's decision the previous July to pull its Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series award ceremonies from a Trump resort near Miami in the wake of the businessman’s comments about Mexican immigrants.
On August 5, 2018, France was pulled over by the Sag Harbor, New York police after driving through a stop sign in the Hamptons, and subsequently arrested for DUI and possession of a controlled substance, later revealed to be Oxycodone. After his release, he announced that he would be taking an "indefinite leave of absence" from his role as CEO and chairman of NASCAR.